The best books on Yellowstone

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Yellowstone and why they recommend each book.

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One of Us

By Barrie Gilbert,

Book cover of One of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among Bears

Dr. Barrie Gilbert’s memoir, One of Us: A Biologist’s Walk Among Bears, is nothing if not a magnificent portrait and case study of humility. A half-century of incisive study and research into the baits, and needs and, perhaps most importantly, social complexity and intense attachments and intelligence of grizzly bears should be the lede here—not a single incident from Gilbert’s youth, when he surprised a mother grizzly with cubs while coming over a ridge into the wind. But so goes storytelling. Imbued with the compassion and generosity of the forgiven, Gilbert’s acute and intimate knowledge of the animal Indigenous cultures referred to as “the Real Bear” is unprecedented and unequaled in the tattered and impoverished remains of contemporary society in which so many have lost—are bereft of—any attachment to the wilderness from which we were birthed.


Who am I?

I’m a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction living in northwest Montana’s Yaak Valley. I moved here from Mississippi 35 years ago to live in the mountains and write short stories, novellas, novels, but have gotten sucked into decades of battling a recalcitrant U.S. Forest Service intent on building roads and clearcutting in this incredibly unique ecosystem—the Yaak Valley, is the lowest elevation in Montana, the wettest valley, and an ancient inland rainforest that contains 25% of the entire state of Montana’s “species of concern.” Chief among these are the valley’s last 25 grizzlies: one of the rarest subpopulations in North America. Loving a thing deeply is almost always revolutionary. Revolution: to turn. To change. To revolve, evolve, return. To turn around.


I wrote...

Fortunate Son: Selected Essays from the Lone Star State

By Rick Bass,

Book cover of Fortunate Son: Selected Essays from the Lone Star State

What is my book about?

Fortunate Son is a literary tour of the Lone Star State by a native Texan of exceptional talent. The essays encompass a Texas that is both lost and found, past and present. The stories reach from Galveston Bay to the Hill Country outside Austin, and from Houston in the 1960s to today. They are bound together by a deep love and a keen eye for the land and its people and by an appreciation for what is given, a ruefulness for what is lost, and a commitment to save what can be saved.

Our National Parks

By John Muir,

Book cover of Our National Parks

We love this book for its breadth and its moral and environmental urgency. Muir writes eloquently [in an admittedly heightened and romantic prose] about the beauties of Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Sequoia National Parks, the only ones in existence at the time. Muir is of interest to Roosevelt because of his understanding of how important it is for wilderness to be preserved for all time not by state governments—as was the case in his time—but by the federal government. This of course was one of TR’s central personal beliefs and was to be, especially after his two-night camping trip in Yosemite with Muir in 1903, a central and guiding policy of his Presidency. For an elegant essay, readers might want to spend time with Muir’s chapter, “The Wild Gardens of Yosemite Park.”


Who are we?

We live in the countryside of southwest Michigan in a farmhouse dating back to the 1830s on land once owned by James Fenimore Cooper. The land itself has stories to tell that intrigue us as readers and writers ourselves. Katherine’s passion for the writings of Jane Addams and Edith Wharton led her to Theodore Roosevelt, a kindred male voice in American literature at the turn of the twentieth century. Tom’s passion for environmental writers and activism led him to the books and essays of the 26th President, who believed that good writing sometimes leads to good laws! As professors and writing partners, we are delighted every time we can introduce readers to the literary Theodore Roosevelt.


We wrote...

Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life

By Thomas Bailey & Katherine Joslin,

Book cover of Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life

What is our book about?

We tell the story of Theodore Roosevelt as a writer and a reader, literary activities he pursued relentlessly from the time he could read and hold a pencil until the day before he died, when he wrote his last review for The New York Times. During his not very long but intensely lived life, he read untold thousands of books, wrote 47 of them, thousands and thousands of letters, scores of speeches, articles, and reviews. Some say he read a book and dozens of newspapers and magazines a day even while he was in the White House. We review and assess this life in language, painting a complex and somewhat demythologizing portrait of a fascinating, heralded, and often written about American man of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Decade of the Wolf

By Douglas W. Smith, Gary Ferguson,

Book cover of Decade of the Wolf

Reflecting on the first decade with wolves back in Yellowstone National Park, this book highlights milestones in the reintroduction effort, takes you out in the field with a wildlife biologist, and shares compelling stories of individual Yellowstone wolves and their packs. With more than 25 years spent overseeing wolves and elk in the park, Doug Smith is a unique authority on wolves and wolf behavior. Around the time our wolf project was coming to an end in the mid-’90s, those first wolves were released into central Idaho and Yellowstone. When we read this book some ten years later, we heard the echoes of our own experience in the behavior and characteristics of the wolves in Yellowstone.


Who are we?

We were fascinated with animals and the natural world from an early age. As documentary filmmakers, our intent was to capture the social lives of wolves on film. We hoped to dispel long-perpetuated myths by showing a side of these animals that was too often overlooked. What began as a two-year film project turned into six years of close observation and interaction with a pack of wolves. The things we learned and experienced exceeded our wildest expectations and changed our lives forever. We were captivated by these incredible and inspiring animals and have continued to advocate for wolves for over 30 years.


We wrote...

The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack

By Jim Dutcher, Jamie Dutcher,

Book cover of The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack

What is our book about?

On the edge of the Idaho wilderness, we lived with a pack of gray wolves for six years in a tented camp. That setting granted us unparalleled access to the hidden social life of these family-oriented animals. In this book we have gathered favorite memories from our years with the Sawtooth Pack, stories of benevolent leaders, fierce mothers, nurturing fathers, hunters, adventurers, comedians, and caregivers. Our intention is not to imbue wolves with human morals; it is to celebrate their very wolflike qualities through the lens of our own humanity. As it happens, many of the qualities that make a wolf successful at being a wolf also represent the best in human nature.  

Saving Yellowstone

By Megan Kate Nelson,

Book cover of Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America

An acclaimed historian of the Civil War, Nelson’s newest book connects the nation’s Reconstruction struggles with its impulse to set aside dramatic western landscapes as national parks. The compelling narrative follows not only western scientist-adventurers like Ferdinand Hayden, but also weaves the preservation of Yellowstone into the Indian Wars and the violence against freedpeople in the American South. At a time when Americans sought healing in the aftermath of a divisive war, they turned to magnificent western landscapes like Yellowstone, only to find they were also contested ground.


Who am I?

I grew up a farm kid and then worked as a park ranger fresh out of college. This background draws me to the history of American preservation, where so much that seems natural also has deep cultural roots. I find the American South—with its combination of irony and tragedy, beauty, and flaws—the most fascinating place on earth to study. Or maybe I’m just pulling for the home team.


I wrote...

Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

By Drew A. Swanson,

Book cover of Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

What is my book about?

Plantations conjure up visions of southern leisure and wealth, but their tourism landscapes are cultivated as carefully as their fields once were to produce cotton for world markets. My book looks at the long transition of one plantation on the Georgia coast from a site of sea island cotton cultivated by dozens of enslaved laborers to a state historical park. I highlight how natural forces always shaped human ideas, and vice versa. It’s a tale of sorrow and hope, challenge and promise, environment and humanity—forces that shape all of our historical landscapes.

Death in Yellowstone

By Lee H. Whittlesey,

Book cover of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

I listened to the audiobook of Death in Yellowstone as I was traveling to the park to do research for my novel. The author’s gripping descriptions of every fatality in the park opened my eyes to the potential dangers and adventures to be had in this wild place. I was a little spooked, to tell you the truth, but my respect for the power and grandeur of Yellowstone’s features and wildlife increased dramatically.

Who am I?

I am endlessly inspired by the beauty and majesty of our national parks. As a former seasonal ranger at Mount Rainier National Park and Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park, I was frequently surprised by the incredible scrapes that visitors could get themselves into. Of course, I wasn’t immune, and I experienced a few misadventures of my own. These books are great reminders to always respect your limits and be aware of your surroundings. Since I now write novels set in our national parks, I enjoy reading some of these real adventures—it provides great fodder for the imagination. 


I wrote...

Ever Faithful: A Vintage National Parks Novel

By Karen Barnett,

Book cover of Ever Faithful: A Vintage National Parks Novel

What is my book about?

A man who can't read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps. Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.

Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger's daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. When she discovers Nate's secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

Bring Jade Home

By Michelle Caffrey,

Book cover of Bring Jade Home: The True Story of a Dog Lost in Yellowstone

This is a great book about a dog named Jade who was involved in a roll-over car crash in the wilderness near Yellowstone Park. It’s an emotional and very interesting read as you learn what this desperate family had to go through to recover their lost dog, a task made all the more difficult because they (husband and wife) were injured in the car crash and because Jade was skittish and ran from anyone who tried to help her. In spite of grizzly bears, other predators, frigid nights, and potential starvation, the family managed to recruit local volunteers who ultimately helped them capture their dog.


Who am I?

Kat Albrecht-Thiessen is a police detective-turned-pet detective and is the founder / director of the Missing Animal Response Network (MARN). Since 1997, Kat has worked search dogs trained to find lost pets. She is widely known as the leading authority on lost pet recovery training. Kat is a regular speaker at animal welfare conferences. She and her search dogs have appeared on Animal Planet and articles about her work have appeared in People, Reader’s Digest, Parade and many other publications. In 2005, Kat launched the first-ever pet detective academy and since that time has trained over 800 volunteer and professional pet detectives from across the world.


I wrote...

Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective

By Kat Albrecht,

Book cover of Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective

What is my book about?

Pet Tracker is the remarkable story of Kat Albrecht, the nation’s first police detective-turned- pet detective. Her pioneering experiences are astonishing, revealing, and time-tested lost pet recovery methods that could one day help you, too.

Disillusioned by a police career where her bloodhound-tracking techniques and brilliant search dogs rarely got a chance to shine, Kat started training her retired Weimaraner, Rachel, to search for lost pets—with unbelievable results. To the amazement of her colleagues, Kat decided to make her unconventional use of search dogs a full-time career, in spite of being mocked and told she was “having a pipe dream” if she thought she could make a living as a pet detective.

American Wolf

By Nate Blakeslee,

Book cover of American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West

The author Nate Blakeslee comes to this story about the famous Yellowstone wolf O-Six as a journalist and tells this true story with a keen eye for the myriad perspectives on modern wolf conservation. Whether or not you are familiar with the political debate of restoring wolves to the American West or the notions of Old West versus New West, you will find this story intriguing and informative.


Who am I?

Michelle Lute is a conservation scientist and advocate with fifteen years’ experience in biodiversity conservation on public and private lands around the globe. She dedicates her professional life to promoting human-wildlife coexistence through effective public engagement, equitable participatory processes, and evidence-based decision-making. Michelle is the National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote whose mission is to promote compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy.


My project is Project Coyote

What is this project about?

Project Coyote seeks to change negative attitudes toward coyotes, wolves and other misunderstood predators by replacing ignorance and fear with understanding, respect and appreciation. Our representatives, advisors and supporters include scientists, educators, ranchers and citizen leaders who work together to change laws and policies to protect native carnivores from abuse and mismanagement, advocating coexistence instead of killing. You can help us end cruel and senseless killing contests nationwideWatch the film Wildlife Killing Contests to learn about this important issue and share it to educate, expose, and end wildlife killing contests! Then sign the petition to stop this unconscionable practice on our federal public lands!


Finally, to learn more about why coyotes matter, read Coyote America by Project Coyote Ambassador Dan Flores. "Coyote America is the illuminating five-million-year biography of this extraordinary animal, from its origins to its apotheosis. It is one of the great epics of our time."

The Wolves Are Back

By Jean Craighead George, Wendell Minor (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wolves Are Back

This book is a classic and a favorite of mine; I loved reading it to kids as a humane educator and seeing their eyes widen. I still marvel at how this book illustrates so simply and powerfully what happened to the entire ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park when wolves were reintroduced after being eliminated by humans years earlier. It’s a hugely impactful story about how any one species in an ecosystem affects all the others—and kids love it! 


Who am I?

I’m a lover of wildlife and have written several nonfiction picture books on the topic, including Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Built a Bridge for City Wildlife, and Ocean Soup: a Recipe for You, Me, and A Cleaner Sea. I’m also a humane educator, which inspires the focus of all my nonfiction picture books on “solutionaries” helping people, animals, and the planet. At heart, my books—which have won Golden Kite Nonfiction and Eureka! Nonfiction Honors and more—aim to inspire compassion, inclusivity, and positive action. 


I wrote...

Make Way for Animals!: A World of Wildlife Crossings

By Meeg Pincus, Bao Luu (illustrator),

Book cover of Make Way for Animals!: A World of Wildlife Crossings

What is my book about?

Around the world, city highways and country roads have cut through natural spaces. Wild animals are blocked from the resources they need to survive, or they must make dangerous crossings across busy roads to get to them. Fortunately, solving this problem has inspired some creative solutions! 

Take a tour of wildlife crossings across the globe, from grassy badger bridges to underpasses for elephants to pipelines for penguins. Discover how these inventive pathways have saved both animal and human lives and helped preserve ecosystems.

Fourteen Wolves

By Catherine Barr, Jenni Desmond (illustrator),

Book cover of Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story

Narratives are such a powerful tool when it comes to connecting kids to nature and, let’s face it, that connection has been lost with increased reliance on technology. My doctorate focused on how nonfiction narratives can engage non-scientists in conservation. Two things I learnt were that we won’t save something unless we love it, and hopeful stories have more power than disasters. You will fall in love with the expansive, wild landscape of Yellowstone Park with the beautifully crafted descriptions in Fourteen Wolves. The important underlying story of regeneration also instills hope that we can make a difference, combating inertia. In my opinion, this beautifully illustrated nature biography is destined to become a classic, passed down through generations.


Who am I?

When I was on holiday in Borneo with my daughter, we met an inspirational conservationist who was basically single-handedly saving sun bears from extinction. I asked what I could do to help. “Do what you do best,” he said. Those five powerful words shaped my last decade, most recently prompting the growing series of Wildlife Wong nonfiction children’s books based on his true adventures with rainforest creatures. I feel strongly about the importance of connecting kids to nature. Not only is it good for their physical and mental health, but my generation hasn’t done a particularly good job of environmental stewardship, and we need all the help we can get. 


I wrote...

Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

What is my book about?

When he was a boy, Malaysian ecologist Wildlife Wong dreamed of working with animals, and eventually his dream came true. In this exciting story, Wildlife Wong spends three years living in the middle of the jungle trying to trap bearded pigs. Along the way, he meets some crazy characters like Michael, his mate Mary, and their three piglets Pork, Chop, and Bacon!

This unusual book for kids aged 8-12 includes an engaging nonfiction story about a real-life scientist, cool animal facts, and experiments that encourage your youngsters to connect with the world around them.

Where the Wild Things Were

By William Stolzenburg,

Book cover of Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

We still have much to learn about the complex interconnectedness of ecosystems. However, it has become abundantly clear that the absence of apex predators has far-reaching consequences. William Stolzenburg has pulled together a compelling set of examples of vanishing predators and the problems that arise in their absence. In contrast, and of particular interest to us, is the role that reintroduced wolves have played in revitalizing Yellowstone National Park. There is a cautionary tale here that extends far beyond wolves, because the fate of many is inextricably bound with the fate of a few if we are to sustain biodiversity.    


Who are we?

We were fascinated with animals and the natural world from an early age. As documentary filmmakers, our intent was to capture the social lives of wolves on film. We hoped to dispel long-perpetuated myths by showing a side of these animals that was too often overlooked. What began as a two-year film project turned into six years of close observation and interaction with a pack of wolves. The things we learned and experienced exceeded our wildest expectations and changed our lives forever. We were captivated by these incredible and inspiring animals and have continued to advocate for wolves for over 30 years.


We wrote...

The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack

By Jim Dutcher, Jamie Dutcher,

Book cover of The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack

What is our book about?

On the edge of the Idaho wilderness, we lived with a pack of gray wolves for six years in a tented camp. That setting granted us unparalleled access to the hidden social life of these family-oriented animals. In this book we have gathered favorite memories from our years with the Sawtooth Pack, stories of benevolent leaders, fierce mothers, nurturing fathers, hunters, adventurers, comedians, and caregivers. Our intention is not to imbue wolves with human morals; it is to celebrate their very wolflike qualities through the lens of our own humanity. As it happens, many of the qualities that make a wolf successful at being a wolf also represent the best in human nature.  

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