Dogs may be man – and woman’s – best friend, but there are plenty of books out there featuring other animals too. Sometimes animals are as important – or more so – as the human characters in the story. Here are some of our favourite books with animals.
Also turned into a major motion picture, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a gorgeous story. Set in a travelling circus touring rural America in the Great Depression, this is the tale of Jacob Jankowski, an almost veterinary student and recent orphan. He is put in charge of all the animals, including Rosie – the elephant who is the star of the show. This is a novel that will win your heart.
Animal Farm gives us the great line ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ George Orwell’s twisted, political farmyard fable remains riveting and relevant seventy years after its first publication. When the farmyard animals stage a rebellion, the pigs are the leaders. This is a brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power.
You get two for the price on one on animal character’s in Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White – Wilbur the pig, and Charlotte the spider. Wilbur is the runt of the litter who is rescued by Fern. When it looks as if he will suffer a dreadful fate, Charlotte comes to his rescue. A childhood classic book for a reason, this will make you think twice the next time you go to kill a spider!
The only book on this list that is a true story, Marley and Me by John Grogan is beloved by many. John and Jenny were just beginning their life together, when they got Marley – a lively and energetic puppy. And life would never be the same… Marley was expelled from obedience school and caused havoc in their lives, but taught them about unconditional love.
One boy, one boat, and one…. tiger. Life of Pi by Yann Martel has sold millions of copies worldwide, and deservedly so. When a cargo ship sinks, the only survivors are a sixteen year old boy, an injured zebra, an orangutan and a 450 pound tiger called Richard Parker. Brilliantly written, this is one you’ll remember long after reading.
In Northern Lights, the first of the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, we are first introduced to the idea of daemons – talking spirit animals that constantly accompany, aid and comfort their humans. And that’s before we even get to the armored ice bears. This is a treat of a book for readers of all ages.
In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Rosemary is young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. It’s hard say much without giving the story away, but trust us – this often hilarious novel wrestles with some serious moral questions.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is technically a children’s book, but don’t let that stop you. This is the story of a mouse called Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories and a princess named Pea. This is a character who will capture your heart, in a charming story where goodness and courage will always triumph.
Inspired by true events, Moby Dick by Herman Melville is perhaps the greatest sea story ever told. The crew of the whaling ship the Pequod is bound by its Captain Ahab to a single, bloody goal: the killing of the whale Moby-Dick, the giant albino that has taken his leg and on which he has sworn vengeance. A true classic.
Did you know that Black Beauty was the only novel that Anna Sewell ever wrote? She was severely disabled at the age of 14, and had to rely on horse drawn carriages to get around. She became very concerned with the treatment of the horses that she relied on. The story is narrated by the horse, and gives us the valuable message that we should always be kind to animals.
Many people have seen the musical Cats – did you know it was actually based on a book of poems? T.S.Eliot wrote Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats in 1930s to amuse his godchildren and friends. Meet magical Mr Mistoffelees, sleepy Old Deuteronomy and curious Rum Tum Tugger. But you’ll be lucky to meet Macavity because Macavity’s not there! This edition is also illustrated by the amazing Axel Scheffler.
We could have also chosen White Fang, but decided to go with Call of the Wild by Jack London. Part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, Buck is a sturdy crossbreed canine accustomed to a comfortable life as a family dog – until he’s seized from his pampered surroundings and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog. Forced into an environment where every day is a struggle for survival, this is a timeless tale of endurance and adventure.