27 Incredible Animal Novels and Nonfiction Animal Books

Animal Novels and nonfiction animal books

We thought it would be fun to write a post about our favorite Animal novels for adults. There are so many kids’ books about animals, but we wanted to highlight novels about animals, books with animal main characters, and animal nonfiction books for adults.

If you are anything like us, you will be looking through this post and wondering how you never realized that some of your favorite books of all time are novels about animals.

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

This post fulfills a prompt for the 2024 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!

Our Closet In Your Neighborhood clients are participating in this year’s reading challenge. Please consider donating books through our independent bookstore partner.

Animal Novels

Best Novels About Animals

water for elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I read this book long before we started the blog and I still recommend this animal book for adults to everyone as a must-read. 

It is the middle of the Great Depression and Jacob finds himself orphaned just shy of earning his Veterinary degree. He finds himself a job with a circus caring for a menagerie.

Here he meets Marlena, the beautiful star of the show, and an untrainable elephant named Rosie. I loved everything about this book from the romance and tension to the beauty of the animals and their relationship with the people around them.

This historical fiction romance was one of the first books we thought of for a list of the best romance novels of all time. It is no surprise that this one also found its way to my list of all-time favorite books.

life of pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

When a boat sinks in the Pacific, the only survivors are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, an orangutan, a hyena, a Bengal tiger, and a zebra. And while this book was written less than 20 years ago, it is already a modern classic.

This is not a sailing novel that once read can be forgotten. I know that some people look at the story as an extended metaphor in which each animal represents a person but personally, I like the book exactly the way it was written, one of the best magical realism books I have read.

There is magic in the pages of this book in all meanings of the word. First, read this book, then, rethink everything. This is a perfect example of a thought-provoking book because no two people view it the same way. If you are looking for animal fiction books, this one is a must.

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

This is one of the animal novels that is an absolute must-read, from the brilliant and hilarious Steven Rowley. Ted is a single gay writer whose beloved dachshund, Lily, has cancer.

Ted will do anything to save his best friend and companion in this wonderful adventure that deals with loss and love in a way only Rowley can deliver.


Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks

This animal book for adults was recommended to me a dozen times over the last year and I am so glad that I finally read this amazing, sweeping story that spans from 1850 through 2019.

An enslaved groomsman in Kentucky in 1850 has a way with horses and a deep connection with one beautiful horse. A gallery owner in the 1950s has an obsession with a painting of a horse. In 2019 a scientist working for the Smithsonian and an art historian are seeking answers.

All of these stories are connected with one amazing horse! I loved how this story came together and the fact that it was based on a real horse. But there is so much more to this story that examines race and slavery as well. The description does not do justice to this amazing book.

If you are looking for animal fiction books for the 2024 reading challenge, this is my #1 pick.

Animal Books for Adults with an Animal Narrator

Remarkably Bright Creatures and more family drama books

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

May 2022 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

I haven’t read a novel with as much heart as this one in quite some time. Elderly, recently widowed Tova loves her job cleaning the aquarium in town in the quiet of the night, especially because of her fondness for Marcellus, the octopus. She finds solace in the aquarium as it makes her feel closer to her son, Erik – a marine life lover – who disappeared on a boat when he was 18.

But when she hurts herself and is unable to return to work at full capacity, she grows close with her replacement, Cameron, a young man who newly arrived in town looking for his birth mother.

Meanwhile, Marcellus knows what happened to Erik and he wants to help Tova find the closure she needs. His narration is interspersed with Tova and Cameron’s for a story that is compelling, heartwarming, and utterly unique.

I will be shoving this book into the hands of everyone who asks for a book recommendation because it’s my favorite book of 2022

Find this book in Best Audiobooks of 2022 / Family Drama Books / Ultimate List of Feel-Good Books / Contemporary Fiction Books / Book Club Books
Why We Love This Book: This book has more heart than any book we have read in a long time. The unique perspective of a grumpy octopus may seem silly, but was brilliantly done and adds a unique perspective.

Lessons in Chemistry and more goodreads choice awards 2022 books

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

April 2022 GMA Book Club Pick

I don’t even know where to begin with this unique contemporary fiction story. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist in the 50s when women were expected to know their place in society — their place being the kitchen and the home.

Elizabeth struggles to be taken seriously in her field and as a single mother, in this amazing book. So when an offer to host a cooking show for women is put in her path, she reluctantly takes it.

She uses her no-nonsense attitude and chemistry principles to teach the women in America to not only cook but to follow their dreams outside of the home.

We love the fact that part of this quirky wonderful book is narrated by 6:30 (the dog). If you have not read this amazing book for book clubs and you are looking for some animal fiction books to add to your list, this one is a no-brainer.

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Naamah by Sarah Blake

This is one of the most imaginative stories I’ve ever read. A retelling of the story of Noah’s ark from the perspective of his wife Naamah. The writing was poetic and almost psychedelic in quality.

Naamah is questioning her faith, her choices, and what it means to be a woman. The dreams, hallucinations, and visits to the future were used in novel ways during the Ark’s journey. This story had me rethinking the classic biblical tale. This is a pick on our LGBTQ books that is unlike any other.

art of racing in the rain

Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Oh, this book. This pick from animal novels is a wonderful, heartbreaking, and uplifting story of love, loss, and family told as only a dog could.

This animal book for adults gives insights into human behavior as a dog would see it and is beautiful and humbling. After all, a dog is our best friend for a short time in our lives but we are their best friends for their entire lives.

A Dogs Purpose

A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron

I read this book and it simultaneously broke my heart and confirmed everything that I ever hoped- that my beloved pets would come back to me over and over again throughout my life.

If you are an animal lover and you love dogs in particular, this pick from animal books for adults is heartwarming and poignant at the same time.

Classic Animal Books for Adults

moby dick

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Oh, big white whale, how I despised you. I could not stand this boat book! My senior English professor is obsessed with it. We would get into debates CONSTANTLY, which actually made learning about it enjoyable and memorable.

But lordy, call me bored with this tale. (See what I did there?) Whaling, oil-making, and vulgar fishermen are not for me. So why is it on the list? Because lots of people ADORE this story. It’s not for me, but it might be for you! This is the quintessential animal book for adults.

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm” tells the tale of a group of farm animals who kick out their human owner and try to run the place themselves. However, things go a bit haywire when the pigs, who are all about that brainpower, end up taking charge and becoming even more power-hungry than the humans they booted out.

This is a satire about the need for power and the old adage that power begets power. In this pick from animal novels, there are a lot more oinks.

watership down

Watership Down by Richard Adams

In this classic animal book for adults rabbits are forced to find a new home when their warren is destroyed. Led by Hazel and Fiver, they must face vicious rabbits and human threats.

When I read this as a child, I thought it was so cute. Now that I have read it again as an adult, this book is so much more.

NonFiction Animal Books

Soul of an Octopus and other Beach Reads 2021

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

My mom recommended this book to me for a feel-good book about animals for adults and it was exactly what I needed. Sy Montgomery is a naturalist who explores consciousness through amazing stories of animals- particularly Octopuses.  

The lives of these shy, amazing animals are unlike any other animal on the planet.  These intelligent animals with such distinct personalities are the backdrop for this wonderful feel-good, non-fiction book. 

the zookeepers wife

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

There is no surprise that this feel-good nonfiction book was made into a movie. The story is just so compelling. When the Nazis invade Poland, the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo have their animal collection ransacked. They decide to hide fleeing Jewish people in the now empty animal homes.

I loved this book and I am so glad that I listened to this one. Suzanne Toren reads it beautifully.  Her wonderful accents and pronunciation of the words I surely would have butchered with my attempts added to the book. And if you love novels about animals, this is a wonderful choice.

When Harry Met Minnie

When Harry Met Minnie: A True Story of Love and Friendship by Martha Teichner

This book is a remarkable true story of love and friendship that is perfect for dog lovers everywhere. It is powerful and poignant but, it had me laughing out loud. ⁣

Martha and her Bull Terrier Minnie had a chance encounter with an old friend at the Union Square Farmers market. He told Martha about his friend Carol who was dying from cancer from 9/11 toxins and was trying to find someone to take her dog Harry. ⁣

What follows is a fairytale of unconditional love, friendship, and heartbreak. Be warned. Not all fairytales have happy endings. Perfect for fans on Lily and the Octopus and Tuesdays with Morrie. #Gifted by Celadon Books

sea biscuit

Sea Biscuit: An American Legend by Lara Hillenbrand

If you are looking for the best feel-good nonfiction book, look no further than this story which is the perfect underdog story. Seabiscuit is the story of a horse who overcame every obstacle, bad fortune, and injury to run one of the best horse races of all time.

This is one of the nonfiction books that reads like fiction because the story is fantastic. If you are looking for an animal book for adults you will love, this should be your pick.

marley and me

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan

This is one of the best feel-good nonfiction books for beginners and a fantastic pick from animal noniction books. This is such a heartwarming story about a family and their huge yellow lab. Marley is a hilariously ridiculous and horribly behaved dog who teaches everyone around him what love really means.

If you are looking for nonfiction books that read like fiction, this is the book for you. After all, who would believe one dog could create so much havoc?

More Books About Animals for Adults

Middle-Grade Animal Fiction Books

one and only ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Based on the true story of Ivan, a gorilla trapped in a shopping mall, this feel-good story is one of the best family audiobooks for any road trip.

Stella, a young girl gets Ivan to start painting again and she realizes how lonely he is. Bob, a stray dog, works to help Ivan and Ruby, a baby elephant, garner the attention they need to be sent to a better home.

Why We Love This Book: This book will touch your heart. Even though it is partially a sad book, the ending will make it worthwhile. This is one of the best animal fiction books for middle grade and adults.
Appropriate for ages 8-10
Find this book in
Books for 9-year-olds, Zoo Books, Family Audiobooks, Animal Novels / Audiobooks for Kids

A Wolf Called Wander and other books for a 10-year-old

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry

Rosanne does a marvelous job of telling the true story of a wolf trying to survive when separated from his family. Without the protection of his pack, Swift must learn how to thrive on his own.

Swift’s journey takes him across 1,000 miles of forests, highways, and rivers with danger facing him at every turn.

Why We Love This Book: My family was riveted by this story when we listened on a recent family road trip. Even though this is a middle-grade book, we love this for adults as well.
Appropriate for ages 8-11
Find this book in
Animal Novels / Middle-Grade Fiction / Audiobooks for Kids

Charlottes Web

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White

This is such a wonderful story of unconditional love and friendship.  When Fern saves the life of Wilbur, the runt of the pig litter, she promises to take care of him. As Wilbur grows, he befriends Charlotte, a spider, who ultimately saves his life a second time.

Why We Love This Book: This is such a heartwarming classic book for kids. We dare you to read it without crying.
Appropriate for ages 
Find this book in
Best Classic Books for Kids / Read Aloud Children’s Books / The Best Family Audiobooks

because of winn

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Because of Winn-Dixie is a well-written, heartwarming book about the story of a girl named Opal who finds friendship with a smelly, dirty stray dog causing chaos in a supermarket. The dog soon helps Opal make friends and becomes her best friend.

We love this pick from animal fiction books. It is a classic book for middle-grade through adult.

More Animal Fiction Books

Which are Your Favorite Animal Fiction Books?

Do you love our list of animal books for adults? You can shop the entire list on Bookshop.org

Novel Ideas 55

Book Lists by Genre

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