The most recommended books on extinction

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to extinction, and here are their favorite extinction books.
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Book cover of Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals

Mike Shanahan Author Of Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees

From my list on biodiversity, ecology, and extinction.

Who am I?

I am a tropical ecologist turned writer and editor focused on biodiversity, climate change, forests, and the people who depend on them. I did my doctoral research in rainforests in Borneo and Papua New Guinea and have since worked for media organizations and research institutes, and as a mentor to journalists around the world who report on environmental issues. Ecology taught me that everything is connected. Rainforests taught me that nature can leave a person awe-struck with its beauty, complexity, or sheer magnificence. I try to share my passion for these subjects through my writing.

Mike's book list on biodiversity, ecology, and extinction

Mike Shanahan Why did Mike love this book?

I happened to be at a conference of scientists trying to conserve endangered species when I first heard about Daniel Hudon’s book. It struck a chord. It is a beautiful little collection of one hundred eulogies for lost animal species. Some are brief—just a few lines long. Others are more expansive, taking in literature and reportage. But all are poignant reminders of the permanence of extinction. Hudon’s aim is simply to acknowledge that these species existed, to recognize them and make them better known. It is a beautiful and unique collection, stunning in the cumulative force of his poetic words. A perfect gift, Hudon’s tales are both tragic and inspirational. 

By Daniel Hudon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this collection of one hundred brief eulogies, science writer and poet Daniel Hudon gives a literary voice to the losses stacking up in our present-day age of extinction. Natural history, poetic prose, reportage, and eulogy blend to form a tally of degraded habitats, and empty burrows, and of the songs of birds never to be heard again.


Book cover of Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink

Bethany Stahl Author Of Save the Ocean

From my list on non-fiction that inspire you to love earth.

Who am I?

I am an author, illustrator, herbalist, and aromatherapist with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. I’ve spent years working with native flora and fauna from propagating endangered plants back into their natural habitats and swimming through alligator-infested waters to rescue baby manatees who’ve been abandoned. This list is a look into the wonderful works that have touched me deeply and pivoted me deeper into understanding the world we share.

Bethany's book list on non-fiction that inspire you to love earth

Bethany Stahl Why did Bethany love this book?

I was handed this book after meeting Dr. Jane Goodall herself and was captivated an inspired by our world’s animals.

This book left me feeling hopeful in the otherwise disparaging world news of habitat loss and species extinction. Remaining optimistic has been a huge part of my journey and this book will leave you with just that: hope.

By Jane Goodall, Thane Maynard, Gail Hudson

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Interweaving firsthand experiences in the field with premier scientists and environmentalists, Jane Goodall presents a hopeful look at the animals once on the verge of extinction that are now coming back. This book is an illuminating look at how, through the grace of nature and the dedicated work of scientists and environmentalists, we can and are actually saving animal species. Through Goodall's signature impassioned narrative, we read fascinating accounts of how the course of fate has been reversed for these animals. Each chapter illustrates the crucial need to continue saving habitats and the species that live there, as well as…


Book cover of Prehistoric Animals

Errol Fuller Author Of The Great Auk

From my list on conservation and extinction.

Who am I?

I am a painter who specializes mostly in sleazy sports (boxing, snooker, etc. – nothing really healthy!) who happens to have written and designed 18 books. Obviously, producing books has become something of a habit. These books are about curiosities of natural history and also about art – but they have little to do with my paintings. Anyone who is interested in either the books or the paintings can see them on my website. I suppose the book that I’m best known for is Drawn from Paradise, a book that I did with David Attenborough on one of our two mutual obsessions – birds of paradise. Apart from books and paintings, my life is fairly humdrum; in fact, there isn’t a lot of time for much else, although I’ve been married more than once and have children. I’ve now reached an age when I should start slowing down but I’ve no intention of stopping what I do until either bad health or death finish me off!

Errol's book list on conservation and extinction

Errol Fuller Why did Errol love this book?

This is the book that brought me into the subject of extinction and specifically, as the title suggests, prehistoric creatures.

Published in 1960 at a time when colour printing was in the doldrums, this is the book that broke new ground. And it needed to because it contains reproductions of a wonderful series of paintings by the Czech artist Zdenek Burian, all shown in a large-scale format.

An argument could be made that Burian’s pictures are the most iconic and influential of all images of prehistoric animals, perhaps the only rivals being those created by the American artist Charles R. Knight. This is not to say that many more recent painters (both Burian and Knight were working in the early and middle years of the twentieth century) have failed in their efforts. They certainly have not, but it seems true to say that the painterly quality of Burian and the…

By J. Augusta, Z. Burian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This text defines the role and scope of nuclear medicine imaging techniques (gamma scintigraphy) in pharmaceutical research, giving information from clinical trial data.


Book cover of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

William H. Steffen Author Of Anthropocene Theater and the Shakespearean Stage

From my list on invasive species and their impact on human history.

Who am I?

I’m an English professor in New England whose research and teaching interests focus on the Shakespearean Stage and the Environmental Humanities. As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to romanticize the impact that literature can have on the world—either politically, ideologically, or physically. The story that Kim Todd shares about the European Starling proliferating in North America because of a Shakespeare-loving member of a New York Acclimatization Society has changed the way that I look at birds, at Shakespeare, and the world. It has encouraged me to find other stories like this one to share with my students—and to tell a few of my own.

William's book list on invasive species and their impact on human history

William H. Steffen Why did William love this book?

When you remember that life on our planet has been almost completely annihilated five times already, perhaps it makes you appreciate the ephemerality of our existence, the diversity of flora, fauna, and fungi on earth, our planet’s many gifts, etc. But when you realize that human behaviors in the age of capitalism and globalization are tantamount to the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, it makes you want to wake up from this nightmare.

This book offers an amazing history lesson about archaeology and how we have learned about our planet’s ancient history. But it also provides a sobering wake-up call, a plea for preserving biological diversity, a dirge for its snowballing disappearance. Species are going extinct at 1,000 times the natural rate.

By Elizabeth Kolbert,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Sixth Extinction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth.

Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Elizabeth Kolbert combines brilliant field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the gripping stories of a dozen species - including the Panamanian golden frog and the Sumatran rhino - some already gone, others at the point of vanishing.

The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most…


Book cover of How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution

Jeff Campbell Author Of Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

From my list on stop worrying and love bioengineered animals.

Who am I?

As an author of YA science books (as well as being an editor), my goal is to inspire teens to think deeply about our world, but especially about our relationships with animals. To be honest, I knew bubkis about bioengineering until I was writing my previous book, Last of the Giants, about the extinction crisis. My head exploded as I learned how close we are to “de-extincting” lost species. The power that genetic engineering gives us to alter animals is unnerving, and it’s critical that we understand and discuss it. Bioengineering will change our future, and teens today will be the ones deciding how.    

Jeff's book list on stop worrying and love bioengineered animals

Jeff Campbell Why did Jeff love this book?

It’s nice when scientists talk like regular people, with a sense of humor and simple explanations of how impossibly complex stuff works. That’s paleontologist Jack Horner, who has been the dinosaur consultant on all the Jurassic Park films. He’s currently trying to re-create a real-life dinosaur, which he makes sound like tinkering with the engine of a 1960s Mustang. Who me? Just trying to get a chicken embryo to grow into a dinosaur, to see if I can. And if it works, by the way, there’s your proof about the theory of evolution.  

By Jack Horner, James Gorman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Build a Dinosaur as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A world-renowned paleontologist reveals groundbreaking science that trumps science fiction: how to grow a living dinosaur.

Over a decade after Jurassic Park, Jack Horner and his colleagues in molecular biology labs are in the process of building the technology to create a real dinosaur.

Based on new research in evolutionary developmental biology on how a few select cells grow to create arms, legs, eyes, and brains that function together, Jack Horner takes the science a step further in a plan to "reverse evolution" and reveals the awesome, even frightening, power being acquired to recreate the prehistoric past. The key is…


Book cover of Project Hannibal

Douglas Phillips Author Of Quantum Space

From my list on hard science fiction published this century.

Who am I?

As a scientist, I love hard science fiction, especially when the story makes me think about the true nature of reality or takes me on an adventure to places unknown. We’ve all read the classics from Clarke, Heinlein, Bear, or Asimov. But books written decades ago are becoming increasingly dated as society progresses into a new century. (Will people of the future really chain smoke? And why are all the characters men?) Never fear, modern hard sci-fi is alive and well. Here are five recent books that tell an intriguing, uplifting, or awe-inspiring story. Even better than the classics, it’s hard sci-fi for the 21st century!

Douglas' book list on hard science fiction published this century

Douglas Phillips Why did Douglas love this book?

Kathryn is the best sci-fi author you haven’t read. How do I know? I was her critique buddy. We traded chapters as we wrote, each acting as advisor to the other.

I really liked Monkey Girl, a great choice for teen girls. But Project Hannibal is my favorite. Kathryn works at a zoo, so she knows a lot about animals. In Hannibal, she asks, could DNA from extinct woolly mammoths be used to impregnate a modern elephant? And if you could produce mammoth offspring, why do it?

As it turns out, mammoths might be exactly the wildlife our neglected planet needs. Join a flying doctor and her teenage assistant in a grand adventure across the wilderness of Alaska.

By Kathryn Hoff,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

Jeff Campbell Author Of Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

From my list on stop worrying and love bioengineered animals.

Who am I?

As an author of YA science books (as well as being an editor), my goal is to inspire teens to think deeply about our world, but especially about our relationships with animals. To be honest, I knew bubkis about bioengineering until I was writing my previous book, Last of the Giants, about the extinction crisis. My head exploded as I learned how close we are to “de-extincting” lost species. The power that genetic engineering gives us to alter animals is unnerving, and it’s critical that we understand and discuss it. Bioengineering will change our future, and teens today will be the ones deciding how.    

Jeff's book list on stop worrying and love bioengineered animals

Jeff Campbell Why did Jeff love this book?

Shapiro’s title is a bait-and-switch. She immediately makes clear in big block letters: "WE CAN’T CLONE A MAMMOTH!" It’s impossible. So what is she doing? Well, we can genetically rejigger Asian elephants to resemble woolly mammoths, and that could be useful. Erzats mammoths might help restore the Siberian tundra, and bioengineered, cold-adapted elephants could expand their range north, which would help them survive climate change. Shapiro has little patience for romantic visions of restoring extinct species, but she makes a compelling—and reassuring—case for how we can use bioengineering to save endangered species while they still exist.

By Beth Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Clone a Mammoth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An insider's view on bringing extinct species back to life

Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist and pioneer in ancient DNA research, addresses this intriguing question by walking readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used to resurrect the past. Considering de-extinction's practical benefits and ethical challenges, Shapiro argues that the overarching…


Book cover of Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution

Pamela S. Turner Author Of How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps

From my list on children’s books about evolution.

Who am I?

Life really is stranger than fiction, and some of the stuff served up by evolution is outrageously bizarre. There are one-celled creatures that make rats want to cozy up to cats, a parasitic worm that turns snails into “disco zombies” and an ape that communicates across continents by pushing keys to create rows and columns of pixels. I’m fascinated by all of these creatures and love writing books for children about evolutionary biology, especially the evolution of intelligence. Besides authoring How to Build a Human, I’ve written about the evolution of intelligence in dolphins (The Dolphins of Shark Bay) and crows (Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird).

Pamela's book list on children’s books about evolution

Pamela S. Turner Why did Pamela love this book?

A step more sophisticated than the picture books above, Life on Earth is targeted to children ages 9 to 12. The eye-catching format and succinct text cover the diversity of life on Earth, major evolutionary transitions, and nicely illustrates the process of natural selection through a succession of illustrations of frogs as the fittest individuals are selected by their environment. Engaging and packed with information.

By Steve Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life on Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

There are millions of different kinds of plants and animals living on the earth, and millions more have lived here in the past. Where did they all come from? Why have some become extinct and others lived on?

What lived on Earth before us, who is still with us, and what prompts evolutionary change? In this remarkable picture book, Steve Jenkins uses his signature eye-popping art to answer these questions and explore the fascinating history of life on earth and the awe-inspiring story of evolution.


Book cover of The Fate of the Mammoth: Fossils, Myth, and History

Simon J. Knell Author Of The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal

From my list on extinct animals.

Who am I?

I write about those people (geologists, art historians, historians, and curators), places (museums, universities, and societies), and things (fossils, paintings, and historical artifacts) that shape our understanding of the world. I am not so much interested in the history of ideas as in the very nature of art, geology, history, and the museum. And like my recommended authors, the approach I take to my subjects is, I hope, always rather novel. In The Great Fossil Enigma, for example, I felt that the tiny, suggestive, but ultimately ambiguous, nature of the fossils permitted me to see into the scientific mind. This tends to be where extinct animals live after their demise. 

Simon's book list on extinct animals

Simon J. Knell Why did Simon love this book?

Reviewers of The Great Fossil Enigma thought that book strange. If they tried to think of a book like it, then they alighted on this one. I don’t see much similarity, but I do think Cohen’s book is strange. Her first paragraph is a single sentence of just seven words. It is: ‘This is not a book about mammoths.’ That sentence isn’t quite true because the book is about mammoths, but Cohen uses these animals as a pretext for a much grander history of science. The approach couldn’t be more different from the other books on my list. 

By Claudine Cohen, William Rodarmor (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From cave paintings to the latest Siberian finds, woolly mammoths have fascinated people across Europe, Asia and North America for centuries. Remains of these enormous prehistoric animals were among the first fossils to be recognized as such, and they have played a crucial role in the birth and development of paleontology. In this lively, wide-ranging look at the fate of the mammoth, Claudine Cohen reanimates this large mammal with heavy curved tusks and shaggy brown hair through its history in science, myth and popular culture. Cohen uses the mammoth and the theories that naturalists constructed around it to illuminate wider…


Book cover of Extinct Birds

Simon J. Knell Author Of The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal

From my list on extinct animals.

Who am I?

I write about those people (geologists, art historians, historians, and curators), places (museums, universities, and societies), and things (fossils, paintings, and historical artifacts) that shape our understanding of the world. I am not so much interested in the history of ideas as in the very nature of art, geology, history, and the museum. And like my recommended authors, the approach I take to my subjects is, I hope, always rather novel. In The Great Fossil Enigma, for example, I felt that the tiny, suggestive, but ultimately ambiguous, nature of the fossils permitted me to see into the scientific mind. This tends to be where extinct animals live after their demise. 

Simon's book list on extinct animals

Simon J. Knell Why did Simon love this book?

In 2000, Errol Fuller published an entirely new, lavishly illustrated, edition of his 1987 book, Extinct Birds. In the years since it was first published more birds had been lost while others he had described as extinct had subsequently been rediscovered. Extinct Birds documents 85 species that have disappeared since 1600, including the Eskimo Curlew and Choiseul Crested Pigeon, as well as the more famous Passenger Pigeon, Great Auk, and Dodo. All are now dead and gone (probably!). A book of fascinating, if ultimately sad, tales, and beautiful pictures, it should encourage us to care about those species now on the edge of extinction like the Kakapo, the Kiwi, and the massively poached African Grey Parrot.

By Errol Fuller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shows and describes what is known about extinct species of waterfowl, rails, gulls, pigeons, parrots, cuckoos, owls, and perching birds