The best books about human animal relationships

8 authors have picked their favorite books about human animal relationships and why they recommend each book.

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The Goose Girl

By Shannon Hale,

Book cover of The Goose Girl

This book is based on the Grimm’s fairytale, which is only a few brief paragraphs long, but the author brings such a luscious language of storytelling that fills you with a sweet, gentle magic. Princess Ani was born with a word on her tongue and a gift to speak the language of horses. By the very first sentence of this novel, I was captivated. It’s such a beautiful imagining, I lived in this book for days after I finished it. I love it when books can do that to you. 

Who am I?

I look at the world with poetic eyes and search for magic in everything. As a writer, I feel everything has a story to tell. I like to tell stories with magical connections that leave fingerprints on us after we are done reading them. When I read an author that impresses me with the magic they create, I am a fan of them forever. I strive to make that kind of impression someday. 

I wrote...


By Candace J. Thomas,

Book cover of Vivatera

What is my book about?

It’s about a world where the elements of magic have poisoned the souls of the people it touches, leaving a ghost of their essence trapped to roam among the living. Because of the danger this magic poses, the protectors of these elemental stones have been scattered around the land, and now it’s up to one girl to seek out their hiding places and bring the world back in balance. 


By Mary Roach,

Book cover of Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

Mary Roach is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Funny, sarcastic, relentless: She asks the questions no one else thinks of, like why does the Pope ride in a Ford Focus? And how many langurs were in President Trump’s security detail when he visited the Taj Mahal (in India)? In Fuzz, she asks: How can we learn to live with wild animals when they can be such a pain in the ass? This book is really about human-animal coexistence, not bioengineering (though she does discuss gene drives—scary!). But Roach is so jaunty, you feel like, somehow, we’ll figure it out. Eventually. You know, before it’s too late. 

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.    

I wrote...

Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

By Jeff Campbell,

Book cover of Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

What is my book about?

With modern bioengineering, science fiction’s “what if?” has become the scientist’s “why not?” Today, we have the tools to remake animals in almost any way we want, and genetic engineering is being used to help solve a range of urgent problems related to climate change, species extinctions, conservation, disease, human health, and the food industry. But as science fiction likes to warn us, altering animals isn’t without dangers, and it raises profound ethical questions. Glowing Bunnies!? explores how genetic engineering is currently reshaping animals and our world and asks that all-important question: Given what we can do, what should we do?

The Age of the Horse

By Susanna Forrest,

Book cover of The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey Through Human History

Horses have been helping humans build civilization since the time of their domestication at least 6,000 years ago. This book analyzes the horse’s contribution to construction, transportation, military warfare, hunting, food, therapy, frontier expedition, and more. Interesting in its own right, it also taught me to look with new eyes at the modern cities and towns, the farmland and infrastructure, even the art and music, that humans created only with the cooperation of their horses. I enjoyed thinking about how both Western and Eastern societies have horses as their common cornerstone.

Who am I?

Horses have helped me negotiate the world since early childhood. I’ve worked as a horse trainer, show competitor, catch rider, barn grunt, and riding instructor. As a UCLA-trained brain scientist and full professor, I also taught human perception, language, memory, and thought for almost 25 years. Combining these interests produced an “aha” moment, leading to my development of brain-based horsemanship. Successful horse-and-human teams require an understanding of how prey and predator brains interact. With that understanding, both species learn to communicate mutually via body language. We humans cooperate in this fashion and degree with no other species of prey animal—it’s a rare and special bond! 

I wrote...

Horse Brain, Human Brain: The Neuroscience of Horsemanship

By Janet Jones,

Book cover of Horse Brain, Human Brain: The Neuroscience of Horsemanship

What is my book about?

Horse Brain, Human Brain introduces the many differences between horse and human brains. Without this knowledge, we often assume that horses learn, think, perceive, and attend to tasks the way we do. That assumption invites us to work against our horses' brains, expecting them to function in unnatural and counterproductive ways. This book offers the information needed to ride with our horses' brains. Each principle is applied to real everyday issues in the arena or on trail, often illustrated with true stories from my horse training experience. Written in plain language, Horse Brain, Human Brain is intended for anyone who works with horses.

Horses Never Lie

By Mark Rashid,

Book cover of Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership

I discovered Mark Rashid’s books when I was researching horse whispering for my own book, and I was so entranced by what he was saying that I went to one of his workshops to watch him in action. I love both the way he writes and the way he teaches from his own experiences and mistakes. This is not a training manual – it’s a book that will improve your understanding of horse behaviour and emotions so that you can work with them without force. 

Who am I?

I have been a writer for thirty years and a horse lover my entire life. When I decided to write There Must Be Horses, I set out to learn about natural horsemanship and the way horses and people relate to each other. Of course, I then needed to try out all those exciting ideas myself so I bought myself a horse to help with my research. That was my excuse anyway – in truth I was finally fulfilling my childhood dream of a pony of my own. I still have that horse and would never part with him. He’s an important part of our family. 

I wrote...

There Must Be Horses

By Diana Kimpton,

Book cover of There Must Be Horses

What is my book about?

Sasha’s love of horses has been the only constant during her turbulent life in care, After yet another move, she ends up on a farm where Joe and Beth train troubled horses. Sasha is sure this is the perfect place to live, but she can’t stay. Joe and Beth have only agreed to foster her for a little while, and they only did that reluctantly. Can Sasha persuade them to change their minds and let her stay forever? And can she do it before her social worker finds her another home – one without horses? 

Wild Magic

By Tamora Pierce,

Book cover of Wild Magic: Volume 1

Tamora Pierce was one of the authors that initially introduced me to my lifelong love of young adult fantasy, and all her books are wonderful. I picked Wild Magic because the protagonist has some really enviable magical abilities that I loved reading about and watching her develop. (True confession: I also may or may not have had a pretty tragic crush on the love interest in this book in high school...) This one will always be a favorite!

Who am I?

I have loved all things magical my entire life. I grew up leaving out food for the fairies and searching for gnomes in the woods, so it only follows that when I learned to read, I gravitated toward stories of fantasy and myth. I often felt that the worlds I read about matched my personality more accurately than the real world, and I longed to be one of the magically gifted heroines I encountered. I’m excited to share some of my very favorites with you, and hope they bring you as much joy as they did me!

I wrote...

Keeper of Scales

By Anne Mollova,

Book cover of Keeper of Scales

What is my book about?

A princess with a secret. An ancient evil rising. A kingdom caught in the balance.

Alyen, crown princess of Dúramair, has trained her whole life to be queen. She’s kept her Sight a secret, trusting that the Keeper of Scales will find an apprentice soon—for surely one other candidate can be found. But when news comes from the north of dark magic returning to Dúramair, Alyen is forced to make the hardest decision of her life. A decision that could determine the fate of her kingdom.

Our Dolphin Ancestors

By Frank Joseph,

Book cover of Our Dolphin Ancestors: Keepers of Lost Knowledge and Healing Wisdom

The title doesn’t do justice to how stunning the information within it is, the very careful and thoughtful research, the documentation of our historical connection with cetaceans. Most impressive are the thorough descriptions of their brains, minds, communication skills well beyond our ability to even register and understand. Their echolocation, their ability to sense electrical signals from heartbeats, their multidimensional vocalization, and connected visual and aural brain areas allows them to send “sonic pictures” to each other, receiving “at least ten times more through the sense organs than we can,” is just for starters. Read this book and be amazed…and humbled!

Who am I?

Years of teaching Verbal First Aid™, hypnotic language for healing, only whet my curiosity for Non-Verbal First Aid. I love mysticism and magic, and I love science and evidence. When the two work together to illuminate profound understandings, I am such a fan. Just imagine this if you can: Dolphins’ visual and aural nerves connect so that when they send out sound beams of echolocation, it comes back as an ultra-sound-looking picture, which they can send to other dolphins! Magic and science are used by them for healing, as well. How could one NOT investigate further and be passionate about this subject?

I wrote...

What the Dolphin Said: On the Future of Humankind

By Judith Simon Prager,

Book cover of What the Dolphin Said: On the Future of Humankind

What is my book about?

Marine biologists wonder why dolphins are “altruistic,” saving us from sharks and drowning while expecting nothing in return. My time with dolphins convinced me it was because they know we’re all in this together. They understand what we must: that we all meet in consciousness. I’ve taught words for medical emergencies to set a course for recovery (our Verbal First Aid™ protocol) across the US and around the world, and wondered what NON-Verbal First Aid, or healing presence beyond words would be like. The dolphins’ mystical ways provided my answer.

Watching them helping children with disabilities, I told the true story of one dolphin and a woman therapist (me) on separate tracks, needing to find each other. Told alternately by the dolphin and the therapist, it is a novel with dramatic urgency for their two worlds to meet, so the dolphins’ life-affirming message may be received.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?

By Andrew Lawler,

Book cover of Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? might be the worst title of all time, but it is a wonderfully surprising and fascinating book. There are tasty nuggets here for everyone (sorry/not sorry for the pun). Did you know that Mexicans eat more eggs per capita than any other people in the world? Or how many different slang terms and metaphors there are for chickens through time? (“Biology can’t explain why our favored slang word for the male organ refers to a bird that lacks one.” Ha!) Or that in the mid-nineteenth century, Britain and America were absolutely obsessed with raising exotic “fancy” chickens? And that pound for pound, chicken releases only one-tenth the greenhouse gases of red meat such as hamburgers? Read up on the world’s favorite bird and laugh while you’re at it with Lawler’s book.

Who am I?

I’m an American environmental historian with specialties in food and horticulture. I mostly write on alcohol, wine, garden history, and orchids, but I’ve also kept a small flock of backyard chickens since early 2020. In my preparation for my brood, I read every single chicken history and chicken-keeping book available. Here’s the best of the best.

I contributed to...

The Routledge History of American Foodways

By Michael D. Wise (editor), Jennifer Jensen Wallach (editor),

Book cover of The Routledge History of American Foodways

What is my book about?

The Routledge History of American Foodways provides an important overview of the main themes in the history of American food from the pre-colonial era to the present day. The book incorporates the latest food studies research and explores major advances that have taken place in the past few decades.

The volume has four parts. The first part explores significant developments in US food history in five time periods. The second part examines the key ingredients in the American diet throughout time. The third part focuses on how these ingredients have been transformed into foods identified with the American diet, and how Americans have produced and presented these foods over the last four centuries. The final section explores how food practices are a means of embodying ideas about identity, showing how food choices, preferences, and stereotypes have been used to create and maintain ideas of difference.

The Scientist

By John C. Lilly,

Book cover of The Scientist: A Metaphysical Autobiography

John Lilly, a Caltech and University of Pennsylvania trained doctor who also probed the murkiest waters of the psychedelic experience, was the inspiration for Dade Harkenrider in my book, Ann Marie’s Asylum. Lilly was a genius, who crossed over the edge more than once.

Who am I?

Christopher Rankin is an author, the host of the Vanadium podcast on YouTube, and a scientist in the field of renewable materials. He was awarded a PhD in materials science from the University of Pennsylvania and holds several patents. A lifelong lover of science, Rankin hopes to encourage greater public interest and a broader understanding of technical subjects.

I wrote...

Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

By Christopher Rankin,

Book cover of Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

What is my book about?

Ann Marie has just earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at age sixteen when she receives a mysterious and lucrative job offer. The new position at the infamous Asylum Corporation takes the young chemist and her alcoholic mother from their working-class Philadelphia neighborhood to coastal California. 

She becomes fascinated with her new boss, Dade Harkenrider, a famed but reclusive scientist, labelled Dr. Death by internet conspiracy theorists and rumored to be involved in witchcraft and murder. As Ann Marie grows closer to her new mentor, a sinister plot by a secretive coven is unfolding in the city. This monstrous force is stealing pets and children in an effort to breathe life into an ancient and terrifying evil.

Bones Would Rain from the Sky

By Suzanne Clothier,

Book cover of Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs

This book touched me in new and unexpected ways. Renowned trainer Suzanne Clothier’s unparalleled insights into dog emotions combine with her compassionate awareness of how they perceive their own worlds. Written with knowing empathy, Suzanne discusses how to meet dogs’ needs for leadership without cruel coercion, and examines how canine culture clashes with human ignorance and insensitivity. Real dog stories show how respectful relationships can save dogs from tragedy and unnecessary destruction. I personally identified with Clothier’s emotions and learned more progressive ways to reach dogs in ways they understood.

Who am I?

I have over 30 years in animal welfare advocacy and have rehabilitated then re-homed hundreds of dogs, cats and horses. As a professional humane educator, I consult with animal welfare professionals as well as adopters and have developed educational programs for all ages regarding the need for compassion and care of domestic and wild animals. I write books, blogs, and articles that fit into my missions of: 1) saving more animal lives by educating the people who care for them, and 2) humane education through storytelling. My children’s Pups & Purrs Series spotlights teaching compassion, respect, and tolerance. Each is narrated by its own dog protagonist.

I wrote...

Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs

By Sunny Weber,

Book cover of Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs

What is my book about?

Fearful dogs are the most commonly rejected and euthanized dog personality type. Many dogs have backgrounds of mistreatment, neglect, and outright cruelty. These dogs are afraid of noises, objects, and people. Saving the lives of timid dogs depends on helping them fit into the human world. Featuring unique stories of individual dogs and how I rehabilitated them, this book includes out-of-the-box problem-solving and quintessential tools for professional dog trainers, well-meaning foster families, and adopters who have taken a fearful dog into their homes and hearts.

Learn all aspects of dog fear, track progression, and discover how to live with a fearful dog. You can establish trust between your pup and yourself so you may find a fulfilling, deep, and meaningful relationship.

Meet Your Dog

By Kim Brophey, Jason Hewitt (photographer),

Book cover of Meet Your Dog: The Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog's Behavior

This amazing book looks at what makes our dogs who they are. It details all the elements that go into making up an individual dog, including how the breed groups that exist in the dog species affect their behaviour. As someone who loves Border Collies, I am very aware they don’t suit every home, and this book explains the reasons why herding breeds (and the other groups) won’t suit every home perfectly. After reading this book, the differing needs of dog breeds are much clearer. Understanding the needs of dogs that come from their very genetics makes understanding the whole dog so much easier, and leads to a much happier life together.

Who am I?

At least one dog has accompanied me almost my entire life. Much of that time has revolved around working Border Collies, training them, and working sheep together. One particular young dog turned my perceptions upside down when he arrived, proving to be like no other dog I had ever encountered. Through the learning about fearful and anxious dogs I needed to understand him, I found myself developing a new passion – helping others to understand dogs. Since that dog entered my life, I have been on an intense educational journey and sharing my learning and experience with others, both on the topics of ‘reactive’ dogs and dogs in general.

I wrote...

Understanding Reactive Dogs: Why Dogs React and How to Help

By Jay Gurden,

Book cover of Understanding Reactive Dogs: Why Dogs React and How to Help

What is my book about?

Many dogs go through life confident and happy in the world. A significant number do not - scared or anxious dogs, terrified when approached by another dog, person, or a whole range of possible things. They react in different ways, all of which combine to make 'reactive dogs', those who cannot cope. They may be labelled 'bad’, ‘aggressive’, or 'vicious' when they are none of those things. They are scared, and it is up to us to learn and to help. 

Learn how stress affects dogs and potential causes. Learn how to help a puppy avoid reactivity as they grow and mature. Discover how to create a better relationship for them with the world. Finish reading this book to better understand reactive dogs.

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