The best books for serious thinkers about cats and dogs

Who am I?

I am, first and foremost, a lover of cats and dogs. I have been fascinated by these animals ever since I was a child. Where did they come from? Why are we so strongly bonded to them? What is the future of our relationship? These are questions I have asked myself for decades, and which I finally answer in Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs. I bring to this book not only my lifelong love of these animals, but a deep-thinker’s exploration of history, law, and science. 


I wrote...

Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs

By David Grimm,

Book cover of Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs

What is my book about?

Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs is the critically acclaimed book by award-winning science writer, David Grimm, a deputy news editor at Science. How did dogs and cats evolve from wild animals to beloved companions? What road have they taken from gods to devils and back again over the course of human history?

What’s really going on inside of their heads? What legal and societal revolutions have transformed them into the most valued and protected animals on the planet? And what is the future of our relationship with these creatures? You’ll learn the answers to all of this and more in a book The New York Times calls, “An engaging account of how dogs and cats came to be our best friends.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pets in America: A History

David Grimm Why did I love this book?

This book was one of my primary go-to’s when I was writing my own book, Citizen Canine. It’s an in-depth exploration of the changing status of cats and dogs throughout American history, and it’s fascinating. Chock-full of photos and great anecdotes, it’s a must for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into the American history of pets. 

By Katherine C. Grier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Pets in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Entertaining and informative, Pets in America is a portrait of Americans' relationships with the cats, dogs, birds, fishes, rodents, and other animals we call our own. More than 60 percent of U.S. households have pets, and America grows more pet-friendly every day. But as Katherine C. Grier demonstrates, the ways we talk about and treat our pets - as companions, as children, and as objects of beauty, status, or pleasure - have their origins long ago.

Grier begins with a natural history of animals as pets, then discusses the changing role of pets in family life, new standards of animal…


Book cover of The Cat in Ancient Egypt

David Grimm Why did I love this book?

This is a great coffee table book. Tons of lovely pictures and illustrations. A must for any cat lover who wants to get a better sense of the role—and place—of cats in Ancient Egypt. I still look at it from time to time because I enjoy the pictures so much. 

By Jaromir Malek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cat in Ancient Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A definitive and richly illustrated account of cats in Egyptian life, religion, and art
True aristocrat of domestic animals, the cat has a distinguished ancestry. Most modern cats are thought to be descended from the cats of ancient Egypt, so these beautiful and engaging creatures represent a living link between ancient Egyptian civilization and our own times.
Wild cats were probably domesticated at least as early as 2000 BC, but they were regularly represented in Egyptian tomb paintings only some 500 years later, in the New Kingdom. The cat became one of the most important and highly esteemed animals in…


Book cover of Classical Cats: The Rise and Fall of the Sacred Cat

David Grimm Why did I love this book?

This book is full of amazing, surprising, and sometimes heartbreaking stories of how the status of cats changed during the Middle Ages. I learned a ton from this book. Even if you think you know everything about cats, you’re bound to be surprised by many of the stories here. A must-read for cat lovers and history buffs.

By Donald W. Engels,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Classical Cats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Today when we think of domestic cats, we recall the familiar hearthside companion and the mischievous playmate. It is difficult to comprehend that in the past the animal has played a fundamental role in the development of European and Western civilization. The human relationship to the cat has been important for most of the last four millennia.
In this beautifully illustrated book, Donald Engels charts the history and significance of the cat from ancient Egypt to the middle ages, exploring such phenomena as the worship of the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, the infamous cat massacres and witch hunts of the…


Book cover of Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster: Life-Changing Stories and Practical Suggestions

David Grimm Why did I love this book?

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most transformative events in our relationship with cats and dogs. This book charts some of the incredible rescues that took place in the aftermath of this epic disaster. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, it will inspire those who care about animals to care even more—and perhaps even volunteer themselves.

By Allen Anderson, Linda Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rescued as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestselling authors Allen and Linda Anderson interviewed hundreds of volunteers, hurricane survivors, animal welfare organizations, and government officials for their national award-winning book Rescued: Saving Animals from Disaster. The result is an uplifting, inspiring, informative book that features the best humanity has to offer when people and animals need our help during a crisis. American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) awarded Rescued with its prestigious Outstanding Book Award.
The catalyst for Rescued was the tragic situation during and after the Hurricane Katrina disaster -- thousands refusing to leave without their pets, and animals being viewed by…


Book cover of For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States

David Grimm Why did I love this book?

For those who want to learn more about the meaning and history of animal rights, this is one of the most informative books I’ve read on the rise of the American animal welfare and animal rights movements. Even if you don’t agree with everything in these pages, you’ll come away with a new appreciation of the struggles to protect dogs, cats, and other animals in our modern society.

By Diane L. Beers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For the Prevention of Cruelty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Animal rights. Those two words conjure diverse but powerful images and reactions. Some nod in agreement, while others roll their eyes in contempt. Most people fall somewhat uncomfortably in the middle, between endorsement and rejection, as they struggle with the profound moral, philosophical, and legal questions provoked by the debate. Today, thousands of organizations lobby, agitate, and educate the public on issues concerning the rights and treatment of nonhumans. For the Prevention of Cruelty is the first history of organized advocacy on behalf of animals in the United States to appear in nearly a half century. Diane Beers demonstrates how…


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The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cats, Hurricane Katrina, and pets?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cats, Hurricane Katrina, and pets.

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Pets Explore 48 books about pets