Our 10+ Favorite Animal Books

by Amy Azzarito

Confession: I will read pretty much any book with an animal on the cover. Luckily, I do most of my reading on an iPad, which allows me to save face on the train. (My latest reads have ranged from Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World to Cat Daddy to Love, Life, and Elephants.) Picking only 10 animal books was a pretty tough challenge, so I may have cheated a little and picked 13 titles instead. As usual, I’m also looking for my next read, so definitely let me know if I’ve left your fave off the list. — Amy Azzarito

See my favorite animal books after the jump . . .

1. Born to Run — This limited-edition book (there are only 200) showcases the dogs who run the Iditarod sled race each year. | 2. Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls — I haven’t really been reading fiction lately, but a story about a girl who gets sent to a horse camp during the Depression sounded like it was well within my wheelhouse. I couldn’t stop raving about this book, so now Max is reading it. (Unfortunately, this one isn’t out until June 4th, but you should definitely pre-order, and it will arrive just in time for beach reading.) | 3. Horse Sanctuary — Not only is this book (with a foreword by Temple Grandin) filled with beautiful images of horses, but it also tells the stories of 13 horse sanctuaries across the U.S. Each has its own individual mission, but there’s a shared passion for rescuing horses. This is not your average “horse coffee table book”; this book is something special. (Note: This book will be released on March 26.) | 4. Underwater Dogs — Having a bad day? This one will cheer you up. | 5. Shelter Dogs — photographer Traer Scott took portraits of 50 shelter dogs to raise awareness of animal rescues. This book makes me wish I were a better photographer — what an amazing way to help out shelters. | 6. Charley Harper’s Animal Kingdom — Todd Oldham digs deeper into the Charley Harper archives to bring together illustrations of animals as diverse as bugs, birds and land and sea creatures. The book features more than 300 previously unseen illustrations and spans 60 years of Charley Harper’s work.

Image above: 1. Grace Coddington & Didier Malige: The Catwalk Cats — Grace Coddington and Didier Malige have lived together with a rotating menagerie of cats. This books records that relationship through photographs (Malige’s) and drawings (Coddington’s). (This book is currently out of stock, but there are used copies for sale on Amazon and elsewhere.) | 2. Horses — Known for her portraits of monkeys and bears, this new book from photographer Jill Greenberg is devoted to horses. | 3. Kitty Crafts: Beautifully Designed Projects for a Cat-Friendly Home — Perfect for the cat lover and DIYer, this book has projects ranging from catnip toys and scratching pads to cardboard kitty houses. | 4. Cat Lady Chronicles — Written by a museum curator, this book pairs the memoir of a life with cats with great images of cats in art and in vintage photographs. | 5. Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories for the Animal Kingdom — Interspecies friendships. This book is the definition of cute overload. There’s the African elephant and the sheep, the Asiatic black bear and the black cat and the hippopotamus and the pygmy goat. Each story is guaranteed to tug at your heart strings and make you think about animals’ capacity for empathy. | 6. Julia’s Cats: Julia Child’s Life in the Company of Cats — I shouldn’t even need to talk you into this one. It’s Julia Child and cats. Done.

Dogs — William Wegman is known for his portraits of dogs. In this book, along with Catherine Johnson, he assumes the role of curator, presenting a collection of more than 400 vintage images of dogs in every setting, from under the Christmas tree to a tiny Chihuahua in a tea cup.

Suggested For You


  • I’ve seen the underwater dogs pictures online quite a lot, they’re really great. I’m sure whoever made those had a fantastic time. It wouldn’t really work with cats, of course, unless you wouldn’t dozens of pictures of extreme annoyance.

    I can highly recommend Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals to any animal fans as it’s an amazing, vibrant read. It’s as if the Greek sunshine beams out of the pages as you pass through each chapter.

  • I HIGHLY recommend “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod,” by Gary Paulsen. It’s hilarious and touching, and will draw you in even if you’ve never heard of or cared about the Iditarod before.

  • I second the recommendation of “My Family and Other Animals,” by Gerald Durrell. One of my all-time favorite books!

  • Also, I just finished a hilarious book of poetry “written” by cats called I Could Pee on This. My library had a digital download, and it took all of 15 minutes to read. It’s the kind of book that makes you laugh out loud.

  • “Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl,” by Stacey O’Brien is a must — fun and fascinating!

  • @Kate English Ditto ditto ditto to Winterdance by Gary Paulsen. One of the most endearing books I’ve ever read. Was heartbroken to finish it because I was so sad to be done reading it, but literally couldn’t put it down.

  • if you have a dog I recommend “inside of a dog” by Alexandra Horowitz – she had me laughing as I recognised my dog and many of his quirks as I read it.

  • I love Watership Down by Richard Adams – who can say no to bunnies on a mission? My Family and Other Animals is also excellent.

  • Under the Paw: Confessions by a Cat Man by Tom Cox is hilarious even if you’re not a cat lover. Definitely also My Family and Other Animals.

  • This is an old one, but “Cats in the Belfry” and others by Doreen Tovey; real-life stories mostly about their wacky Siamese cats, but there’s also a squirrel and a donkey.

  • Great list but you missed The French Dog by Rachael Hale. She also did The French Cat. They are just stunning books with charming animals and the best of France. LOVE!

  • Born to Run / Athletes of the Iditarod is a book that has been so needed and is fabulously photographed! It will become a collector for anyone who loves and appreciates dogs! Thanks for including this one.

  • Anyone who has had a cat wander into their lives and wonders where they came from should have a copy of May Sarton’s truly wonderful The Fur Person, which is charmingly observed from the cat’s perspective. Another must-have is Cleveland Amory’s trilogy that begins with The Cat Who Came for Christmas – hilarious and touching. Once you read the first one, you’ll find you just have to have the other two.

  • The Cat Lady Chronicles is a must read for the cat lover. Our resident cat lady here at the museum has rescued 10 and has a wonderful story to tell. (By the way, she’s an editor and the museum’s Publication Director, not a curator, although she was an Art History major.)

  • I second Clifford, I am so excited to see our director of publications for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Diane featured! I am also proud to say I work with her! My favorite part of the book is her wonderful selection of gorgeous art that features cats from Man Ray to Frida Kahlo. I think that stylish Cat Ladies exist and the “Crazy Cat Lady” stereotype is fading. Stylish Cat Ladies are in! Glad to see you all doing this theme for this month. We can love animals and be cool too :)

  • One of my favorites to add to this list is “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary” by David Sedaris! Super funny.
    Oh, and a long time ago I read a nonfiction book called “The Cat Who Went to Paris” by Peter Gethers. It’s charming and funny, too. And I’ve never forgotten it.

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