The best books about saving animals

The Books I Picked & Why

Once There Were Wolves

By Charlotte McConaghy

Book cover of Once There Were Wolves

Why this book?

I’ve been a fan of Australian author Charlotte McConaghy since reading her first novel, Migrations—and Once There Were Wolves is just as beautifully written and page-turning, with the same reverence for nature and its creatures. The novel is about biologist Inti Flynn, who leads a team in Scotland to reintroduce gray wolves to the Highlands, bringing along her identical twin, Aggie. Like the wolves, Inti and Aggie are closely bonded, instinctually and fiercely protective of each other. Aggie has suffered a trauma, and Inti herself lives with a condition called “mirror-touch synesthesia,” in which her brain causes her body to viscerally feel what she witnesses happening to any sentient being, human or animal. With these unforgettable characters, including the wolf families, Once There Were Wolves is sure to inspire readers to protect what we’re in danger of losing.

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Three Ways to Disappear

By Katy Yocom

Book cover of Three Ways to Disappear

Why this book?

Katy Yocom’s Three Ways to Disappear won the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature and was named a Barnes & Noble Top Indie Favorite—well-deserved recognition for this gorgeous debut novel. Three Ways to Disappear reveals the plight of the endangered Bengal tigers through the stories of two sisters who come together years after a family tragedy changes their lives—journalist Sarah, in India to help preserve the tigers, and Quinn, in Kentucky, dealing with family issues. The novel shows the complicated balance of tiger conservation among humans who themselves are struggling, and portrays the complexities of family bonds as well as the immense challenges facing the natural world. Both the human and tiger characters are beautifully rendered, empathetic, and unforgettable.

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Book cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Why this book?

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (published in the English language in 2019) is unique, atmospheric, and impossible to put down. The novel is narrated by Janina, a wonderfully quirky, smart, independent woman who stands up for animals in a small, remote Polish town of hunters and poachers. Most in the town don’t connect with her compassion for animals (to say the least), and when local hunters begin turning up dead, officials brush Janina off as she attempts to help them solve the crimes. This slender book is a treasure—a warm, witty, page-turning literary mystery with an incredibly satisfying ending.

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The Tourist Trail

By John Yunker

Book cover of The Tourist Trail

Why this book?

The Tourist Trail is an eco-thriller featuring an unlikely but thoroughly entertaining cast of characters—among them a whale rescuer, a penguin researcher, an FBI agent, a computer tech, and an animal-rights activist—whose lives come together in the wild and dangerous waters of the Southern Ocean. All of these characters have secrets that are slowly revealed, and the alternating points of view pull readers toward a cinematic ending. The Tourist Trail is about endangered species and oceans at risk, but most of all, it’s about animals and the human heroes who devote their lives toward saving them—it’s not only an unputdownable mystery but a compassionate and heartfelt ode to our oceanic animals who need saving.

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Barn 8

By Deb Olin Unferth

Book cover of Barn 8

Why this book?

What I love about Barn 8 is that it focuses as much, if not more, on the animals as on their human rescuers. The novel’s portrayal of chickens—their history, heritage, tortured present, and imagined future—is a celebration of them as individual beings rather than merely egg makers (“Chickens gossip, summon, play, flirt, teach, warn, mourn, fight, praise, and promise”). And, along with the chicken characters—including the individual bird that inspired the rescue—the human characters are engaging and relatable, with their own complex stories. The myriad points of view (including interview-style chapters) keep the pages turning in a novel that is both edifying and inspiring.

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