The best books that inspired me to embark on a life of studying and writing about the natural world

Who am I?

To research her 30 books, dozens of scripts, and hundreds of articles, Sy Montgomery has been deftly undressed by an orangutan in Borneo, worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, and swum with piranhas, electric eels, pink dolphins, great white sharks and octopuses in various rivers and oceans. She writes for both adults and children, for print and broadcast, in North America and abroad, in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible at a critical time in human history. “Now is an exciting time to be alive,” she says. “We all have an opportunity, at this critical juncture in human history, to be part of the movement to save our sweet green Earth and all the wonderful creatures who bless our world by sharing it with us.”


I wrote...

How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals

By Sy Montgomery,

Book cover of How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals

What is my book about?

Sy Montgomery reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals--her friends--who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green. Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet's rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy's life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.

The books I picked & why

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The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

By Henry Beston,

Book cover of The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Why this book?

A quote from this lyrical, moving, and closely-observed book about a naturalist’s solitary year on Cape Cod helped me define what I set out to do in chronicling the natural world:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…for the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”

The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

By Henry Beston,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Outermost House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventy-fifth anniversary edition of the classic book about Cape Cod, "written with simplicity, sympathy, and beauty" (New York Herald Tribune)

A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in his seaside home, but was so possessed by the mysterious beauty of his surroundings that he found he "could not go."

Instead, he sat down to try and capture in words the wonders of the magical landscape he found himself in thrall…


Never Cry Wolf

By Farley Mowat,

Book cover of Never Cry Wolf

Why this book?

I first was hooked on books by Farley Mowat as a child with his The Dog who Wouldn’t Be about his adventures with his beloved pet, Mutt. Later, as an adult, I would read the most famous book by this author, and it affected me deeply. The book is a portrait of a scientist whose findings turn him into an activist on behalf of the animals he studied. Though it was published as a factual account, Never Cry Wolf was later decried by some critics as fiction. Yet, even if he departed from the facts on the ground, Farley Mowat’s text remains true to matters of the heart. “Never let the facts get in the way of the truth,” he counseled me when, many years later, the famous author generously invited me to stay at his home while I researched my own first book, Walking with the Great Apes. While I, trained as a journalist, have always remained a stickler for the facts, Farley deeply affected my own work in showing me that a book must have emotional resonance as well as factual accuracy if its author is to successfully move others to action, which has always been my hope.

Never Cry Wolf

By Farley Mowat,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Never Cry Wolf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Maxim Gorky, born Aleksei Maksimovich Peshkov in 1868 to the low stratum of Russian society, rose to prominence early in life as a writer and publicist. Gorky, who did not have a formal education, became famous in his country and abroad. Writing could not satisfy the rebellious Gorky who soon became involved in revolutionary movements. After a short period with the populist/narodnik movement, Gorky became disillusioned with the peasant class, and, instead, he chose the nascent class of workers as the vehicle for change. It is as if Gorky and capitalism arrived in Russia together. In his view the intelligentsia…


King Solomon's Ring: New Light on Animal Ways

By Konrad Lorenz,

Book cover of King Solomon's Ring: New Light on Animal Ways

Why this book?

This is a classic account of animal behavior by the man who founded the modern field of ethology. His careful and detailed accounts of his time living with graylag geese, crow-like jackdaws, and even cichlid fish are not only scientifically fascinating but filled with wonder and love for each animal as an individual—a creature who loves his or her life as much as we love ours.

King Solomon's Ring: New Light on Animal Ways

By Konrad Lorenz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked King Solomon's Ring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2020 Reprint of the 1952 Edition.  Exact facsimile of the original edition and not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software.  The book's title refers to the legendary Seal of Solomon, a ring that supposedly gave King Solomon the power to speak to animals.  Lorenz claims that he likewise achieved this feat of communication with several species. He accomplished this by raising them in and around his home and observing their behavior. King Solomon's Ring describes the methods of his investigation, and his resulting findings about animal psychology. Lorenz's findings include the surprisingly refined social system of the common Eurasian jackdaw, the…


Gorillas in the Mist

By Dian Fossey,

Book cover of Gorillas in the Mist

Why this book?

This is the first-person account of living among wild mountain gorillas by primatologist Dian Fossey, the second of the three woman scientists, all protogees of the paleontologist Louis Leakey, who conducted the first long-term studies of humankind’s closest living relatives, the great apes. She conquers the old myths depicting gorillas as King Kong monsters, and shows them as gentle vegetarians who are extraordinarily devoted to their families. Like the other books I mention above, I read this one when I was in my 20s. Dian’s memoir was then in its first edition and sported the most beautiful cover I had ever seen on a book. It featured a close-up, intimate portrait of one of the gorillas about whom she writes, Uncle Bert, his black face benign and thoughtful, his jet fur bejeweled with cloud forest raindrops. The back cover shows him from the back, accentuating the great dome of his skull and the massive power of his shoulders and back. That this cover does not feature a human with this gorilla, but a single individual gorilla instead, reflects how Dian herself felt about each of these animals, and why she wrote the book. It was not about her; it was not about why gorillas are important to people; the book is why each gorilla on this sweet green earth matters in his or her own right, and why each should inspire not just our compassion, but our respect, our admiration and our awe.

Gorillas in the Mist

By Dian Fossey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gorillas in the Mist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dian Fossey's classic account of four gorilla families - one of the most important books ever written about our connection to the natural world

For thirteen years Dian Fossey lived and worked with Uncle Bert, Flossie, Beethoven, Pantsy and Digit in the remote rain forests of the volcanic Virunga Mountains in Africa, establishing an unprecedented relationship with these shy and affectionate beasts.

In her base camp, 10,000 feet above sea-level, she struggled daily with rain, loneliness and the ever-constant threat of poachers who slaughtered her beloved gorillas with horrifying ferocity.

African adventure, personal quest and scientific study, GORILLAS IN THE…


Of Wolves and Men

By Barry Lopez,

Book cover of Of Wolves and Men

Why this book?

One of my best friends, who later went on to become a veterinarian, left this book for me on my porch as a gift before I went to live for six months in a tent in the outback to study emus. This classic, careful study of wolves' true lives, and how they have been understood and misunderstood in human cultures through the centuries, showed me the value of looking at an animal’s historical and even prehistoric relationships with humans in an effort to understand its powers.

Of Wolves and Men

By Barry Lopez,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Of Wolves and Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in wolves, gorillas, and Cape Cod?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about wolves, gorillas, and Cape Cod.

Wolves Explore 75 books about wolves
Gorillas Explore 9 books about gorillas
Cape Cod Explore 11 books about Cape Cod

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Desert Solitaire, True Grit, and A Sand County Almanac if you like this list.