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Animal Behavior: A Reading List

Something many people don’t know about it me is that I’m fascinated with animal behavior. Books on how animals operate, their emotions and motivators really interests me. 

I double majored in English and Anthropology for my undergrad college years. For my Anthropology major, I took classes like Primate Behavior, Comparative Anatomy, and Human Evolution and Behavior. My interest branched off from there. 

I’ve read quite a few books on the topic of animal behavior, their thoughts and feelings, and a book on some great primatologists of our time. If you’re interested too, I have quite a few recommendations. I loved every one of these books. Read my reviews below!

Animal Behavior Books

animal behavior beyond words

Beyond Words, by Carl Safina


This is one of my favorite books. After reading the library book, I had to go out and buy it. The professor who wrote it actually lives on Long Island and did a guest lecture in one of my anthropology classes when I was in college.

The book centers around the families and social lives of three species: elephants, wolves, and orca whales. The author studied these animals with experts in the field on their behavior. It was truly fascinating to see into the daily lives of these beautiful animals and how much human society is negatively affecting their existence. 

These are amazing social creatures that live and survive because of their family systems. They are smarter than most people think and feel loss when a loved one dies or is killed. They deserve a lot more than being on the endangered species list. This is a highly recommended read. 

animal behavior becoming wild

Becoming Wild, by Carl Safina


This is Safina’s newest work that just came out this year. It was a highly anticipated read for me. This book again centers around three different species, this time it was sperm whales, macaws and chimpanzees. Again all very social creatures who are a lot smarter than most people think.

Sperm whales are captivating creatures that have their own clan system and they identify themselves by names. Some families will hang around with other families simply because their friends with each other. They have complex lives that people don’t ever get to see because it’s all underwater. 

And that’s just the section on sperm whales. This book is so so so interesting, highly recommended.

animal behavior animal wise

Animal Wise, by Virginia Morell


Science writer Virginia Morell explores noted research in the fields of animal cognition and emotion. She talks about a variety of different animals. Rats like to be tickled, crows improvise tools, and ants teach other ants. 

She goes over self awareness, personality emotions, thoughts and feelings of animals. Every being on this earth, even ants, have some sort of cognitive awareness that was once believed to be uniquely human. 

This book is just as interesting as Safina’s, but she goes over a lot more animals and different interesting facts about them. I loved everything about this book. 

animal behavior the truth about animals

The Truth About Animals, by Lucy Cooke


This animal book takes a humorous twist. Cooke, founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, dives into weird historical myths about animals and unveils the truth!

We find out about the sex lives of sloths, eels, penguins and more. Sloths poop once a week. Hippos became an invasive species in South America because Pablo Escobar at the height of his reign decided he wanted a menagerie. In the olden times, beaver testicles were thought to be good for medicinal purposes, which Cooke assures you is not the case. 

All this quirky weird things happen in the animal kingdom and it’s all in one hilarious book! This was quite a joy to read. 

animal behavior how animals grieve

How Animals Grieve, by Barbara J. King


Anthropologist Barbara J. King goes over cases of animal grief from a house cat losing her sister to a goat grieving over a pony friend who passed away on a farm. 

This is definitely a sad book since it goes over grief. It’s not on the top of my list purely because of the topic. The writing also wasn’t as beautifully narrated as the others. A good read nonetheless if you are interested in animal feelings and emotions.

animal behavior walking with great apes

Not exactly about Animal Behavior but...

Walking with the Great Apes, by Sy Montgomery


This book isn’t exactly on animal behavior, but I had to include it! It’s a gem I found in the library stacks one day. Montgomery goes over the three primatologist prodigies: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas. 

Jane Goodall was hired by anthropologist Louis Leakey to study chimpanzees in the wild despite having no background or experience in the field. Now she is one of the greatest known scientists of today. 

I loved reading about how each of these three strong women became experts and leaders in the field on their chosen primate. Going out into unknown forests to find them in the wild. Braving poachers, living in huts. This is a must read if you’re interested in the topic. 

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Check out my Christmas Reading List if you’re feeling the holiday vibe and Self Help Books for Everyone. More reading lists to come! In the meantime, you might like my recommended food blogs and podcasts.

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