The best wild-ride environmental entertainment books that won’t leave you depressed at the end

Who am I?

I am a writer licensed to take care of injured and orphaned wildlife, and I’m aware that “humor” and “the environment” are rarely used in the same sentence. However, I grew up in a family where the worse the situation the better the wisecracks, spent 30 years working with animals who wanted nothing to do with me, and know wildlife people share a bond that can defy both logic and common sense. All of this went into Unflappable—a funny, suspenseful road trip thriller with a big cast of unconventional characters, both human and not.

I wrote...

Unflappable: A Novel

By Suzie Gilbert,

Book cover of Unflappable: A Novel

What is my book about?

Wildlife rehabilitator Luna Burke is determined to smuggle a homicidal bald eagle out of her husband's private zoo in Florida, reunite the bird with its mate in Pennsylvania, and get them both to an eagle sanctuary in Canada. Hot on her trail are her mogul husband, his bodyguards, the police, conservation officials, and an expert government tracker; aiding and abetting her are a bird-phobic young tech guy, a Navy SEAL turned panther advocate, and an underground railroad of wildlife rescuers. Waiting in Ontario is a legendary old eco-warrior more than willing to provide refuge… as long as they can make it across the border.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

The Monkey Wrench Gang

By Edward Abbey,

Book cover of The Monkey Wrench Gang

Why did I love this book?

Written in 1975, this grandaddy of enviro-wacko novels follows four unlikely saboteurs as they gleefully destroy the property of strip miners, developers, loggers, and utility companies in the American Southwest. I can’t resist eccentric characters determined to stick it to The Man, and if they toss off one-liners as they commit ingenious felony vandalism in the name of environmental justice, so much the better. One scene—involving two bulldozers, 50 feet of Navy anchor chain, and a cliff—is among my all-time comic favorites.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Revolutionary ... An extravagant, finely written tale of ecological sabotage' The New York Times

Audacious, controversial and hilarious, The Monkey Wrench Gang is Edward Abbey's masterpiece - a big, boisterous and unforgettable novel about freedom and commitment that ignited the flames of environmental activism.

Throughout the vast American West, nature is being vicitimized by a Big Government / Big Business conspiracy of bridges, dams and concrete. But a motley gang of individuals has decided that enough is enough. A burnt-out veteran, a mad doctor and a polygamist join forces in a noble cause: to dismantle the machinery of progress through…

Sick Puppy

By Carl Hiaasen,

Book cover of Sick Puppy

Why did I love this book?

Take The Monkey Wrench Gang, quadruple the number of characters, add the Marx Brothers, Three Stooges, a few fatal accidents/murders, toss them all into a Tilt-A-Whirl and set it in South Florida, and you’ll get pretty much any Carl Hiaasen novel. I’m always impressed with his ability to braid madcap chaos, environmental outrage, and intricate plotting into stories that satirize the greed and corruption destroying what’s left of unbuilt Florida. When I need a break from environmental apocalypse news I turn to Hiaasen, knowing the good guys will win, the bad guys will get their just deserts, and there will be plenty of banana peels along the way.

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sick Puppy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brilliantly twisted entertainment wrapped around a powerful ecological plea—from the New York Times bestselling author of Squeeze Me.

When Palmer Stoat notices the black pickup truck following him on the highway, he fears his precious Range Rover is about to be carjacked. But Twilly Spree, the man tailing Stoat, has vengeance, not sport-utility vehicles, on his mind. Idealistic, independently wealthy and pathologically short-tempered, Twilly has dedicated himself to saving Florida's wilderness from runaway destruction. He favors unambiguous political statements—such as torching Jet-Skis or blowing up banks—that leave his human targets shaken but re-educated.

After watching Stoat blithely dump a trail…

Book cover of The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

Why did I love this book?

I spent half the time reading this book with my mouth open, occasionally gasping, "Wait… what?” I thought I was conversant in global habitats until I read about the canopies of Northern California’s coast redwoods. Who knew there were entire ecosystems teeming with life 300 feet in the air? This non-fiction book reads like a novel, and I was enthralled by the passionate group of people who love and climb the legendary trees, risking their lives in the process. While not a humorous book there are some wonderfully funny moments, and personally I find the idea of someone climbing a redwood when they’re afraid of heights pretty darned funny.

By Richard Preston,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Wild Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hidden in unseen valleys of dense rainforest on the coast of California are the world's tallest and largest things - trees up to forty stories tall and as old as the Parthenon: the coastal redwoods. Mysterious and unexplored, few people know how to find them, and fewer still have climbed them to study their upper reaches and discover the wonders there. "The Wild Trees" is the astonishing story of the handful of wild tree climbers and amateur naturalists who are now working in the redwood canopy, exploring this enchanted and terrifically dangerous new world. The canopy is a mysterious place…

Book cover of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Why did I love this book?

An unfit, unprepared 44-year-old travel writer decides to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail accompanied by his overweight, perpetually irritated recovering alcoholic friend. Staggering beneath backpacks loaded with the wrong food and equipment, they head into the woods and I enthusiastically followed. I didn't mind that it was more of a slow trudge than a wild ride, or that the only looming dangers were rain, snow, and mud—I was too busy enjoying descriptions of the land, the history of the trail, and the duo's grouchy and hilarious ineptitude.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Walk in the Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of "Notes from a Small Island" and "The Lost Continent" comes this humorous report on his walk along the Appalachian Trail. The Trail covers 14 states and over 2000 miles, and stretches along the east coast of America from Maine in the north to Georgia in the south. It is famous for being the longest continuous footpath in the world. It snakes through some of the wildest and most specactular landscapes in America, as well as through some of its most poverty-stricken and primitive backwoods areas.

Book cover of My Family and Other Animals

Why did I love this book?

Speaking of books I read when I was growing up that had a profound effect on my life, Gerald Durrell’s autobiographical tale of his oddball family’s move to Corfu in the 1930s is near the top of my list. At age 10 he viewed the Greek island as an environmental wonderland, and his quick transformation from studious lad to semi-feral naturalist made me think maybe I wasn't so weird after all. It’s funny, poignant, and rife with stories of extreme personalities attempting to coexist. And just like the author, I grew up to be a writer who works with wildlife.

By Gerald Durrell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked My Family and Other Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind ITV's hit family drama, The Durrells.

My Family and Other Animals is Gerald Durrell's hilarious account of five years in his childhood spent living with his family on the island of Corfu. With snakes, scorpions, toads, owls and geckos competing for space with one bookworm brother and another who's gun-mad, as well as an obsessive sister, young Gerald has an awful lot of natural history to observe. This richly detailed, informative and riotously funny memoir of eccentric family life is a twentieth-century classic.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in satire, environmentalists, and ecology?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about satire, environmentalists, and ecology.

Satire Explore 138 books about satire
Environmentalists Explore 17 books about environmentalists
Ecology Explore 68 books about ecology