The best books about the conservation movement

6 authors have picked their favorite books about the conservation movement and why they recommend each book.

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The Elephant Whisperer

By Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence,

Book cover of The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

This is probably one of the best known/best loved books about wild animals and those who care for them, and kept me almost literally on the edge of my seat wondering whether devoted animal conservationist Lawrence Anthony would succeed in rehoming a wild herd of “rogue” elephants. Along the way, he forges a bond with the animals, and soon realizes there is much he can learn from them about life, loyalty, and what it means to be free. But will his efforts result in success? Can he find a middle-ground on which elephants and humans can co-exist, or will Anthony have to step aside and allow their destruction? 

The Elephant Whisperer

By Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of "rogue" wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd's last chance of survival: they would be killed if he wouldn't take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.…

Who am I?

As a child, let loose to wander the woods around my home, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by animals, not only the dogs and cats we kept at home, but the wild critters I encountered. As I grew, so did my admiration and respect for the creatures that live in the wild. When I volunteered at Oregon’s Washington Park Zoo, and met Senior Elephant Keeper Roger Henneous, a new level of interest opened up as I observed the relationships between the animals and those who care for them. It bothered me that I often read nasty things about keepers, when I knew that most are devoted to those in their care.


I wrote...

Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper's Life Among the Herd

By Melissa Crandall,

Book cover of Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper's Life Among the Herd

What is my book about?

“You can make an elephant do one of two things: run away, or kill you. But you can get an elephant to do a number of amazing things.”

Elephant Speak offers an unvarnished look at one man’s loving, compassionate, often frustrating, and occasionally life-threatening 30-year relationship with the largest herd of breeding elephants in North America. The story of Roger Henneous and the elephants at what is now the Oregon Zoo celebrates the extraordinary bond that can exist between humans and elephants, and examines what we owe them in order to assure their continued survival.

A Boy and a Jaguar

By Alan Rabinowitz, Catia Chien (illustrator),

Book cover of A Boy and a Jaguar

I’m a cat person (please don’t tell my dog). Therefore I was naturally drawn to a book by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz—a zoologist who dedicated his life to protecting the world’s wild cat species. But while young readers might pick up this book because they are cat lovers or intrigued by jaguars, they’ll discover so much more. This is the true story about a boy with a stutter and how he finds his voice by talking to jaguars. Later, he returns the favor by using his voice to advocate for big-cat conservation. Beautifully illustrated by Catia Chien, this memoir shows what it means to keep a promise and how pursuing your passion can help you overcome obstacles. The back matter includes an interesting Q&A with Dr. Rabinowitz.

A Boy and a Jaguar

By Alan Rabinowitz, Catia Chien (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I write picture-book biographies and my latest book focuses on the first giraffologist, Dr. Anne Innis Dagg. While researching this book, I learned about so many people who have dedicated their lives to studying and protecting animals. Almost always, their love of wildlife began in childhood. So why not inspire young animal lovers today with true stories about people who share their passion for wildlife?


I wrote...

Anne and Her Tower of Giraffes

By Karlin Gray,

Book cover of Anne and Her Tower of Giraffes

What is my book about?

At four years old, Anne saw her first giraffe and never stopped thinking about it. Her desire to study the world's tallest animal followed her from preschool to graduate school, from Canada to South Africa. And often, people laughed at her quest. But by following her love of giraffes, Dr. Anne Innis Dagg became a pioneer—the first scientist to study animal behavior in Africa.

Illustrated by Aparna Varma, Anne and Her Tower of Giraffes is a picture-book biography that celebrates the adventures of Dr. Dagg, the beauty of giraffes, and the power of persistence. 

Love, Life, and Elephants

By Daphne Jenkins Sheldrick,

Book cover of Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story

Daphne Sheldrick has written this memoir to give us an insight into her life, saving and raising young elephants and numerous other wild animals with her husband in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. Her book is hugely inspiring and, although Kenya is strictly speaking not in Southern Africa. South African and East African wildlife are very similar and her description of an orphan sanctuary inspired me to write about such a sanctuary in my own book.

Love, Life, and Elephants

By Daphne Jenkins Sheldrick,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I moved from Germany to Botswana when I was a fledgling translator, and then on to South Africa 2 years later. I fell in love with this part of Africa that had a hand in making me the person I am today. Since I used to travel a lot, not all of my books are set in Southern Africa, but I have a passion for sharing my African stories with the world, and in a few of my novels, I include African wildlife in the storyline. Being a translator, I also translate books into German/English, and four of my own books - so far - are also available in German.


I wrote...

The Rhino Whisperer

By Evadeen Brickwood,

Book cover of The Rhino Whisperer

What is my book about?

Rhino poaching and the murder of a ranger create havoc in the peaceful Shangari Safari Park in South Africa. When another murder takes place in Johannesburg, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to this case than meets the eye. A criminal network is not just dealing in the illegal rhino horn trade with impunity. The San-people, who live in Shangari can communicate with the animals in the park and try to keep this a secret hidden to protect their way of life. 

Soul of a Lion

By Barbara Bennett,

Book cover of Soul of a Lion: One Woman's Quest to Rescue Africa's Wildlife Refugees

A beautifully told story about a Namibian family who created a real-life Noah’s Ark in the desert. Marieta van der Merwe and her late husband Nick turned their cattle ranch into a refuge for thousands of wounded or orphaned animals who can’t make it on their own in the wild. This book, full of wonder and gentle souls, has special meaning for me. I met Barbara Bennett, a North Carolina University literature professor, when I was sent to Namibia to write a story about Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary for the Guardian and we were both volunteering. Afterward, I introduced her to my New York literary agent who sold the book. It’s so vividly written that it allowed me to relive my experiences of daily mischief of the baboons, walking full-grown lions in the desert, sleeping with cheetahs under the stars, and watching the giant thunderstorms on the porch with a menagerie…

Soul of a Lion

By Barbara Bennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soul of a Lion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife.

Who am I?

I am an international bestselling author of Strays and a London-based journalist for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, and other publications. I've written about animals, conservation, and volunteered at sanctuaries around the world, from tending big cats and baboons in Namibia to wild mustangs in Nevada—a labour of love that has inspired features for The Guardian, The Independent, and Condé Nast Traveller. I've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many charities through my investigative animal-cruelty stories; as an activist, I helped shut down controversial breeders of laboratory animals in the UK. I also created Catfestlondon, a sell-out boutique festival that rescues and rehomes Moroccan street kittens in the UK.


I wrote...

Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America

By Britt Collins,

Book cover of Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America

What is my book about?

Strays: A Lost Cat, a Homeless Man and their Journey Across America is a true story about a troubled drifter who finds a lost cat and takes her on a ten-month adventure across the spirit-lifting settings of the American West.

Michael King, a former chef, was depressed, drunk, and living on the streets of Portland. When stumbles on a hurt and starving stray, he takes her into his home in a UPS loading bay and into his heart. He names her Tabor and nurses her back to health. When winter comes, they hitchhike to the beaches of California, the deserts of Idaho, and the high-plains of Montana, surviving on the kindnesses of strangers. The pair become inseparable, healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts. Meanwhile, back in Portland, the cat’s owner never stops looking her.

The Conservationist

By Nadine Gordimer,

Book cover of The Conservationist

I read this novel in university in a course taught brilliantly by the scholar WH New. It was the first time I understood the complexity of layers in great literature. Ostensibly about a businessman who buys a farm, it encompasses race relations, power in all its guises, sexuality, relationships to nature, and how character influences personal destiny. Written with outrage and compassion.

I kept The Conservationist in mind when I wrote my own book as an example of what a novel could be, but more than that, it taught me how to think about the world in a new way.

The Conservationist

By Nadine Gordimer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son, and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm.

Who am I?

I grew up during the apartheid era of racial segregation and oppression. A Blade of Grass was written with a sense of exile and regret, but also with love. It is not overtly about South Africa and apartheid. It asks a fundamental question: Where is home, and how shall we live there?


I wrote...

A Blade of Grass

By Lewis DeSoto,

Book cover of A Blade of Grass

What is my book about?

Set on the border of South Africa, A Blade of Grass is a suspenseful novel about a bitter struggle over a small farm and its dramatic consequences for two young women, one white and one black. A wrenching story of friendship and betrayal, it paints an unforgettable portrait of South Africa with tensions both political and sexual.

A novel of tremendous power and literary skill, thrilling to read and morally complex in its message, A Blade of Grass offers fresh, profound, and emotionally immediate perspectives, and holds at its center a deep understanding of the patience of the land, and the enduring hope for renewal.

Book cover of The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection

This book exposes the troubling roots of the American conservation movement and explores how racism continues to keep people out of our public spaces. I’d consider it an illuminating must-read for anyone who loves this planet and its people and wants to usher us into a more inclusive era of outdoor exploration.

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement

By Dorceta E. Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise of the American Conservation Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this sweeping social history Dorceta E. Taylor examines the emergence and rise of the multifaceted U.S. conservation movement from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. She shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the movement, including the establishment of parks; campaigns to protect wild game, birds, and fish; forest conservation; outdoor recreation; and the movement's links to nineteenth-century ideologies. Initially led by white urban elites-whose early efforts discriminated against the lower class and were often tied up with slavery and the appropriation of Native lands-the movement benefited from contributions to policy making, knowledge about the…

Who am I?

As a journalist who explores the intersection of human health and planet health, I've long been fascinated by how stepping outside into a healthy environment can boost our well-being. I also believe that we are more likely to take positive climate actions when we have a rich connection to the natural world around us, so a lot of my work focuses on helping people get out into nature—whatever that looks like for them.


I wrote...

Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us

By Emma Loewe,

Book cover of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us

What is my book about?

Return To Nature explores how eight distinct landscapes impact our mental and physical health: grasslands, deserts, forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, icy terrain, and cities. The book weaves together new research and ancient knowledge on how every inch of the natural world can be a salve for the stress, anxiety, and burnout of today’s age. Over the course of this landscape-to-landscape guide, you’ll pick up fresh ideas on how to restore yourself in the nature around you—be it a sprawling forest or a row of street trees. You’ll also learn about meaningful actions we can all take to give back to the landscapes that give so much to us.

The Jane Effect

By Dale Peterson (editor), Marc Bekoff (editor),

Book cover of The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall inspired me on the journey of my life’s work and passion. This book is a beautiful tribute to her groundbreaking work and life. I was honored to have been asked to be a contributor to this book, join me in celebrating her life and power to heal so many lives. 

The Jane Effect

By Dale Peterson (editor), Marc Bekoff (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In her nearly 60-year career as a groundbreaking primatologist and a passionate conservationist, Jane Goodall has touched the hearts of millions of people. The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall is a collection of testimonies by her friends and colleagues honoring her as a scientific pioneer, an inspiring teacher, a devoted friend, and an engaging spirit whose complex personality tends to break down usual categories. Jane Goodall is the celebrity who transcends celebrity. The distinguished scientist who's open to nonscientific ways of seeing and thinking. The human who has lived among non-humans. She is a thoughtful adult with depth and sobriety…

Who am I?

It all began at a very young age when I aspired to be Jane Goodall and save the lives of animals. Since then, her wisdom, courage, and activism have guided me throughout my life. Through my childhood, I nursed fledglings with eyedroppers, adopted turtles left on the curbside, and became an advocate for “Save our Seals”. In college, I immersed myself in the study of animal behavior. I explored the behavior of Red Kangaroos, "Megalia Rufas" in captivity, exploring ways in which zoos could improve their facilities to respect the needs of the animals. These experiences set the landscape for my work as a holistic psychotherapist with the healing power of dogs.


I wrote...

Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives

By Jane Miller,

Book cover of Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives

What is my book about?

The role that service dogs can play in the lives of people with invisible disabilities has started to receive national media attention in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and on Oprah. Service dogs have been assisting the blind, the hearing impaired, those in wheelchairs, and with other disabilities for decades. More recently, they’ve helped many veterans returning from combat to overcome the effects of PTSD and return to more fulfilling lives.

We are proud to say that Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives is the first book to profile the power that these extraordinary dogs have to transform lives. This groundbreaking book provides a window into the new world of Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs), and how they can offer a second chance at life to some of society’s most vulnerable people.

The Lorax

By Dr. Seuss,

Book cover of The Lorax

I love the colorful illustrations and the silliness of Dr. Seuss books. This book delivers a positive message about our natural resources in a way all can understand. The message is taking responsibility for the problems we create. The seed represents hope for the future.

When I was a child, I went to see an outdoor screening of The Lorax at a local festival. I won a copy of the book and it’s been special to me ever since. I think it reinforced the idea that no matter how old you are, you can change things for the better. I also wanted to share something positive through my books.

I use color in the illustrations in my books because when I was a kid, I loved picture books and they were helpful when I was having difficulty with my learning disabilities and how others perceived me. I was ten years…

The Lorax

By Dr. Seuss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Lorax is the original eco warrior and his message still rings loud today in this fable about the dangers of destroying our forests, told in the trademark rhyme of the irrepressible Dr. Seuss.

"Mister! He said with a sawdusty sneeze, I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees."

The Lorax is a hilarious and timeless story with the trademark humour and silly rhymes of Dr. Seuss, that packs a punch with its ecological message without feeling heavy-handed or worthy. The Lorax is the original eco warrior as he tries to save the Truffula trees from the greedy once-ler's…


Who am I?

I often turned to my imagination when I was a child. Nobody Can Take My Happy Away was inspired by the times I was bullied. My peers teased me about my clothes, my teeth, my home, and how I talked. I wanted to hide from everyone, so I had fewer opportunities to make friends. Because I lived in my own head, I found acceptance in the world of make-believe. I read books about strange worlds with characters that thrived in their surroundings. Eventually, it didn’t matter if someone teased me at school. Reading these books helped me be myself. I found strength in being the odd one out.


I wrote...

Nobody Can Take My Happy Away

By Jessica Arnold,

Book cover of Nobody Can Take My Happy Away

What is my book about?

Emily is the new girl at school. She learns quickly that her first day at a new school isn’t going to go the way she expected. She gets teased about her appearance among other things. At first, Emily thinks that there is something wrong with her, and wonders if there is something she can fix about herself to get the other kids to stop teasing her.

She soon learns that the problem isn’t her, it’s them. Together with some new friends that she initially overlooks due to her worries, they bring about change at their school with confidence, communication, and teamwork. This is a book about the challenges a child faced in school, and how she was able to get her “happy” back.

Kazan

By James Oliver Curwood,

Book cover of Kazan: The Wolf Dog

This is an old book, in the tradition made so popular by Jack London. There were a number of these ‘proud, free dog of the North’ type of books published, and they are all great reads, yet this one is in my opinion the finest of them. It never descends into mawkish sentiment, but tells Kazan’s story from his own viewpoint; there is little of the human world, and we get a glimpse of just how alien a wild animal is, how different from our own, more domestic companions. 

A tremendously exciting read, with not a dull page in it.

Kazan

By James Oliver Curwood,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Since I brought home my first rescue thirty years ago, my life has been full of dogs and dog-related activities that I can hardly imagine the person I would've been without them. My own books often feature one or more dogs, not because I particularly decide to write about dogs, but more because I live with dogs, it’s what I know. When I’m browsing for a good read, if a book features a dog, that’s a draw for me, just because dogs are dogs; they are such good creatures, so infinitely lovable, that their presence enhances a book for me just as their presence in my life enhances my every day.


I wrote...

Bloodsucking Bogans

By Tabitha Ormiston-Smith,

Book cover of Bloodsucking Bogans

What is my book about?

Dingo Flats hasn't been the same since the Murphy family moved back to town. The boys are delinquents, the daughter's a disgrace, and old Granny Murphy is constantly causing trouble. Even the dogs are delinquents. The crime rate's doubled since they arrived. And what's with all the dead rats that have started appearing on the doorsteps of local businesses? The tabloid thinks it's a plague, but Sam's dad is convinced it's warnings from the Mafia. 

Meanwhile, Sam's friends are determined to make her over and marry her off, and she's staring down the barrel of having to give up her police dog pup. What's a cop to do?

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