The best books with anthropomorphism

3 authors have picked their favorite books about anthropomorphism and why they recommend each book.

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The Human Nature of Birds

By Theodore Xenophon Barber,

Book cover of The Human Nature of Birds: A Scientific Discovery with Startling Implications

Yes, it’s a bit dated, but it was a bold, pioneering book for its day. Barber doesn’t shrink from describing birds as they are: intelligent, flexible, emotional animals with lives and personalities.

Who am I?

I started watching animals as soon as I could walk. That eventually led to a PhD in animal behavior and a career in animal protection. I now focus my energies on writing books that seek to improve our understanding of, and most importantly our relations with, other animals. I've written four previous books: Pleasurable Kingdom, Second Nature, The Exultant Ark, and What a Fish Knows (a New York Times best-seller now available in fifteen languages). I live in Belleville, Ontario where I enjoy biking, baking, birding, Bach, and trying to understand the neighborhood squirrels.

I wrote...

Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

By Jonathan Balcombe,

Book cover of Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World's Most Successful Insects

What is my book about?

For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they're annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever.

Friends of Interpretable Objects

By Miguel Tamen,

Book cover of Friends of Interpretable Objects

Unable to finish a manuscript? This delicious book came about (I’m told) by accident, when its author, struggling with his vast magnum opus, decided to put it down, almost randomly, into a little book of startling essays. The result is an eye-opening study of how “things” need “persons” to speak on their behalf, becoming personable. Includes amazing insights into iconoclasm, ecological litigation, and the legal fight of Abolitionists. And teaches how to write less, cut more, and edit with creative abandon.

Who am I?

My father was an artist who painted passionately, almost always outdoors. When I told him I wanted to become an art historian, he was sad partly because he hated art historians, but mainly because he imagined me chained (as a writer) to a desk, rather than marching the countryside looking for things to paint or draw. Like most writers, I sometimes get seriously bogged down, and his sadness comes back to haunt me. But then I pick up a book that, in just a few pages, puts my writing back on track, gladdening my father’s ghost.

I wrote...

Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life

By Joseph Leo Koerner,

Book cover of Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life

What is my book about?

Paintings of everyday life came from what seems their opposite: the depiction of an enemy hell-bent on destroying us. An absorbing study of the dark paradoxes of human creativity, Bosch and Bruegel is a timely account of how hatred can be converted into tolerance through art. Along the way, Koerner uncovers art history’s unexplored underside: the image itself as an enemy.

The Rich Man's House

By Andrew McGahan,

Book cover of The Rich Man's House

McGahan is one of my all-time favourites for numerous reasons. When I was a baby writer just getting started, I was so excited to have McGahan writing about my home city of Brisbane, showing all its scars and burn marks. He has an incredible knack for writing across genres, something that I think more writers should aspire to. In this case he turns his hand to an elegant take on the supernatural thriller. The supernatural elements here are uniquely and beautifully presented. There are no vampires or magic, just nature in a primal and anthropomorphic capacity. Many books are described as ‘man vs nature,’ but that relationship has never been more savagely explored than in this book. It also has the most bittersweet author’s note I’ve ever read. Gets me every time. 

Who am I?

We live in a bizarre era of Elon Musk stans who seem certain that if you work hard you’ll be rewarded not only with ‘fuck you’ money, but ‘fuck everyone’ money. I think any writer worth their salt should at some point tackle the issues of their age in their writing. In our era racism, sexism, climate change, and a range of other social justice issues are all exacerbated through the improper distribution of wealth. You could give a man a fish, and he might eat for a day. Or you could eviscerate the rich, share their wealth, and throw the whole world a parade! 

I wrote...

Killing Adonis

By J.M. Donellan,

Book cover of Killing Adonis

What is my book about?

Light duties. Large pay. No questions asked—or answered. After seeing a curious flyer, Freya takes a job caring for Elijah, the comatose son of the eccentric Vincetti family. She soon discovers that the Vincetti’s labyrinthine mansion hides a wealth of secrets, their corporate rivals have a nasty habit of being extravagantly executed, and Elijah is not the saint they portray him to be.

As well, Marilyn Monroe keeps showing up, unaware she’s very much deceased. And there’s something very strange about the story that Elijah’s brother Jack is writing… It has been said that comedies always end with weddings, tragedies with funerals. This story ends with both a bride and a body count.

The Bun Field

By Amanda Vahamaki,

Book cover of The Bun Field

The Bun Field is a dream journey of a genderless child. It has a strange and nightmarish feel to it; the protagonist is being so vulnerable and kind of hurt, but it is not without a constant dark sense of humor. Dark as the country Finland in wintertime. It has a delicious pencil-smudged style as the school of Feuchtenberger has influenced many northern artists, myself included. 

Who am I?

I have been a surrealist since I discovered Salvador Dali and David Lynch at the age of 14. I have been on a path to combine the art world’s depth in style; symbols and metaphors with storytelling. Becoming a comic artist was a natural path and the media is great for expressing the many complex questions in life; what it is to be human and a woman in this world. I have become an artist who revolves around feminism and surrealism, eros and doubt. 

I wrote...

The Clitoris

By Rikke Villadsen,

Book cover of The Clitoris

What is my book about?

A woman has an encounter with a tattooist that leads to a quick and very different pregnancy. This unexpected event leads her on a journey of self-discovery; deep in the flickering world of her subconscious, she discovers many potent symbols, poetic wonders, spiritual guides, and strange visions.

The Magic Pudding

By Norman Lindsay,

Book cover of The Magic Pudding: The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum

When I was a little girl, I remember being given this book, and I loved it. I read it from cover to cover, again and again, which fired my fascination for Australia. Seriously, who wouldn’t be enthralled by a bad-tempered pudding with impossibly skinny arms and legs, called Albert?

Perhaps The Magic Pudding had a large part in my choice to leave Europe and put down roots in the fabulous country of Australia. The book was first published in 1918 but that just proves how well it has stood the test of time.

Who am I?

I’m Victoria Twead, the New York Times bestselling author of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools and the Old Fools series. However, after living in a remote mountain village in Spain for eleven years, and owning probably the most dangerous cockerel in Europe, we migrated to Australia to watch our new granddaughters thrive amongst kangaroos and koalas. We love Australia, it is our home now. Another joyous life-chapter has begun.

I wrote...

Dear Fran, Love Dulcie: Life and Death in the Hills and Hollows of Bygone Australia

By Victoria Twead,

Book cover of Dear Fran, Love Dulcie: Life and Death in the Hills and Hollows of Bygone Australia

What is my book about?

Imagine a true story that unfolds in the harshness of Australia’s outback, beginning in 1957 and spanning decades. Imagine Dulcie’s battle to keep her family and animals alive in spite of bushfires, floods, cyclones, droughts, dingo attacks and terrible accidents.

The story of Dulcie Clarke, a simple pineapple farmer’s wife, has so many twists and turns that it will leave you gasping.

The Only Good Indians

By Stephen Graham Jones,

Book cover of The Only Good Indians

I haven’t seen evidence that the Elk-headed woman is actual folklore of the Blackfeet, though elk-based legends and anthropomorphic animals are certainly common across Native American stories. This horror novel is another example of a genre book weaving relationships with a literary flair but also a spare, gut-punch writing style as it explores themes of regret and revenge. By the end of chapter one, I knew it would end up on my favorite books list.

Who am I?

Writing contemporary fantasy as L.D. Colter and epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter, I often lace mythology, fairy tale, or folklore into my novels and short stories. I grew up on the truly grim Grimm’s Fairy Tales but embraced them regardless, and I adored the giant book of Russian fairy tales I still own. After discovering Tolkien at ten, in high school, I read Hesiod’s Theogony between classes, The Odyssey and the Iliad for fun over summer break, and bits of Rigveda. Later, Beowulf, Popol Vuh, Poetic Edda, and more. I also love multiple sub-genres of fantasy, but especially stories that incorporate myths and folklore.

I wrote...

While Gods Sleep: Book One of Perilous Gods

By L.D. Colter,

Book cover of While Gods Sleep: Book One of Perilous Gods

What is my book about?

Greek mythology and contemporary fantasy collide in this fantasy thriller by award-winning author, L. D. Colter. Get ready to dive head-first into an alternate 1958 Greece where conjoined queens rule a nation perched above an underworld filled with demi-gods and monsters, and a mortal man holds the key to the fate of the ancient Greek gods.

“Shunning clichés, Colter crafts a suspenseful plot that dashes along to the rousing ending, weaving gryphons and harpies, magical tattoos, transformations, and betrayal… in this polished world.” – Publishers Weekly

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

By Beatrix Potter,

Book cover of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

This was one of the first stories I remembered my parents reading to me when I was little. I liked Peter Rabbit immediately, despite his bad habit of disobeying his mother, and I loved the sweet and colorful illustrations that go along with the story. When poor Peter Rabbit became trapped in Mr. MacGregor's garden, I found myself riveted, unable to put the story down. Poor Peter, stuck in MacGregor's garden, not knowing how to get out! Children will love cheering for Peter as he is mercilessly pursued by the malicious MacGregor, trapped under a flower pot, frightened by a cat, and robbed of his coat and shoes, all while trying to find a way to escape the terrifying labyrinth of Mr. MacGregor’s garden! 

Who am I?

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting with my mom or dad while they read me stories like The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter or Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. These memories, along with many great teachers who got me excited about stories, are what helped me develop a love of reading and writing. I love stories with animal characters in them, whether they’re the main characters, or simply there in a supporting role.

I wrote...

Felicity and the Featherless Two-Foot

By Loralee Evans,

Book cover of Felicity and the Featherless Two-Foot

What is my book about?

Felicity hasn’t had an adventure in months, and the little sparrow thinks that danger and peril are behind her for good. Which is just fine with her! She would rather hang out with her friends the fairies, and read her books safe at home than go on dangerous quests. But Felicity didn’t count on one group of strangers showing up and causing more trouble than she ever imagined! 

An odd, troublesome bunch that the fairies call…people.

Little Fox in the Forest

By Stephanie Graegin,

Book cover of Little Fox in the Forest

Stephanie Graegin’s art is warm and welcoming. I was already familiar with the adorable anthropomorphic characters in her other books when I discovered Little Fox in the Forest. She seems to have created an entire world all her own that translates so well from book to book. You can always expect caring, kindness, and friendship in Stephanie’s world. 

The wordless story introduces two friends, a girl and a boy. When a cute little, sweatered fox snatches the girl’s favorite stuffed animal from the playground, her friend helps her try to find it. They run into the woods together and happen upon the most amazing alternate universe.

The girl and boy locate the stuffed animal only to discover that the little fox who found it seems to need it so much more. Through a happy ending, we learn that sharing can feel rewarding too.

Who am I?

Hi there! I am a children’s author, illustrator, and designer living in MA. I spend a lot of time thinking about how important friendship is to me; both the good and bad times, and how I could have handled certain scenarios differently. Books give us the opportunity to act out scenarios without having to live them. Books can teach us mannerisms and coping skills, making us more prepared for life. They also give us an opportunity to take a break from reality and sneak off into other worlds from time to time. Every book on my list highlights the importance of friendship and the thrill of adventure, I hope you enjoy them!  

I wrote...

The Flower Garden

By Renee Kurilla,

Book cover of The Flower Garden

What is my book about?

After planting a seed packet in the backyard, things don’t go as expected for best friends Anna and Tess. They fall asleep in the sun and wake up to blooms as tall as buildings! Did the seeds really grow that fast?

All is explained when Anna and Tess meet May, a little garden gnome whose magic is responsible for the transformation. The girls are May’s size now, and they follow her through the flower garden and into May’s underground gnome home—discovering new things about their world and themselves along the way. This immersive graphic novel from author-illustrator Renée Kurilla is perfect for emerging readers. It explores growing and changing friendships and offers details to discover on every page and with every read.

Our Tree Named Steve

By Alan Zweibel, David Catrow (illustrator),

Book cover of Our Tree Named Steve

I did not buy this book because I thought it was a grief book. I got it to do a tree unit for my kids’ preschool. But a year after my father-in-law (also named Steve) died unexpectedly, I couldn’t finish reading this book aloud without crying.

While not a traditional grief book, this is the story of a tree that has become inextricably intertwined with a family’s daily life, until one day a storm blows it over and the children come home to Steve in a new form, as a treehouse. A great way to discuss how we can find our lost loved ones in new ways.

Who am I?

In the past ten years, I have had to guide my young children through two unexpected and tragic deaths of loved ones. Both times, I was struggling with my own grief and wasn’t sure what my kids understood or didn’t. I made a lot of mistakes (as my son’s therapist can attest) but through it all, I learned a great deal about how much children notice, how deeply they feel a loss, and how to tend to our own grief and our children’s. From that pain, I wrote You’ll Find Me, and since then, have been able to use that book as a jumping-off point to discuss grief with others.

I wrote...

You'll Find Me

By Amanda Rawson Hill, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator),

Book cover of You'll Find Me

What is my book about?

Loss becomes remembrance in this book that offers tender ways to pay tribute to, and meaningfully incorporate, a loved one’s lost presence into present and future life experiences. Be it departed friends, family, pets, and more, memories can carry us beyond the precious moments we have together to keep the ones we loved before in mind forever.

Throughout the book the omnipresent narrator encourages thoughtful reflection on the empty spaces left by the loss. The gentle scenes portrayed inspire recovery from sadness and honor those who are absent. This lyrical heartful story provides consent and gently encourages readers to move to a place of peace and acceptance despite the absence.

Diary of a Wombat

By Jackie French, Bruce Whatley (illustrator),

Book cover of Diary of a Wombat

There are loads of great picture books that feature Australian animals but one of my favorites is Diary of a Wombat. It’s a very simple story told from the perspective of a wombat and it highlights their adorable, but also irascible and fairly destructive personalities. It’s incredibly difficult to pull off an ‘animal voice’ without it sounding like a person or a bit patronising, but Jackie French really nails it in this book, probably because of her extensive experience with looking after wombats. And the illustrations by Bruce Whatley are full of fun and joy. It makes me laugh every time I read it.

If wombats read books, I think this is the one they would love best, and what book about animals needs a better endorsement than that? 

Who am I?

I’ve always had a passion for animals since I was nine years old and wrote my first ‘book’ on animals for a school library competition. I went on to study animal behavior at university and complete a doctorate in conservation biology and seabirds in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. I’ve worked in zoos and museums, written twelve books on animals as various as killer whales and koalas, extinct megafauna, and marine reptiles. Learning more about the natural world, the people who study it, and the importance of protecting it, has been the driving force behind all of my books and a joy to share with readers. 

I wrote...

Killers In Eden: The True Story of Killer Whales and their Remarkable Partnership with the Whalers of Twofold Bay

By Danielle Clode,

Book cover of Killers In Eden: The True Story of Killer Whales and their Remarkable Partnership with the Whalers of Twofold Bay

What is my book about?

For a century, the ‘killer whales’ of Twofold Bay herded baleen whales towards the harpoons of local whalers, helping them hunt and sharing the rewards. It was a life of industry, adventure, and a strange and unique partnership between orcas and humans. All that remains today, are the stories, and the massive skeleton in the local museum of the legendary prankster, Old Tom, who stayed long after the rest of the pod left. 

Killers in Eden explores how this relationship between whaler and orca developed. Using modern knowledge of orcas to untangle fact from myth, helped me uncover a truly remarkable history of the killers in Eden.

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