Share Orcas and Krakens and Chimps, Oh My! 14 Books About the World’s Most (and Least) Familiar Animals

Orcas and Krakens and Chimps, Oh My! 14 Books About the World’s Most (and Least) Familiar Animals

Julianna Haubner joined the editorial team at Simon & Schuster in September 2014. A lifelong reader, she is most drawn to literary fiction, biography, cultural history, and narrative non-fiction; it’s her firm belief that every human should own a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, and EMPIRE FALLS is the book that changed her life. When Julianna’s not reading and reviewing, she’s downloading podcast episodes as if there are more than 24 hours in a day, watching Bravo, baking, and running the Off the Shelf Instagram. You can follow her on Twitter @jhaubner2.

Whether they’re in the zoo, the wild, or our living room, animals are all around us. We recognize their smarts and savvy, but how much do we really know about what they know? Here are 14 books that explore the hearts and minds of our furry, gilled, and four- (or eight-) legged friends.


The Soul of an Octopus
by Sy Montgomery
For years, we have known and understood the intellectual capabilities of cats, dogs, even chimpanzees—but what about the often-overlooked octopus? From deciphering their personalities to observing their unique abilities, Sy Montgomery’s exploration into the world of the octopus is an entertaining and enlightening look at this eight-legged creature of the deep.
The Soul of an Octopus
Sy Montgomery

Explore the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature. After forming a friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus, Sy Montgomery traveled from New England aquariums to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico to pursue these wildly entertaining and profound shapeshifters.

Close

Beyond Words
by Carl Safina

Carl Safina’s landmark book, BEYOND WORDS, offers an intimate view of animal behavior and psychology. In it, Safina takes readers from Kenya to Yellowstone as he seeks out different species (elephants and wolves and whales, oh my!) to explore their empathy, aggression, grief, and gentleness—and to prove that humanity is not just for humans.

Beyond Words
Carl Safina

Carl Safina’s landmark book, BEYOND WORDS, offers an intimate view of animal behavior and psychology. In it, Safina takes readers from Kenya to Yellowstone as he seeks out different species (elephants and wolves and whales, oh my!) to explore their empathy, aggression, grief, and gentleness—and to prove that humanity is not just for humans.

Close

Kraken
by Wendy Williams
While many of us may think of a giant killer sea monster when we hear the word “kraken,” what we should be picturing is an animal we’ve all seen before: a squid. That, however, doesn’t mean they are ordinary. From camouflage to bioluminescence, from size to smarts, squid are fascinating creatures whose otherworldly abilities more than fill out this slim volume.
Kraken
Wendy Williams

Kraken is the traditional name for gigantic sea monsters, and this book introduces one of the most charismatic, enigmatic, and curious inhabitants of the sea: the squid. Accessible and entertaining, this book takes the reader on a wild narrative ride through the world of squid science. It is essential reading for fans of popular science.

Close

A Primate's Memoir
by Robert M. Sapolsky

If you’re a Jane Goodall fan, Robert Sapolsky is the natural next step. A PRIMATE’S MEMOIR is his exhilarating account of his 21-year study of baboons in Kenya—and it strikes the perfect balance of personal and professional. As he conducts unprecedented research, he becomes more and more connected to his subjects and comes of age in a remote area of Africa.

A Primate's Memoir
Robert M. Sapolsky

If you’re a Jane Goodall fan, Robert Sapolsky is the natural next step. A PRIMATE’S MEMOIR is his exhilarating account of his 21-year study of baboons in Kenya—and it strikes the perfect balance of personal and professional. As he conducts unprecedented research, he becomes more and more connected to his subjects and comes of age in a remote area of Africa.

Close

What a Fish Knows
by Jonathan Balcombe

Do fish think? Do they have memories? Do they recognize us when we look at them, pressed up against the glass of a tank or through goggles in the water? Jonathan Balcombe addresses those questions and more in this fascinating exploration of our “underwater cousins” to prove how intelligent—and even Machiavellian—they can be.

What a Fish Knows
Jonathan Balcombe

Do fish think? Do they have memories? Do they recognize us when we look at them, pressed up against the glass of a tank or through goggles in the water? Jonathan Balcombe addresses those questions and more in this fascinating exploration of our “underwater cousins” to prove how intelligent—and even Machiavellian—they can be.

Close

The Genius of Birds
by Jennifer Ackerman

The name “bird brain” has long been an insult—until now. In THE GENIUS OF BIRDS, science writer Jennifer Ackerman travels around the world to investigate the ways in which different species of birds may rival humans in intelligence and neurological capabilities. Blending science, travelogue, and personal anecdotes, this book is the perfect choice for a day spent reading in the park.

The Genius of Birds
Jennifer Ackerman

The name “bird brain” has long been an insult—until now. In THE GENIUS OF BIRDS, science writer Jennifer Ackerman travels around the world to investigate the ways in which different species of birds may rival humans in intelligence and neurological capabilities. Blending science, travelogue, and personal anecdotes, this book is the perfect choice for a day spent reading in the park.

Close

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
by Frans de Waal

People assume that there’s a cognitive ladder, and that humans are at the top. But what if we’re wrong? Biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal flips our assumptions in this groundbreaking work on animal intelligence that reveals the ways we have underestimated the beings with whom we share our planet.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Frans de Waal

People assume that there’s a cognitive ladder, and that humans are at the top. But what if we’re wrong? Biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal flips our assumptions in this groundbreaking work on animal intelligence that reveals the ways we have underestimated the beings with whom we share our planet.

Close

Being a Dog
by Alexandra Horowitz

For dogs, their sense of smell is everything: it’s how they understand the world by gathering information and exploring new terrain. In BEING A DOG, Alexandra Horowitz, a research scientist in the field of canine cognition, unlocks the mysteries of dogs through the organ that matters most to them: their noses.

Being a Dog
Alexandra Horowitz

For dogs, their sense of smell is everything: it’s how they understand the world by gathering information and exploring new terrain. In BEING A DOG, Alexandra Horowitz, a research scientist in the field of canine cognition, unlocks the mysteries of dogs through the organ that matters most to them: their noses.

Close

Cod
by Mark Kurlansky

If you enjoy micro histories (or a good plate of fish and chips), this one is for you. The winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, Mark Kurlansky’s history of this humble fish brings us across the Atlantic into salt barrels and onto tables as it explores how one species has changed the way we eat, find food, and come together in a common diet.

Cod
Mark Kurlansky

If you enjoy micro histories (or a good plate of fish and chips), this one is for you. The winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, Mark Kurlansky’s history of this humble fish brings us across the Atlantic into salt barrels and onto tables as it explores how one species has changed the way we eat, find food, and come together in a common diet.

Close

Of Orcas and Men
by David Neiwert

Orcas are one of the world’s most intelligent animals, and this book, a tribute to Barry Lopez’s classic OF WOLVES AND MEN, shows us why they deserve that classification. Mixing cultural history, scientific research, and reporting, David Neiwert dives deep (no pun intended) into how these animals have captured our fascination.

Of Orcas and Men
David Neiwert

Orcas are one of the world’s most intelligent animals, and this book, a tribute to Barry Lopez’s classic OF WOLVES AND MEN, shows us why they deserve that classification. Mixing cultural history, scientific research, and reporting, David Neiwert dives deep (no pun intended) into how these animals have captured our fascination.

Close

In the Shadow of Man
by Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall is known throughout the world for her experiences studying the wild chimpanzees of Gombe, and this account of her life and work is one of the most compelling books on animal behavior that exists today. From her first visits to the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania to her ascension as a leader in the field, IN THE SHADOW OF MAN is not only a story of human and animal, but of discovery and destiny.

In the Shadow of Man
Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall is known throughout the world for her experiences studying the wild chimpanzees of Gombe, and this account of her life and work is one of the most compelling books on animal behavior that exists today. From her first visits to the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania to her ascension as a leader in the field, IN THE SHADOW OF MAN is not only a story of human and animal, but of discovery and destiny.

Close

The Dragon Behind the Glass
by Emily Voigt

Protected by the Endangered Species Act and illegal in the United States, the arowana, the world’s most expensive aquarium fish, occupies a dangerous corner of the black market. Emily Voigt follows the trail of the arowana around the world to trace our modern fascination with this fish and the implications its existence has on modern science.

The Dragon Behind the Glass
Emily Voigt

Protected by the Endangered Species Act and illegal in the United States, the arowana, the world’s most expensive aquarium fish, occupies a dangerous corner of the black market. Emily Voigt follows the trail of the arowana around the world to trace our modern fascination with this fish and the implications its existence has on modern science.

Close

No Dogs in Heaven?
by Robert T. Sharp

NO DOGS IN HEAVEN? is a heartwarming collection that shares the ups, downs, and misadventures of a small-town veterinarian. From his first day on the job being nervous to use a needle to a full caseload of four-legged patients, Robert Sharp reflects on his career with a compassionate and charming voice that is sure to satisfy any animal-loving reader.

No Dogs in Heaven?
Robert T. Sharp

NO DOGS IN HEAVEN? is a heartwarming collection that shares the ups, downs, and misadventures of a small-town veterinarian. From his first day on the job being nervous to use a needle to a full caseload of four-legged patients, Robert Sharp reflects on his career with a compassionate and charming voice that is sure to satisfy any animal-loving reader.

Close

Animal Madness
by Laurel Braitman

Ever wondered if your dog is depressed? If your cat is heartbroken? If your rabbit is suffering from extreme anxiety? If gorillas laugh? Can one species cheer another up? Laurel Braitman addresses these questions and more in her insightful exploration of animal and human psychology.

Animal Madness
Laurel Braitman

Ever wondered if your dog is depressed? If your cat is heartbroken? If your rabbit is suffering from extreme anxiety? If gorillas laugh? Can one species cheer another up? Laurel Braitman addresses these questions and more in her insightful exploration of animal and human psychology.

Close

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create and Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.