The most recommended books about donkeys

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to donkeys, and here are their favorite donkey books.
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What type of donkey book?


Book cover of Goddamn This War!

Nic Watts Author Of Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History

From Nic's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Illustrator Baba (father) Collaborator Comic book fan Activist

Nic's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Nic Watts Why did Nic love this book?

I read Tardi's classic graphic novel, It Was a War of the Trenches, a few years ago and loved it as much as one can love a book of that level of horror. In this book, Tardi returns to World War One, drawing on the reminiscences of his grandfather; Tardi recounts the French experience.

The first-person narrative really shows the horror and tragedy of war. A commitment to telling truths is furthered by the presence of black and Asian colonial troops, who are still largely written out of the mainstream depictions of this conflict.

It wasn't just the British lions led by donkeys! 

Book cover of The Golden Ass

Hal Johnson Author Of Apprentice Academy: Sorcerers: The Unofficial Guide to the Magical Arts

From my list on magic not to let your parents catch you reading.

Why am I passionate about this?

The only thing I love reading more than books about myth and legend are books you’re not supposed to read. George Bataille once wrote that if you ever caught him producing a book that he risked nothing to write, you should throw it away, and I take that to heart. Every book should be dangerous, because only danger makes you think. I hope every book I’ve written is, in some sense, dangerous, although of course I also hope my readers do not get ripped to pieces by the devil. That’s a little too dangerous. 

Hal's book list on magic not to let your parents catch you reading

Hal Johnson Why did Hal love this book?

Not necessarily the world’s first novel (the world’s first novel is probably lost) nor even the world’s first great novel (that would be Petronius’ Satyricon, which you should also not get caught reading), The Golden Ass is definitely the world’s first great novel that has survived through the centuries intact.

It’s the story of a man who tries just one time to dabble in magic and accidentally turns himself into a donkey. The poor guy has a bunch of adventures as he tries to figure out how to, you know, stop being a donkey.

That doesn’t sound so bad, but no one’s ever going to let you read a book with the title The Golden Ass. It just means the golden donkey! There’s nothing filthy about it! But no one will believe you!

By Apuleius, P.G. Walsh (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written towards the end of the second century AD, The Golden Ass tells the story of the many adventures of a young man whose fascination with witchcraft leads him to be transformed into a donkey. The bewitched Lucius passes from owner to owner - encountering a desperate gang of robbers and being forced to perform lewd 'human' tricks on stage - until the Goddess Isis finally breaks the spell and Lucius is initiated into her cult. Apuleius' enchanting story has inspired generations of writers such as Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Keats with its dazzling combination of allegory, satire, bawdiness and…

Book cover of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes: And Other Travel Writings

Hilary Bradt Author Of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

From my list on travel with animals.

Why am I passionate about this?

Until I did my own animal-accompanied journey with Mollie and Peggy in 1984, my only association with animals on the trail was inadvertently with a collection of cockroaches in my backpack. It was when Bradt decided to add to their anthologies with a collection of stories about travelling with animals in 2018, Beastly Journeys, that I was able to read a wide variety of books on the topic. A delightful exercise!

Hilary's book list on travel with animals

Hilary Bradt Why did Hilary love this book?

Like Tschiffely’s Ride this is a travel narrative, given heightened interest and amusement by the addition of Modestine the donkey who carried Stevenson’s luggage. Modestine, like all donkeys, was a master at manipulating her inexperienced new owner, but the two forged an understanding that took them nearly 300km through some of France’s wildest landscapes. Written in 1879, this is a fascinating account of a vanished France, beset by religious conflict, where lodging might be found in the corner of a field as well as a flea-ridden inn. The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail is now a popular walking route through the Cevennes. I walked it earlier this year and enjoyed nightly readings from the book.

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Temperament and poor health motivated Robert Louis Stevenson to travel widely throughout his short life, and before he was celebrated as the author of Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses, and other immortal works, he was known for his travelogues. This collection presents some of his finest writing in that vein, starting with "An Inland Voyage." This 1878 chronicle of a canoe journey through Belgium and France charmingly captures the European villages and townspeople of a bygone era.
Other selections include "Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes," a humorous account of a mountain trek, and "Forest Notes," a…

Book cover of Running with Sherman: How a Rescue Donkey Inspired a Rag-Tag Gang of Runners to Enter the Craziest Race in America

Carol Bradley Author Of Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top

From my list on that make you want to hug an animal.

Why am I passionate about this?

When two dog breeders were caught coming into Montana with 180 shivering and malnourished collies stacked in crates inside a tractor-trailer, my heart stopped. Those dogs looked like scrawnier versions of my two shelties. I was a newspaper reporter at the time, and covering the exhausting rescue and rehabilitation of those collies awakened me to the suffering so many animals undergo at human hands. My first book, Saving Gracie: How one dog escaped the shadowy world of American puppy mills, was inspired by that case. Ever since, I’ve made it my mission to shine the light on the mistreatment of animals, to try to capture the indomitable resilience they are able to summon when given the chance.

Carol's book list on that make you want to hug an animal

Carol Bradley Why did Carol love this book?

Author McDougall took a mistreated donkey—with hooves left untrimmed for so long he could barely walk—restored him to health and trained him to run alongside McDougall in a burro race. The contest had them scaling mountains and fording streams, something the author wasn’t certain Sherman could pull off. McDougall recalls with humor how the donkey gained confidence and developed a faith in humanity as a result.

By Christopher McDougall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of Born to Run, a heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America, and, in the process, discovering the life-changing power of the human-animal connection.

"A delight, full of heart and hijinks and humor." —John Grogan, author of Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

When Christopher McDougall decided to adopt a donkey in dire straits, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. But with the help of his neighbors, Chris came up with a crazy idea. Burro racing, a…

Book cover of Grind Your Bones to Dust

David Allen Voyles Author Of Tales from the Hearse: Thirteen Tales of Spine-Tingling Terror

From my list on horror you’ve probably never heard of but should.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved Halloween horror my whole life. As a teacher of literature, I always looked forward to October when I had a green light to incorporate the greatest horror authors into my lessons. The desire to share new horror stories did not fade when I retired. There are so many wonderful new authors of horror it’s impossible to read them all! But there’s also a lot of trash out there—I know, I’ve read it! My lifelong love of spooky things and my background in literature make me confident that I won’t be steering readers wrong when they look to me for the best new reads in horror.

David's book list on horror you’ve probably never heard of but should

David Allen Voyles Why did David love this book?

Rarely does a book that is beautifully written (so much so that I found myself jealous of Nicholas Day’s prose) also give me such a visceral punch in the gut. I don’t mean to suggest that the scenes in Day’s book are beautiful; they are anything but. The story includes the threat of flesh-eating donkeys for crying out loud, but as ridiculous as that might sound, they are truly terrifying. The scenes and events are hard, gritty, violent, and depressing, but somehow, I found them exhilarating. I often buy books to read on my Kindle for economic reasons, but after reading this one, I had to order a physical copy for my library. The setting of GYBTD strikes me as perhaps being appropriate in the universe of Stephen King’s gunslinger in the Dark Tower series (another of my very favorite pieces of literature). Just writing about Grind Your Bones…

Book cover of Living High: An Unconventional Autobiography

Margaret Meps Schulte Author Of Strangers Have the Best Candy

From my list on getting you talking to strangers.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a youngster, my parents took me on 6-week journeys across the United States by car. We'd stop in a small town each night, and I would explore on foot and meet other kids at the swimming pool or ice cream shop. That slow mode of travel has become my default, and I've spent years exploring back roads, small towns, and bywaters by car, bicycle, and sailboat. I write about the strangers I've found and the "candy" I've gotten from them: strangers have lessons for all of us and are not as dangerous as we've been told.

Margaret's book list on getting you talking to strangers

Margaret Meps Schulte Why did Margaret love this book?

Sometimes, when we read history, it seems so dry and different from our own lives that it's hard to comprehend. In the 1920s and 30s, June Burn homesteaded on an island in the San Juans, lived in Alaska, and traveled across the country with a donkey cart. Yet I can envision myself in her adventurous life because her views were so much like my own. She was a feminist and a strong, brave woman who used her writing as an excuse to talk to strangers.

By June Burn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Courage, gaiety, and a fresh approach to life are reflected in this unconventional autobiography. It is a story of twentieth-century pioneers as resourceful as ever they were in the days of the old frontier. June Burn and her husband Farrar determined to go their own sweet way, enjoying first hand living and not surrendering to the routines of a workaday world. Through the years they had some high and glorious adventures, which included homesteading a gumdrop in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest, teaching Eskimos near Siberia, and exploring the United States by donkey cart with a baby…

Book cover of The Donkey in Human History: An Archaeological Perspective

Ray Laurence Author Of Mediterranean Timescapes: Chronological Age and Cultural Practice in the Roman Empire

From Ray's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor Dyslexic Roman Historian Creator of Animated Films Migrant

Ray's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ray Laurence Why did Ray love this book?

Donkeys quite literally made the ancient world. When we think of the pyramids of Egypt, we tend today to think in the same thought – camels, but the camel was not domesticated more than a millennium later than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Thus, when we see the monuments of the ancient world – we are looking at the product of human-animal relations and the humble donkey was at the very heart of these civilizations so revered by the west today. Peter Mitchell does a fantastic job at being the voice for the donkey and setting out the archaeolgical evidence for donkeys so clearly and concisely.

The book as a whole alters the way we think about the ancient world and to some extent the domestication and adoption of the donkey coincides with the development of many an ancient civilization. Perhaps, this is why this book and the donkey in…

By Peter Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Donkeys carried Christ into Jerusalem while in Greek myth they transported Hephaistos up to Mount Olympos and Dionysos into battle against the Giants. They were probably the first animals that people ever rode, as well as the first used on a large-scale as beasts of burden. Associated with kingship and the gods in the ancient Near East, they have been (and in many places still are) a core technology for moving people and goods over both short and long distances, as
well as a supplier of muscle power for threshing and grinding grain, pressing olives, raising water, ploughing fields, and…

Book cover of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Author Of Bear Medicine

From my list on bad ass women in historical fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

Landscape is always important in my writing, and Yellowstone, which I’ve visited numerous times, is such a special place, rich with geodiversity and teeming with danger, that it kind of demanded to be a setting for my novel. I’ve also always been kind of obsessed with bears, and Yellowstone is grizzly country. But I didn’t want to write the stereotypical “man against nature” book. I’m too much of a feminist for that. 

G.'s book list on bad ass women in historical fiction

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer Why did G. love this book?

I recommend One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow for three reasons. First, it’s set in the same general time and place as my novel and depicts many of the hardships that frontier women faced in the second half of the 19th century. It also tells a story about an unlikely but necessary friendship, thematically akin to my novel. And finally, the prose is lovely and a joy to read.

By Olivia Hawker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night comes a powerful and poetic novel of survival and sacrifice on the American frontier.

Wyoming, 1876. For as long as they have lived on the frontier, the Bemis and Webber families have relied on each other. With no other settlers for miles, it is a matter of survival. But when Ernest Bemis finds his wife, Cora, in a compromising situation with their neighbor, he doesn't think of survival. In one impulsive moment, a man is dead, Ernest is off to prison, and the women left behind are divided by rage…

Book cover of The Golden Ass

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

The narrator is turned into a donkey and undergoes various tribulations before recovering his human form. The only Latin novel to survive complete, it is a unique curiosity shop of diverse treasures: fantastical, comic, bawdy, beautiful, violent, and finally—biggest surprise of alldevoutly religious. "It smells of incense and urine," Flaubert said. Much of the work consists of tales related by the characters whom the donkey comes across, of which the longest is Cupid and Psyche, a fabulously rococo display of exquisite and enchanted storytelling. The virtuoso beauty of the description of Cupid’s wings is unbeatable. "Reader, listen up: you’ll love it," says the narrator at the start. You will. Again, go for Ruden’s translation.

By Apuleius, Sarah Ruden (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Acclaimed poet and translator Sarah Ruden brilliantly brings Apuleius's comic tale to life

"A rollicking ride well worth the fare, . . . marvelously, sidesplittingly ridiculous. . . . It's a story, not a homily, and Sarah Ruden has re-bestowed it with artful aplomb."-Tracy Lee Simmons, National Review

"A cause for celebration. . . . We owe Sarah Ruden a great debt of thanks for [this] English translation that is no less inventive, varied, and surprising than the original."-G. W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books

With accuracy, wit, and intelligence, this remarkable new translation of The Golden Ass breathes…

Book cover of Brighty of the Grand Canyon

Will Lowrey Author Of Where the Irises Bloom

From my list on animal loyalty.

Why am I passionate about this?

Issues impacting animals have been a major component of my life for twenty years and have inspired all of my writing. As humans, we are consumed by our own needs and often, animals go unnoticed in the shadows or in some capacity that is of service to us. But animals have stories all their own. Again and again I have encountered these stories, from cows in a slaughterhouse, to fighting dogs rescued from a chain, to primates in laboratories, they each have a meaningful story. The stories that resonate most are the ones in which the animal story intersects that of human character in a deep, and often surprising way. 

Will's book list on animal loyalty

Will Lowrey Why did Will love this book?

Probably a lesser-known book, Brighty still packs a powerful emotional punch. Similar to Pax, the book speaks movingly about the power of the wild and the value of allowing animals to exist on their terms. In addition to this less, Brighty also tells of the moving bond between a spitfire donkey and a pair of old men working the Grand Canyon. Although he loses his companion, a prospector named Old Timer, early in the book, Brighty never forgets the man’s kindness. He spends the rest of the book, loyal to another man, Jim, seeking justice for Old Timer’s murder. Throughout the book, Brighty never loses the wild inside him and Marguerite Henry does a masterful job of weaving together the themes of loyalty, purpose, and respect for Brighty’s personal integrity. Although mostly considered a children’s book, Brighty is well-worth the read for any adult looking for a story to…

By Marguerite Henry, Wesley Dennis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brighty of the Grand Canyon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A determined little burro earns the loyalty and affection of everyone he encounters in this classic story from Newbery Award-winning author Marguerite Henry.

Long ago, a lone little burro roamed the high cliffs of the Grand Canyon and touched the hearts of all who knew him: a grizzled old miner, a big-game hunter, even President Teddy Roosevelt. Named Brighty by the prospector who befriended him, he remained a free spirit at heart. But when a ruthless claim-jumper murdered the prospector, loyal Brighty risked everything to bring the killer to justice.

Brighty's adventures have delighted generations of readers, and he has…