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Hitting the Books: Titles for the Animal Lovers on Your Holiday Shopping List

Wrap up these recommendations for adults and children.

All Animals magazine

  • Stephen Cork

In our flashy electronic age, books still have the power to captivate and inspire: We absorb their messages and images at our own pace— unimpeded by pop-up ads or screen glare. The right book can even alter our life paths, as our colleagues’ testimonials reveal.

The following recent publications, selected and reviewed by All Animals staff, range from a thought-provoking look at human-animal relationships to a light-hearted romp through an urban dog park. So whether you want to spread tidings of compassion among your friends and family or simply need meaningful gifts for the animal lovers in your life, check out these suggestions.

Among Giants

by Charles “Flip” Nicklin

The photos are magnificent: close-ups revealing the minute details of Earth’s largest creatures in the crystalline blue depths of their underwater homes. The stories stand on their own: National Geographic’s Nicklin getting his start as an underwater photographer through his father’s chance ride on the back of a rescued whale; Nicklin free diving to 100 feet and holding his breath for a minute or more so he could swim around whales without disturbing them. The text follows the evolution of whale research over four decades, delving into the biology and behaviors of these still mysterious creatures and examining the cultural and economic forces that will determine their fates. At the end, Nicklin says that with humpback and gray populations recovered in some locations, soon it won’t be just a question of whether we can save the whales, but whether we can once again share the oceans with them.

The Bond

by Wayne Pacelle

If one person can make a difference, how much influence can the whole lot of us have on creating a more humane society? Plenty, says visionary HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle, whose New York Times best-seller demonstrates the power of the human spirit in repairing systems that have betrayed our natural connection with animals. As Pacelle takes readers on a journey from the nation’s great open spaces to its crowded factory farms, he illuminates the stark dichotomy we face in an age when animals are more beloved yet more abused than during any period in history. There is a better way, Pacelle argues, making the case for a humane economy based on ecotourism, fur-free fashion, improved farming systems, and other innovative models. It’s a message of hope and an inspiring call to action for all. Order "The Bond"»

Bright Wings

Edited by Billy Collins

“Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote poet Emily Dickinson, joining a long list of bards inspired by birds. This lovely anthology, illustrated by renowned ornithologist David Allen Sibley and edited by former poet laureate Collins, brings some of the best bird poems together in one great flock. “The obvious way that birds have inspired poets is through their double ability to fly and to sing, often at the same time,” Collins writes in the introduction.

The book is a veritable aviary, from the common sparrow to lesser-known flyers like the kittiwake, many paired with Sibley’s delicate illustrations and descriptions of the species’ behaviors and habitats. The poems range in tone from comic to tragic; they come from eras as far back as Catullus but perch largely in the contemporary period. And while the birds within the book are often metaphors for other things, most of the poems preserve the real nature of each animal, allowing the birds to help big ideas take flight.

The Dogs of Central Park

by Fran Reisner

Award-winning photographer Reisner was in New York City for a commercial shoot when she headed out one morning in 2008 to capture Central Park in spring. What stood out to her, though, had nothing to do with blue skies or blooming lilacs. “It seemed like every single corner I turned, [there] was one hilarious or amazing scene of these dogs,” Reisner remembers. “… To see this huge diversity of dogs playing so gleefully together, like little kids on a playground, was just an amazing sight.”

The morning walk led to a charming book, as the Texas resident used seven subsequent visits to capture the array of pet dogs in the park’s most iconic spots. A German shepherd jumps to catch a snowball, the New York skyline rising in the distance. A pug mix in a red sweater sits contemplatively before Bethesda Fountain. “I just hope it brings a lot of smiles,” Reisner says. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The Exultant Ark

by Jonathan Balcombe

A young bull elk lies among the tall grasses, head lifted toward the winter sky, tongue outstretched to catch the falling snowflakes. His curiosity seems obvious. Other photos show a squirrel lounging atop a sun-warmed brick wall and a hooded crow tugging playfully at the wingtip of a herring gull.

With provocative photos and heartwarming stories of animals playing, eating, courting, nursing, and comforting one another, best-selling author and animal ethologist Balcombe offers readers a serious yet fun examination of animal pleasure. While science tends to explain such behaviors in strictly evolutionary terms, Balcombe takes a broader view. “They do what feels good, and it’s rewarding.” This ability to savor life’s joys, he concludes, is a strong argument against factory farming and other institutionalized abuses. “Animals have interests that go beyond the mere avoidance of pain,” he writes. “They desire a good quality of life.”

Gifts for Kids


Finding Danny

by Linzi Glass 

Dog rescuer Glass puts her passion for animals into her latest novel, a coming-of-age tale set in Santa Monica, Calif. In 12-year-old Bree’s opinion, the only good thing in her life is her beloved border collie, Danny. Her parents are too busy for her, and her friends are drifting away. When Danny disappears, Bree begins a search that opens her eyes and heart to the plight of homeless pets. Before long, she’s cleaning kennels at a local shelter and promoting adoption to classmates and neighbors. Readers in grades 3–7 will cheer for Bree as she searches for Danny and for homes for all the shelter dogs.

Cat and Crow

by Lisa Fleming 

When a crow sees a tiny motherless kitten swept away by a strong wind, he flies to her aid. The two become inseparable friends, eating, playing, and even napping together. Based on the true story of Cassie the cat and Moses the crow, this children’s book (ages 3 and up) recounts that narrative as told to Fleming by the elderly couple who witnessed this remarkable friendship over several years. Beautifully illustrated by Anne Marie Dominik-Harris, this heartwarming story concludes with photos of the real-life Cassie and Mo and fun facts about both species.

HSUS staffers reflect on books that have moved and inspired them »

Read more from this issue of All Animals.

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