100 books like Water for Elephants

By Sara Gruen,

Here are 100 books that Water for Elephants fans have personally recommended if you like Water for Elephants. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Lauri Robinson Author Of An Unlikely Match for the Governess

From my list on that create great discussions for book club.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I read by flashlight under the covers and loved family vacations because long car rides meant hours of reading time (they still do!). I love belonging to book clubs because of the variety. Stories I might not have chosen, but end up loving. For years I devoured romance novels, especially historical and westerns. When my husband said, “You should write a book, you’ve read so many.” I decided to try and now have over 70 published romance novels, 50+ with Harlequin, Mills & Boon, and one young adult book that I co-wrote with two of my granddaughters. I hope my recommendations provides your book club with lively discussions!     

Lauri's book list on that create great discussions for book club

Lauri Robinson Why did Lauri love this book?

This book can be discussed with the young, the old, and everyone in-between. Anyone who’s had a relationship with an animal, be it dog, cat, horse, etc., any special pet, believes they know what the animal is thinking.

This book is in a dog’s point of view. Enzo, an amazing canine, and faithful supporter of Denny, gives the reader full insight to a day in a dog’s life. Actually, many days. From puppy to old dog, Enzo is loveable, laughable, and wise. 

This book provides range of topics explore, including how easily it is to believe that a dog told this story. Months later, my book club still talks about this book.

As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to start reading it again!

By Garth Stein,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Art of Racing in the Rain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, this heart-warming and inspirational tale follows Enzo, a loyal family dog, tells the story of his human family, how they nearly fell apart, and what he did to bring them back together.

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: he thinks and feels in nearly human ways. He has educated himself by watching extensive television, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo realizes that racing is a metaphor: that by applying the techniques a driver would apply on…

Book cover of To Kill a Mockingbird

Cynthia Ulmer Author Of Todd, the Cedar Cove Chronicles Book One

From my list on family drama and saga books for when you want to escape into the past.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and raised in the south. I come from a large, talkative family. All my life, I listened to my family talk. Hearing them was more fun than television. I grew up with country music playing constantly in the background. It was on the radio when I woke up and still playing when I went to bed. My parents read to me, made up bedtime stories, and let me tell them my made-up stories. Let me follow them around with my childish tales, encouraging me. Being an author has always been my number one dream.

Cynthia's book list on family drama and saga books for when you want to escape into the past

Cynthia Ulmer Why did Cynthia love this book?

I grew up with the movie. But it wasn’t until I read the book that I fell in love with the story.

Scout’s relationship with her family and Calpurnia, the maid who is like a mama to her, drew me into the book and wouldn’t let me go. I waited with anticipation to see what Boo Radley would put in the tree hole for Scout, her brother, and Dill.

I feared Boo along with the children and learned the lesson that sometimes, in life, we are afraid of the wrong people. I learned that life is far more complicated than it first appears. I’ve read this book over and over, always with anticipation, even though I know what’s happening next.

By Harper Lee,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped…

Book cover of Uprooted

Beth Ball Author Of Phoenix Rising

From my list on adult fairy tales that sweep you into a magical world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always adored fairy tales, most particularly rewritings of fairy tales where the heroines seize a destiny all their own. But beyond feminine agency, I want a story that sweeps me away in every respect: lose me in a forest, turn my head with magic, let me stand and face my inner darkness, and, perhaps most importantly, entrance me with gorgeous language—it has to feel like a fairy tale. As fate would have it, these particular proclivities led me to write fantasy novels in my own right! You won’t find princesses, but you will find magic libraries and stories that dwell on the power of stories themselves!

Beth's book list on adult fairy tales that sweep you into a magical world

Beth Ball Why did Beth love this book?

Where can I even begin with the magic and immersion of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted?

Saying an unlikely heroine with an affinity for the forest meets an aloof, powerful wizard thus starting her quest to uncover the potential of her own magic barely scratches the surface of the enchanting world Novik creates. The allure and power of the dark forest that runs tangled roots beneath the story’s unspooling narrative is an unmissable experience.

And Novik’s uniquely beautiful language is perfectly matched by the magic of the fairy tale world itself and the weaving of the spells therein! 

By Naomi Novik,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Uprooted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dark enchantment blights the land in the award-winning Uprooted - a enthralling fantasy inspired by fairy tales, by Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire series.

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel
Winner of the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
Winner of the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel

Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's…

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Kevin Chen Author Of Ghost Town

From my list on family saga books that unravel dark secrets.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have 7 sisters and 1 brother. I was the 9th child in my family. To get a son who would carry on the family heritage, my parents tried 7 times without any success. After 7 unwanted daughters, my brother finally arrived. Then they had me as the second boy in the family. The plot twist was: I am gay. I turned out to be the 8th unwanted daughter because of my sexuality. Coming from this small-town big family full of superstitions and secrets, I am naturally drawn to dramatic family stories with many dark and psychological twists.

Kevin's book list on family saga books that unravel dark secrets

Kevin Chen Why did Kevin love this book?

At first, I was scared by the thickness of the book. More than 600 pages? I didn’t think I would have the patience and time to finish it. My book club chose the book as a reading challenge for everyone. A challenge indeed. But a colorful one.

I remember carrying the book with me everywhere I went. As I finally reached the last page of this riveting family saga set in Africa, I felt older and wiser. Wow, I actually finished the thick novel. It was a great achievement.

I was never bored or tired. I did not want the story to end. It could have been 6000 pages and I still would have thrown myself into this epic story.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Poisonwood Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.

'Breathtaking.' Sunday Times
'Exquisite.' The Times
'Beautiful.' Independent
'Powerful.' New York Times

This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will…

Book cover of Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

Mark Steven Porro Author Of A Cup of Tea on the Commode: My Multi-Tasking Adventures of Caring for Mom. And How I Survived to Tell the Tale

From my list on books that do not flinch when dealing with difficult circumstances.

Why am I passionate about this?

Family history has always fascinated me. I didn’t want mine to be buried with my loved ones. So, out of curiosity, I asked relatives lots of questions. If unsatisfied, I sought answers elsewhere. I traveled as far as Celle San Vito, Italy, where my grandfather was born, to solve a one-hundred-year-old mystery, and I filmed it for others to enjoy. I’ve memorialized momentous family events in poems, handmade greeting cards, memory books, screenplays, a documentary, and now, in my memoir A Cup of Tea on the Commode. The books on my list are about “family.” I’ve been moved by each, and I hope they move you as well.

Mark's book list on books that do not flinch when dealing with difficult circumstances

Mark Steven Porro Why did Mark love this book?

Like many people, I first discovered Morrie on Nightline with Ted Koppel. Like many, I fell in love with his charm, courage, and determination to continue doing what was in his bones, teaching us what’s truly important in life.

Mitch Albom, his former student, shares many of Morrie’s lessons and his gift of uplifting others while facing his own death. I laughed, cried, and thanked Mitch and Morrie for sharing this gift with me.

By Mitch Albom,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Tuesdays with Morrie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Mitch Albom sees the magical in the ordinary' Cecelia Ahern

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague? Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it? For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn't you like to…

Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

Bruce Stachenfeld Author Of Faythe of North Hinkapee: The Saga of a Young Woman’s Quest for Justice and Love in Colonial America

From my list on irrepressible, exciting and heroic female lead characters that you will never forget.

Why am I passionate about this?

I made up Faythe of North Hinkapee by being a jerk! I was ranting about how bad a "best seller" book I had read was. My wife looked at me and said, "So, could you write a bestseller?" I was challenged, and then, somehow, this book just tumbled out. It was about a girl in Colonial Timesher family burned as witchesvowing vengeance and how she gets it. My wife looked at me and said: “My God, that could be a bestseller!’ My kids also loved the story. For about twenty years, I planned to write it, and after a ton of work, I finally finished.

Bruce's book list on irrepressible, exciting and heroic female lead characters that you will never forget

Bruce Stachenfeld Why did Bruce love this book?

I utterly loved this book so much it is in the top five books I ever read. Although it is years since I read it I still remember Aliena (the main female character) so well it is as if I know her personally. I wish there were a sequel with her in it. 

The book had it all – a fantastic plot that grabs you from the first chapter and then branches off into seemingly unconnected subplots, and it is only at the end that it all comes together. An amazing job and inspired me more than any other book as a writer.  

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Pillars of the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Oprah's Book Club Selection

The "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career-and begins where its prequel, The Evening and the Morning, ended.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.


Book cover of The Library of Legends

Rose Osterman Kleidon Author Of 1836: Year of Escape

From my list on immigration in the 1800s.

Why am I passionate about this?

By chance, I was entrusted with rare historical documents about the immigrant generations in our family, which inspired this novel and grounded it in reality. Who wouldn’t wonder why they came? Besides, I have always been fascinated by pre-modern times and how steam power changed everything and dragged us along, kicking and screaming. And, even though they arrived in America in 1836, I grew up on the farm where they lived, so I heard tales of their amazing journey. It may be 186 years on, but it’s time to tell their story, which, it turns out, is a story for us all.  

Rose's book list on immigration in the 1800s

Rose Osterman Kleidon Why did Rose love this book?

Janie Chang is a master writer who weaves the power of myth into her story of a 1937 escape of Chinese university students as Japanese bombs drop on their city. Charged with protecting an irreplaceable trove of ancient books, the students face air raids, a ragged life on the road, and a growing fear of traitors from within. The Library of Legends is an evocative tale of love, war, and survival, beautifully written.

By Janie Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Library of Legends is a gorgeous, poetic journey threaded with mist and magic about a group from a Chinese university who take to the road to escape the Japanese invasion of 1937 - only to discover that danger stalks them from within. Janie Chang pens pure enchantment!" -Kate Quinn, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress

From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel-the third in a loosely-connected trilogy-in which a young woman travels across China with a convoy of student refugees, fleeing the…

Book cover of Life of Pi

Duncan Hubber Author Of Notes from the Citadel: The Philosophy and Psychology of A Song of Ice and Fire

From my list on The best philosophical fantasy novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic at the University of Queensland whose research areas include horror films, screen trauma theory, the cinematic representation of urban spaces, and the collision of romanticism and postmodernism in fantasy literature. My first book, POV Horror: The Trauma Aesthetic of the Found Footage Subgenre, was adapted from my PhD thesis. I am an avid member of the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, and my second book represents over a decade of talking and writing about George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, having grown out of conversations in forums, podcasts, symposiums, and fan conventions, as well as my own background in literary analysis and research.

Duncan's book list on The best philosophical fantasy novels

Duncan Hubber Why did Duncan love this book?

Adapted into an Academy award-winning film in 2012, Martel’s original novel follows an Indian boy named Piscine “Pi” Patel who is fascinated by religion, learning and adopting different teachings in his quest to understand God.

After a shipwreck, he is forced to survive for months while stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with only a Bengal tiger for company. Pi’s reflections at sea, and the fantastical nature of his voyage, raise questions about the purpose and function of religion: such as, why people seek faith in a higher power, how it shapes our perception of reality and morality, and the paradoxical notion that sometimes truth can only be glimpsed through fiction rather than fact.

By Yann Martel,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Life of Pi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi Patel, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with the tiger, Richard Parker, for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his…

Book cover of The Search

Tammy L. Grace Author Of Cold Killer

From my list on mysteries with dogs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved mysteries and puzzles and have been an avid mystery reader since devouring all the Nancy Drew books at our library. There’s such satisfaction that comes from solving a mystery. When I started writing, my faithful golden retriever was always resting at my feet. She was the inspiration and the reason I chose to include dogs in all my books. Having a dog alongside my character allows me to show more depth in the humans in my stories and reveal weaknesses and vulnerabilities they may not be able to show others. I hope you enjoy my top picks as much as I have.

Tammy's book list on mysteries with dogs

Tammy L. Grace Why did Tammy love this book?

I loved this book that’s a bit of women’s fiction and a mystery in one, woven together by one of my favorites, Nora Roberts. This one is set in the Pacific Northwest and Fiona, the main character, lives on a small island off the coast of Washington. I also write women’s fiction and my first series is set in the San Juan Islands of Washington, so this book appealed to me for the setting, along with the aspect of the canine search and rescue work the main character does. 

A puppy named Jaws brings a new human into Fiona’s life and sets up the emotional elements of the story. I can’t resist a story where a dog introduces two of the main characters! 

By Nora Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A canine Search and Rescue volunteer fights danger and finds love in the Pacific Northwest wilderness in this riveting #1 New York Times bestseller from Nora Roberts.

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle's coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare: an encounter with the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona's cop fiance and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to…

Book cover of Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

Michael A. DeMarco Author Of Wuxia America: The Timely Emergence of a Chinese American Hero

From my list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Life is pretty dull without passion. Since early childhood I was attracted to Chinese philosophy, then to all the cultural aspects that reflect it. At the same time, I felt the blood in my veins drawing me to ancestral roots. Learning about other cultures helps us learn about our own. I’ve been driven by sympathy for the immigrant experience, the suffering, and sacrifices made for a better, peaceful life. What prepared me to write Wuxia America includes my academic studies, living and working in Asia, and involvement in martial arts. My inspiration for writing stems from a wish to encourage ways to improve human relations.

Michael's book list on uniquely fantastic, yet possible heroic skills

Michael A. DeMarco Why did Michael love this book?

The Chinese American presence in the USA started with the gold rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad.

It was a blessing to find Chang’s non-fiction work because he utilized a tremendous about of research to accurately cover the book’s topic. I’m also grateful that his writing style is not dull.

Building a railroad trestle through the High Sierra mountains in winter implies work conditions that affect laborers as well as investors. Chang strings the human sentiments throughout the history of those who participated in noble fashion, Chinese and non-Chinese alike.

In portraying the Chinese experience, Chang’s book as underscores how vital the transcontinental railroad was to the development of America. 

By Gordon H. Chang,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ghosts of Gold Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Gripping . . . Chang has accomplished the seemingly impossible . . . He has written a remarkably rich, human, and compelling story of the railroad Chinese.” — Peter Cozzens, Wall Street Journal


A groundbreaking, breathtaking history of the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, helping to forge modern America only to disappear into the shadows of history until now

From across the sea, they came by the thousands, escaping war and poverty in southern China to seek their fortunes in…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the circus, the Great Depression, and damsels in distress?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the circus, the Great Depression, and damsels in distress.

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