The best books about humpback whales

Who picked these books? Meet our 8 experts.

8 authors created a book list connected to humpback whales, and here are their favorite humpback whale books.
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The Inner Life of Animals

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator),

Book cover of The Inner Life of Animals

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

From the 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

Discover why each book is one of Ginjer's favorite books.

Why did Ginjer love this book?

Are you ready to change the way you see the world forever? Reading Peter Wohlleben’s three-book Mysteries of Nature series will do just that.

This second volume focuses on animal emotions and making connections with human behavior. Until fairly recently, most serious scientists focused only on observable behavior and didn’t try to imagine or determine what animals’ actions tell us about their feelings.

However, all animal lovers can benefit, as I did, from questioning our assumptions, better understanding our similarities, and becoming more aware of how much there is to learn about the inner life of animals. Get ready for some surprises!

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Can horses feel shame? Do deer grieve? Why do roosters deceive hens?

We tend to assume that we are the only living things able to experience feelings but have you ever wondered what's going on in an animal's head? From the leafy forest floor to the inside of a bee hive, The Inner Life of Animals opens up the animal kingdom like never before. We hear the stories of a grateful humpback whale, of a hedgehog who has nightmares, and of a magpie who commits adultery; we meet bees that plan for the future, pigs who learn their own names…

The Fragile Edge

By Julia Whitty,

Book cover of The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific

William E. Glassley Author Of A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice

From the list on fieldwork in wild places.

Who am I?

I am a geologist who studies the origin and evolution of continents, which has required traveling the world to conduct fieldwork. Most of that experience has focused on Greenland and the wilderness fringe that bounds the inland ice cap. For weeks at a time, I and two colleagues, John Korstgård and Kai Sørensen, camp in some of the world’s greatest wilderness landscapes. Over years of such research, I have come to treasure the exquisite emotional power fieldwork in wilderness settings provides. It is the most direct way to begin the journey of understanding the place of humanity in the unfolding progress of cosmic evolution and was the impetus for my recent book.

William's book list on fieldwork in wild places

Discover why each book is one of William's favorite books.

Why did William love this book?

The relationship between ourselves and the sea is commonly constrained by beaches and tides. But Julia Whitty, deep-sea diver, and filmmaker opens the mind to the richness of deep waters through the scientific and soulful journeys she poetically shares in this book. Her time spent working in the South Pacific allows an expansion of our own experiences of the wild world. The delicate relationships of life’s many forms, from whales and sharks to rays and coral, contained within Earth’s liquid artistry, offers an opportunity to enrich our understanding of connections we seldom perceive but which, once acknowledged, expand the perception of life’s wealth.

By Julia Whitty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Fragile Edge, the documentary filmmaker and deep-sea diver Julia Whitty paints a mesmerizing, scientifically rich portrait of teeming coral reefs and sea life in the South Pacific. She takes us literally beneath the surface of the usual travel narrative, in an underwater equivalent of an African big-game safari. Hammerhead sharks rule a cascading chain of extraordinary creatures, from eagle rays to reef sharks, as the sound of courting humpback whales reverberates through the deep.
Inspiring for both armchair and expert divers, The Fragile Edge reveals how science can extend our understanding of unfathomable waters, opening our eyes to…

Watching Giants

By Elin Kelsey, Doc White (photographer), Francois Gohier (photographer)

Book cover of Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales

Jim Lynch Author Of The Highest Tide

From the list on cool facts about whales.

Who am I?

I began as a journalist and turned into a novelist who uses extensive research to build my imagined stories. So, I tend to end up writing novels about whatever is fascinating enough to send me down research rabbit holes. I’m finishing a novel now about the wonders and mysteries of whales and the researchers who commit their lives to try to understand them. During the last three years, I have interviewed whale researchers, gone on expeditions with them, and have read countless scientific papers and quite a few books on whales. These books I’m recommending here were some of my favorites.

Jim's book list on cool facts about whales

Discover why each book is one of Jim's favorite books.

Why did Jim love this book?

Kelsey’s book is a graceful mix of science and personal odyssey. She hangs out with whale scientists and asks smart questions. Her subjects are as much the scientists as the whales, including Chris Clark who studies the acoustics of whales and our increasingly noisy oceans. She takes us on her personal journey to the last page where she concludes that whales “inspire me to act more generously.”

By Elin Kelsey, Doc White (photographer), Francois Gohier (photographer)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Personal, anecdotal, and highly engaging, "Watching Giants" opens a window on a world that seems quite like our own, yet is so different that understanding it pushes the very limits of our senses. Elin Kelsey's colorful first-person account, drawing from her rich, often humorous, everyday experiences as a mother, a woman, and a scientist, takes us to the incredibly productive waters of the Gulf of California and beyond, to oceans around the world. Kelsey brings us along as she talks to leading cetacean researchers and marine ecologists about their intriguing discoveries. We encounter humpback whales that build nets from bubbles,…

Trapped! A Whale's Rescue

By Robert Burleigh, Wendell Minor (illustrator),

Book cover of Trapped! A Whale's Rescue

Janet Lawler Author Of Walrus Song

From the list on interesting animals.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning children’s author who has always been fascinated by the natural world. My many published children’s books include ones about animals and ocean life. Scholastic Book Clubs and the Children’s Book of the Month Club have featured my work, and translations of my fiction and nonfiction titles can be found in several languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and Hebrew. My National Geographic title Ocean Counting was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and Walrus Song has been named a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

Janet's book list on interesting animals

Discover why each book is one of Janet's favorite books.

Why did Janet love this book?

This nonfiction book tells an individual animal’s story in a compelling way. The author’s spare, lyrical language makes the reader truly feel this whale’s panicked efforts to free herself from discarded netting left in the ocean by fishermen. The...whale spirals sideways as spidery lines tighten around her. I had to read on! I won’t spoil it for you, but I was cheering at the end. Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue, beautifully illustrated by Wendell Minor, helps readers of all ages understand the impact of human activity on many ocean-dwelling animals. Independent readers will love the detailed back matter about the actual event, whale rescue techniques, and more humpback whale facts.

By Robert Burleigh, Wendell Minor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Trapped! A Whale's Rescue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A giant whale trapped in nets and ropes. Can she be helped?

A humpback whale migrating south along the California coast becomes tangled in a fishing trawler’s ropes and nets. As she struggles to free herself, the ropes twist more tightly around her body, digging into her skin. The whale fights until she is too tired to continue. What happens next will astound and inspire.

Based on true events, this is a story of interspecies cooperation and the importance of human responsibility to protect the earth and its many inhabitants.

Wendell Minor’s breathtaking paintings illustrate the majesty of the gentle…

Behind the Paddle

By Alistair Wilson,

Book cover of Behind the Paddle

Stuart Fisher Author Of Canals of Britain: A Comprehensive Guide

From the list on our canals, rivers, and coast.

Who am I?

I was fortunate enough to take up white water kayaks as a student in Scotland, eventually becoming a member of the British wild water racing team. The portable nature of these craft makes it easy to move from one stretch of water to another. I subsequently became the editor of Canoeist (by accident) and have travelled all the major British canals, the larger lochs, the entire mainland coast, and many other waters, producing guides that have been found useful for those on the water, on foot, on bikes or in armchairs.

Stuart's book list on our canals, rivers, and coast

Discover why each book is one of Stuart's favorite books.

Why did Stuart love this book?

This autobiography opens looking from the start line at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

A long book with a lot of detail, the pace hardly seems to drop. The author used some unconventional methods in his training, including on the sea, not usual for a sprint kayak racer.

This was on the Ayrshire coast when the M6 was still under construction and regular national squad training weekends were never north of Birmingham. Back home with his family, he also ran a local training group.

The title has a double meaning as he began manufacturing the world-renowned Lendal paddles, with further travel issues. The innovations had to be perfect, again with original thinking.

He produced the world's first GRP shafts and split paddles and handled issues of composite blades, cranks, aerofoils, and curved shafts.

This is a book that says 'can do' and does all the way through.

By Alistair Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From a very young age I developed a fascination for the sea and a passion for paddling particularly in the roughest of conditions off the rocky coast of Lendalfoot in the south west of Scotland. That passion would define my life as a sportsman, an entrepreneur and businessman but most importantly it would also shape family life.
I would describe my early success in my chosen sport of sprint kayaking as accidental. If truth be told when I started out, I really did not have a clue. I was however super fit having trained hard, kayaking in wild stormy seas…

Book cover of Last Song of the Whales

Judith Simon Prager Author Of What the Dolphin Said: On the Future of Humankind

From the list on consciousness, dolphins, and wise humans.

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?

Judith's book list on consciousness, dolphins, and wise humans

Discover why each book is one of Judith's favorite books.

Why did Judith love this book?

It is a fiction based on facts about whales and about what Four Arrows believes they are trying to tell us regarding the pollution of the Oceans that threatens us all. A whale captures a marine biologist and his encounter, feeling almost biblical but very current, reveals their important message to humanity. In this very dramatic story, you’ll also find an ecological treatise, and a call to action so needed at this time.

By Four Arrows,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Song of the Whales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A humpback whale mysteriously takes a mixed-blood American Indian professor to sea. While struggling to survive, the man begins to reclaim his indigenous roots, and in the process discovers thousands of whales on a suicide mission in the North Pacific. When he theorizes the dire effects the whale's action could have for all of life on earth, he and a sympathetic woman marine biologist, influenced by a Hawaiian shaman's dream, against all odds, try to warn the world in time.

A 52-Hertz Whale

By Bill Sommer, Natalie Haney Tilghman,

Book cover of A 52-Hertz Whale

Ned Hayes Author Of The Eagle Tree

From the list on YA on the autistic experience/outsider experiences.

Who am I?

We all have important stories to tell. So my mission in life is to tell stories from many different perspectives. To date, I’ve written novels narrated by a 13th-century woman, a gruff North Idaho detective, a 14-year-old boy, a sorcerer, and even a tree! To write all my characters, I start with my own experiences of course –March Wong in The Eagle Tree draws on my own experiences growing up in China and from my experience working with neurodivergent children. But I don’t stay locked in my own perspective. Instead, I use my stories to continuously stretch our understanding of what it means to be human. 

Ned's book list on YA on the autistic experience/outsider experiences

Discover why each book is one of Ned's favorite books.

Why did Ned love this book?

After I had published my book, I found out about this interesting book written by two people who had also gone through the same MFA program as me – the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Bill Sommer and Natalie Tilghman covered similar topics of young people coming of age by finding connection through nature. A 52-Hertz Whale has an intriguing structure as well – it’s told through a set of conversational emails. The main character is obsessed with whales and when a whale’s life goes awry, he feels unmoored and reaches out for connection to someone who helped him in middle school. Bill and Natalie have created a powerful story about grief and loss and growing up. A great read – I truly enjoyed it!

By Bill Sommer, Natalie Haney Tilghman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A 52-Hertz Whale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"It appears to be the only individual emitting a call at this frequency and hence, has been described as the world's loneliest whale."―Wikipedia

So here's how it all starts: James, a high school freshman, is worried that the young humpback whale he tracks online has separated from its pod. So naturally he emails Darren, the twentysomething would-be filmmaker who volunteered in James's special education program back in middle school. Of course, Darren is useless on the subject of whales, but he's got nothing but time, given that the only girl he could ever love dumped him. And fetching lattes for…