The most recommended books about chimpanzees

Who picked these books? Meet our 36 experts.

36 authors created a book list connected to chimpanzees, and here are their favorite chimpanzee books.
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Book cover of When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

Ginjer L. Clarke Author Of Animal Allies: Creatures Working Together

From my list on nonfiction about fascinating animal behavior.

Who am I?

I’m secretly eight years old inside. I love fascinating animal and science stuff, especially cool, weird, and gross facts. Readers of my children’s books see this passion in action. My best-selling and award-winning nonfiction animal books have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide since 2000. I focus particularly on reaching reluctant, struggling, and English-language-learning readers by packing my books with lots of action and high-interest topics to keep them turning pages. I’m recommending these top-five narrative nonfiction animal books for adults because these authors have influenced my research and thinking—and because they’re terrific stories!

Ginjer's book list on nonfiction about fascinating animal behavior

Ginjer L. Clarke Why did Ginjer love this book?

Elephants are my favorite animals—for their size and beauty, innate intelligence, and matriarchal structure.

Do you love them too? If so, or even if you just want to know more about these utterly unique creatures and many more, you’ll want to read this insightful book. Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason was a forerunner in writing about socioemotional studies of animal behavior for lay readers.

This was the first nonfiction book I read years ago on this topic, and it remains the one that changed my worldview and approach to animal research, appreciation, and understanding.

By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Susan McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Elephants Weep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For more than 100 years, scientists have denied that animals experience emotions, yet this remarkable and groundbreaking book proves what animal-lovers have known to be true: wolves, tigers, giraffes, elephants and many other creatures exhibit all kinds of feelings - hope, fear, shame, love, compassion. From Ola, the irritable whale, to Toto, the chimpanzee who nursed his owner back to health, this book collects together for the first time a vast range of case histories which show the extraordinary complexity of the animal world, and the tumult of emotions that govern it.


Book cover of In the Shadow of Man

Sarah R. Pye Author Of Saving Sun Bears: One man's quest to save a species

From my list on improving your connection with nature.

Who am I?

My parents took my brother and me out of school on April Fool’s Day 1979 (when I was 13). We spent the next eight years sailing from the UK to the Americas. Our ‘boat-schooling’ was informed by the world around us: trying to plot our position with sextant taught me mathematics; squinting at a scooped bucket of seaweed taught me about biodiversity; hunkering down in horrendous storms made me realise my insignificance; and finding a way to communicate in local markets took away my fear of difference. April 1st is my most significant anniversary. I'm indebted to my courageous parents for helping me understand I'm a small part of of an incredible planet.

Sarah's book list on improving your connection with nature

Sarah R. Pye Why did Sarah love this book?

I must admit, I am in awe of Dr. Jane Goodall, who travelled deep into the jungle of Tanzania at the unfazed age of 26 (accompanied by her mum) to see what she could learn from chimpanzees. Her research undermined scientific thought as she watched chimps using tools and lived through a four-year primate war. I loved the way I learnt to differentiate and empathise with individual animals in this book. I introduced individual sun bears in my own book with the aim to bridge the species divide in the same way. After all, as Jane herself says, "Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help."

By Jane Goodall,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Shadow of Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of history's most impressive field studies; an instant animal classic' TIME

Jane Goodall's classic account of primate research provides an impressively detailed and absorbing account of the early years of her field study of, and adventures with, chimpanzees in Tanzania, Africa. It is a landmark for everyone to enjoy.


Book cover of Reason for Hope

Gary Kowalski Author Of Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet

From my list on love, loss and our kinship with animals.

Who am I?

I called my dog Chinook my spiritual guide. He makes friends easily and doesn’t hold a grudge. He enjoys simple pleasures, taking each day as it comes. On his own canine level, he shows me that it might be possible to live without inner conflicts or neuroses: uncomplicated, genuine and glad to be alive.”  Chinook inspired my first book, The Souls of Animals, which explored the capacities for love, creativity, and compassion we humans share with other species. As an ordained minister (Harvard Divinity School), I believe we desperately need to rediscover our spiritual affinity with other living creatures if we are to save our small planet.

Gary's book list on love, loss and our kinship with animals

Gary Kowalski Why did Gary love this book?

Goodall is part scholar and part saint, a scientist seer. When her husband Derek Bryceson died after a protracted battle with cancer, Jane was spiritually bereft. Following a bleak year of grief, she encountered a mystical moment of healing.  “It seemed to me, as I struggled afterward to recall the experience, that self was utterly absent: I and the chimpanzees, the earth and trees and air, seemed to merge, to become one with the spirit power of life itself.” In that window of altered understanding, time slowed. Perception sharpened. Space seemed more spacious. The forest and its wild creatures, she found, had given her the peace that passes understanding.

By Jane Goodall, Phillip Berman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reason for Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Those who know Jane Goodall through her many books, speeches, and National Geographic television specials, know she is obviously no ordinary scientist. She is a genuinely spiritual woman who cares passionately about the preservation and enhancement of life in all its forms.Based upon the many spiritual experiences that have graced and shaped her outlook on life, Dr. Goodall is convinced there is a higher purpose to life, and that this purpose can best be served by a sense of reverence for creation- a commitment to opening our hearts and minds to the spiritual ties that bind us to the Earth.In…


Book cover of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Lars Chittka Author Of The Mind of a Bee

From my list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses.

Who am I?

I'm a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary College of the University of London and also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary. I've been fascinated by the strange world of insects since childhood and after taking the first glance into a beehive, I was hooked – I instantly knew that I was looking into a form of alien civilization. Since becoming a scientist, I have explored their strange perceptual worlds as well as their intelligence, and most recently the question of their consciousness. I hope you find wonderful insights in the books that I have suggested and a new respect for the animal minds that surround us. 

Lars' book list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses

Lars Chittka Why did Lars love this book?

This captivating book dismantles the prevalent notion that various facets of human intelligence are exclusive to our species.

Through a compelling array of examples spanning the animal kingdom, the author illuminates how skills like crafting tools, understanding mental perspectives, recognizing oneself, and even exhibiting cultural practices are not confined to humans and their nearest kin. Instead, these abilities have independently emerged in a diverse array of other creatures.

Consequently, the book serves as a stimulating challenge to the idea of human superiority, offering numerous indications that when an animal's environment demands it, evolution is inclined to yield intelligent behavior in a myriad of manifestations.

By Frans de Waal,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition-in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos-to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you…


Book cover of Grumpy Monkey

Jessica Sinarski Author Of Hello, Anger

From my list on children’s stories about anger.

Who am I?

I have always been a peacemaker, so anger can be a really uncomfortable emotion for me. I think that’s true of lots of people! As a mom and mental health counselor, it was important to me to write a book that honored the protective nature of anger. Feelings give us important information. Putting this book together felt like a big puzzle to solve, and I’m so happy with how it turned out. Bright and engaging illustrations, relatable characters, and tips for grown-ups in the back to help us all say hello to our anger and whatever might be hiding underneath! 

Jessica's book list on children’s stories about anger

Jessica Sinarski Why did Jessica love this book?

What a delightful book on every level. Brilliant illustrations, relatable story, and it encourages sweet relationships even through difficult emotions. It’s great for 4-7-year-old children, playfully showing that even the best advice about helping people with big feelings doesn’t always meet the need…at least not as much as a little connection with someone who “gets it.” 

By Suzanne Lang, Max Lang (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Grumpy Monkey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

A hilarious and reassuring New York Times Number 1 bestseller about feeling your emotions - sometimes it's okay not to feel okay!

Meet Jim Panzee.

He's in a BAD mood.
Nothing feels right!
Nothing will do, and Jim just doesn't know why...

His friends give him tips and suggest things that make THEM feel happy, however poor old Jim gets overwhelmed and snaps . . .

Could it be that he just needs a day to feel grumpy?

This modern classic is the perfect reminder that 'grumpy monkey' days never last for ever.


Book cover of Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes

Rick Shenkman Author Of Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics

From my list on why voters often behave irrationally.

Who am I?

Rick Shenkman is a New York Times bestselling author, historian, and journalist who, after reading and writing history books for 40 years, decided to spend the past decade discovering what social scientists have to say. To his great joy, he learned that since he had last studied their work in college they had come to a vast new understanding of human political behavior. He now uses their insights into political psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and genetics to help explain our fucked up politics.

Rick's book list on why voters often behave irrationally

Rick Shenkman Why did Rick love this book?

This is a highly readable and fun book published back in 1982 by one of the leading primatologists of our era. A close student of ape behavior, Frans de Waal shows how smart apes are and what we can learn about ourselves by studying their behavior. He demonstrates that, contrary to common belief, it is not by physical strength alone that an alpha ape hangs onto its power at the top of the social pyramid. More important than their muscles is their ability to form coalitions with others.  

If your mental image of an alpha ape is a brawny male, forget it. De Waal profiles one female ape, Mama, who manages for years to dominate a group by exercising power more prudently than her male rivals, who shriek and throw tantrums when they don't get their way. This is the good news. The bad news is that apes are Machiavellian.…

By Franz DeWaal,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Chimpanzee Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first edition of Frans de Waal's Chimpanzee Politics was acclaimed not only by primatologists for its scientific achievement but also by politicians, business leaders, and social psychologists for its remarkable insights into the most basic human needs and behaviors. Twenty-five years later, this book is considered a classic. Featuring a new preface that includes recent insights from the author, this anniversary edition is a detailed and thoroughly engrossing account of rivalries and coalitions-actions governed by intelligence rather than instinct. As we watch the chimpanzees of Arnhem behave in ways we recognize from Machiavelli (and from the nightly news), de…


Book cover of Mr. Nobody's Eyes

Helen Laycock Author Of Glass Dreams

From my list on circus stories for readers eight and up.

Who am I?

I remember reading Enid Blyton’s Mr. Galliano’s Circus as a child and was fascinated more by the idea of circus life than the actual performance aspect. I still adore watching high-quality circus feats performed by acrobats and love that frisson of excitement as everyone shuffles into their seats just before showtime. When I began writing children’s books, my aim was to give the child characters room to develop resilience and courage while encountering danger and adventure without the presence of adults. In order to do this, I had to somehow remove parental figures. Running away is the perfect literary device to achieve this which is how Glass Dreams came about.

Helen's book list on circus stories for readers eight and up

Helen Laycock Why did Helen love this book?

I’m a sucker for anything about chimps!

Set in post-war England, this charming story focuses on the relationship between 10-year-old Henry and Ocky, a mischievous chimpanzee he ‘accidentally’ steals from Mr Nobody at Blondini’s Circus.

After trouble at school and at home, and with the threat of having his secret friend discovered, Harry runs away with Ocky. Following a series of adventures, ending with a perilous situation at the seaside, Harry realises that not only is Ocky precious to Mr Nobody, but he is precious to his family too.

By Michael Morpurgo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mr. Nobody's Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tale of fun and friendship from former Children's Laureate and author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo.

Harry heard the key turn in the lock. He had already made up his mind to run.

Harry is in trouble at school, and doesn't like his stepfather or the new baby. Then he befriends Ocky, a chimpanzee from the circus. Ocky's owner won't mind if Harry borrows her for a bit, will he?

But then Harry's stepfather and the police find out. Harry and the chimp are soon on the run!

A gripping and poignant animal adventure from the master storyteller of…


Book cover of A Beautiful Truth

Robert Repino Author Of Morte

From my list on animals becoming sentient.

Who am I?

In addition to writing novels, I’m a humanities editor for Oxford University Press. So, I’m interested in the political and theological implications of non-human intelligence. I wonder how people would react to such a revelation. Some would be fascinated by this radical new perspective. Others would be horrified at what they perceive as a transgression against nature. I’m also drawn to this topic because I still vividly recall the entertainment of my youth, which regularly featured anthropomorphic animals. Sometimes they’re just cool or funny. But on occasion—like with The Secret of NIMH—they raise profound questions of identity and rebellion, even for an audience that is too young to understand.

Robert's book list on animals becoming sentient

Robert Repino Why did Robert love this book?

A childless couple adopts a chimpanzee named Looee, and you already know from reading that sentence that it will lead to trouble and heartbreak. After a few pages, I didn’t care. In McAdam’s skilled hands, the inevitable sadness doesn’t matter, because the delicately handled point of view perfectly captures a doomed creature trapped between two opposing identities. In contrast, we also meet Podo, an alpha chimp at a research facility seeking to test the intelligence of primates. Podo is fully ape, but he is turning into something more. Their paths soon join, taking them deeper into a gray area between human and animal that I had never seen rendered on the page so vividly before. 

By Colin McAdam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Beautiful Truth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Walt and Judy's happiness has been blighted by their childlessness; although their marriage seems blissful, Judy feels increasingly empty and Walt longs to make her happy again. So one day he brings home Looee - a baby chimpanzee. Looee, exuberant and demanding, immediately fills the gap in Walt and Judy's life, and they come to love him as their own son. Like any child, Looee is affectionate and quick to learn, generous and engaging. But he is also a deeply unpredictable animal, and one night their unique family life is changed forever.
At the Girdish Institute, chimpanzees have been studied…


Book cover of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Catherine Cusset Author Of Life of David Hockney

From Catherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Passionate Reader Traveler Cook Friend

Catherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Catherine Cusset Why did Catherine love this book?

I loved everything about this novel: the elements of surprise, the family dynamics, the character development, and the more significant issues—trauma, childhood, envy, animal cruelty, and activism.

In the first page, we learn that the narrator lost both her brother and her sister, so we suppose the novel will be about this double tragedy. It was admirable that the narrator didn’t tell us for so long that her sister was a chimp. I probably wouldn’t have cared as much if I had known earlier, as I never had a pet and never gave much thought to animals. By tricking me, Fowler created empathy and made me care for an animal.

This novel has a deep impact, but it is done in a light way. Fowler is funny, caustic, and witty. She manages to speak of deep issues in a hilarious way—a very moving, funny, absorbing novel.

By Karen Joy Fowler,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club introduces a middle-class American family that is ordinary in every way but one in this novel that won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.
 
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion...she was my twin, my funhouse…


Book cover of Me... Jane

Brenda Z. Guiberson Author Of Into the Sea

From my list on that spark a lifetime of investigation.

Who am I?

I'm an award-winning, best-selling children’s author who writes about unexpected “wow” moments that stick with me. I look for books and articIes that take me on a deep journey into unknown environments. I aim for nonfiction that reads like a story with an emotional connection to new creatures with fascinating lifestyles. As a writer of dozens of books for children, I always learn much more that can go into each effort. Each book comes into a hazy focus after tons of research. The best “wow” details get woven into an incredible story full of surprise, joy, and admiration for those struggling to survive on our changing plant.  

Brenda's book list on that spark a lifetime of investigation

Brenda Z. Guiberson Why did Brenda love this book?

This book is about Jane Goodall, famous chimp researcher and United Nations Messenger of Peace. As a child, she shared her backyard “magical world of nature” with her stuffed chimp named Jubilee. The book Tarzan of the Apes expanded her passion into dreams of going to Africa to study animals. “Wow!” She did it, and her stick-to-it observations led to the discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools. As she protects wildlife she also helps people in wild places to get better food, water, and education. Her concerns for all creatures have inspired children around the world to take some action toward a better planet.  

By Patrick McDonnell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Me... Jane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his characteristic heartwarming and minimalistic style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of 'a life living with and helping all animals,' until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

One of the world's most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to…