The animal kingdom is amazing, right? Whether it’s Grumpy Cat, It’s Me Or The Cat or a documentary on lions, there is always something amazing to learn… and that’s without mentioning the awesome tricks you can teach dogs, or how brilliant it is to hold a chameleon. It’s not always possible to be up close and personal with the animal kingdom, though, so here are some amazing books for animal lovers that will keep you entertained wherever you are.
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The One and Only Ivan
Okay, so this one is technically a children’s book, but it’s brilliant anyway. The story is about a silverback gorilla, named Ivan, who lives in a cage at the mall. It’s written from Ivan’s point of view, and it’s truly touching. Follow the story as Ivan and his friends Stella the elephant and Bob the stray dog learn about zoos, and win their freedom once and for all. It’s funny, touching, and generally adorable.
This one had to be in here somewhere! If you haven’t read this literary classic, now is the time. The story follows the monomaniacal quest of Ahab, the captain of the whaler Pequod, who is seeking revenge on a white whale called Moby Dick. The two have had run ins before, when Moby Dick destroyed Ahab’s boat and severed his leg at the knee, and Ahab wants revenge at any cost. The book was a commercial failure when it was printed, and it was out of print when the author Herman Melville died in 1891, but it gained a reputation as a great American novel by the twentieth century, and now it’s a must-read.
White Fang is the story of a wild wolfdog in Yukon Territory, Canada, during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. It details the wolfdog’s journey to domestication. It’s the sister novel to the best-selling novel The Call of the Wild, which stars a kidnapped domesticated dog embracing it’s ancestry to survive and thrive in the wild. Most of White Fang is written from the dog’s point of view, giving an excellent insight into how animals view their world, as well as examining the violent worlds of both wild animals and humans. It’s an excellent read, with a brilliant story, and some intriguing themes (morality and redemption being the strongest). Definitely one to read. There’s even a film, starring Ethan Hawke.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
This book starts in the late 1960s, during the Prague Spring in Czechslovakia. The main characters are an interesting bunch! Tomas is a surgeon, and a complete womanizer. He regularly cheats on his wife, but loves only his wife. At first, he sees his wife as a burden that he must take care of, but his view slowly changes as society has an influence. Tereza, his wife, is a photographer who is anguished by her husbands infidelity. She feels a strong companionship to animals, believing they are the last link to the paradise abandoned by Adam and Eve. Sabina is a mistress of Tomas, and a close friend. She takes profound satisfaction in the act of betrayal, and spends her life struggling against the constraints society places on her. Franz is another of Sabina’s lovers, and a professor. The story follows as the couples move to Zurich and back, putting their relationships and ideals to the test, as well as battling through the illness of their pet dog Karenin. It’s really touching, and very educational at the same time. You’ll suck up the history without even noticing it.
Charlotte’s Web is a classic children’s novel, written by E.B.White in 1952. It tells the story of a pig, named Wilbur, and his friendship with a spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is about to be slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages in her web to save him. The farmer and the villagers believe that the pig was saved by divine intervention, and enters him into the country fair. The ending is a little sad, but it’s a brilliant book! There’s a great film, too.
Julie of the Wolves
Another easy read, Julie of the Wolves is an 1972 novel about a young Eskimo girl who is torn between modern Alaskan culture and the old Eskimo tradition. It feels like the tough decisions should be over when she chooses to embrace the old Tundra mentality, but when her father disappears on a seal hunt and remains of his boat wash up on shore, she’s sent to live with an aunt who marries her off aged 13. Julie runs away, and realizes that she’ll need to learn to survive in the wild – cue her wolfpack. It’s a brilliant book, full of intelligent reasoning and dangerous situations. There are two sequels, too, including Julie’s Wolf Pack, which is told from the point of view of the wolves.
In Sandleford Warren, Fiver, a baby rat, sees a frightening vision of his warrens imminent destruction. When he and his brother fail to convince the Chief of the need to evacuate, they set out on their own with a small band of rabbits to search for a new home. Fiver’s vision promises a safe place, so the rabbits make the perilous journey to Watership Down, an ideal location. They are soon reunited with other rabbits, who confirm that the old warren was destroyed by humans. They soon realize that they have another problem, though – no female rabbits. It’s an excellent read, so if you haven’t already, make sure you add this to your must-read list!
The Wind and the Willows
The Wind and the Willows is the story of four anthropomorphized animals who live in England. There’s good-natured Mole, water-loving Rat, the rich and extravagant Toad, and the respected but elusive Badger. The story centers around Toad, who has an obsession with new and shiny things – his current being motorcars. The group learn that Toad has crashed 7 cars so far, and been hospitalized multiple times. They try talking to Toad, and then place him under house arrest, where he finds a canny excuse to escape. He convinces himself he’ll be fine out on his own – until temptation becomes too much, and he steals a car. He ends up in prison, facing 20 years…but he’s got a plan. The characters are entertaining, the storylines are brilliant, and it’s a proper English classic. Get reading!
These books are all brilliantly centered around animals, from moles and rabbits to wolves and gorillas. Not only do they teach you about the animals, but they offer great insight into the history and culture of the places that they are written about, and they’ll make you feel good, too! Excellent bedtime reading. Have you read a great animal-related book? Let me know!
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