B2B NewsPet industry newsMy Picks of Animal Books, Non-fiction, Fiction, and Poetry

My Picks of Animal Books, Non-fiction, Fiction, and Poetry


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The books I enjoyed the most this year include books about dogs and cats, plus non-fiction, some great novels, and poetry. 

Two cats snuggle on a blanket in front of a window on a rainy day, with an open book and coffee cup nearby
Photo: Irina Kozorog/Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd PhD

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Which books are you giving as gifts this year—and which ones are you hoping to receive?

These are some of the books I have enjoyed this year (not necessarily published this year). I’m also sharing the books I’m looking forward to digging into over the holidays. 

I’ll start with the animal books before including my selections of poetry, nonfiction, and novels. 

The books The Year of the Puppy and Wonderdog on a table with a blue bowl filled with satsumas

The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves chronicles the first year in the life of Alexandra Horowitz’s puppy Quiddity. All of Horowitz’s dog books are essential reading, and this one is no exception. Absolutely delightful.

Wonderdog: The Science of Dogs and Their Unique Friendship with Humans by Jules Howard is a fantastic read. I had the honour of writing a blurb: A fresh and vibrant account of what we’ve learned about dogs from Darwin to today. With a cast of familiar and almost-forgotten characters, Wonderdog tells us why dogs do the things they do – and what it tells us about ourselves. Full of compassion and intrigue, this is scientific storytelling at its very best. 

(The photo shows the UK cover of Wonderdog; the US cover is different).

Three books on a table, Aesop's Animals, The Alpha Female Wolf, and PS I Love You More Than Tuna, along with a red bird ornament and some red sweets

Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables by Jo Wimpenny takes a fresh look at some of Aesop’s tales by investigating whether or not there’s any truth to the fable. A fascinating look at what we know about animal behaviour.

If you know someone who has lost a cat, P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna by Sarah Chauncey is a celebration of the relationship between feline and human that will give them comfort. Gorgeous drawings by Francis Tremblay illustrate the text.

The Alpha Female Wolf: The Fierce Legacy of Yellowstone’s 06 by Rick McIntyre is another book I was lucky to read ahead of publication. It tells the captivating story of legendary wolf 06, whose leadership, teamwork, and wisdom enabled her family to thrive through many challenges. McIntyre’s riveting observations put the reader right there with generations of wolves as they play, eat, mate, and fight. Dazzling, heartbreaking, and hopeful.

Two books, Outlandish and Wired for Music, on a table with a plate of cookies

Outlandish by Jo Clement is an outstanding collection of poems that speak to her British Gypsy heritage and the natural beauty of English landscapes. Rich and personal reflections inspired by a set of 18th-century wood engravings by Thomas Bewick.

Adriana Barton was a gifted cellist, but then she dropped out of the conservatory and stopped playing. In her captivating book Wired for Music, she blends memoir and science to investigate the role of music in her own life and in all our lives.

Three books on a table, Invisible Boy, Alfabet/Alphabet, and The Broken Places, along with a bowl of sweets in wrappers

Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery is Harrison Mooney’s memoir of what it was like growing up as a Black adoptee in a white evangelical Christian family. It’s my pick of the year and made it into the Globe 100 (and is on several other end-of-year lists too).  

Alfabet/Alphabet is a collection of short pieces that reflect on language and identity as Sadiqa de Meijer tells the story of her move from The Netherlands to Canada as a child and what it’s like to speak two languages. Elegant and poetic, anyone who speaks more than one language will especially love this book.

Now onto some of the novels I loved this year. The Broken Places by Frances Peck follows the people from 3 households when a big earthquake hits Vancouver. This is an intricately-woven, breathtaking tale. 

Two books on a table, The Other Black Girl and Happiness, with a pretty blue plate with Pfeffernusse biscuits

On a visit to London, Ghanaian psychiatrist Attila bumps into Jean, an American biologist studying foxes. Happiness: A Novel by Aminatta Forna is a vivid story of interconnectedness, trauma, and empathy.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris is witty, thoughtful, full of suspense–and hard to put down.

Three books on a table, Nisgha, Good Girl, and Nomads

These are the books I’m looking forward to reading over the holidays:

Good Girl by Anna Fitzpatrick.

Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World by Anthony Sattin

Nishga by Jordan Abel

A copy of the books Purr and Wag with a plate of Christmas cookies, a red candle, a cup of coffee, and a German wooden Christmas tree with baubles on a red polka dot table cloth

And if you’re looking for a gift for a cat or dog lover, may I recommend my books Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy and Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy? Both books are filled with practical tips to make a difference to your pet’s life.

Other book ideas

If you’d like more book suggestions, you can check out my previous recommendations in summer reading 2020, winter reading 2019summer reading 2019 and The Writer’s Pet

If you’re looking specifically for books about animals, you’ll enjoy browsing the list of books read by the Animal Book Club and the list of seven of the best cat books that I put together for BBC Science Focus.  

You might also enjoy watching Lili Chin, Sassafras Lowrey, and myself in conversation with Kristi Benson about our books Doggie Language, Chew This Journal, and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy, respectively. You can watch on Youtube or here.


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