Toucanland’s Top 10 Book Picks for Animal Lovers

Living on our tiny island, we spend a lot of our time with our beaks and noses tucked inside a good book. As lovers of all the wild creatures out there, we’ve found some great stories that revolve around animals. We thought we’d share some recommendations for those of you who also enjoy reading about the feathered, furry, and four-legged. There may not be any toucans in these books, but I care to venture that if you love our toucans’ beaks, you are also susceptible to the captivating draw of an elephant’s trunk.

So if you’re looking for an entertaining read, here are some of Toucanland’s favorite animal-centric books, in no particular order…

Life of Pi by Yann Martel – One of my most favorite books, this novel will suck you in and leave you pondering for long after you finish it. I find myself coming back to read this one every couple of years simply because I miss the cast that lies within. You may never find another character who will charm you quite like Richard Parker.

Kicked, Bitten, & Scratched by Amy Sutherland – This author spends a year observing students at one of the most exclusive animal training colleges in the world, often referred to as the “Harvard for exotic animal trainers”. If you’ve ever watched a trainer at SeaWorld and thought it looked easy, prepare to be proven wrong. The training is intense and often dangerous, but if you’re anything like me, it still makes you wish you could enroll.

Modoc by Ralph Helfer – Based on a true story of “the greatest elephant who ever lived”, you follow the journey  of a German boy and his elephant whose bond never falters, no matter the separation. Possible side effects include weeping pitifully and an overwhelming desire to befriend an elephant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes edited by Lucy H. Spelman, DVM and Ted Y. Mashima, DVM – A collection of stories written by some of the most innovative zoo veterinarians in the world who love their patients even when they throw feces at them. No dogs or cats in this one – think bigger. Think whale sharks. On a plane.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris – Anthropomorphizing at its finest, this hilarious picture book for adults is a collection of short stories that will leave you looking at animals in ways you never imagined. I can also no longer look at my hairdresser without picturing her as a baboon. You will just have to read to understand.

Zoo Story by Thomas French – As interesting as it is entertaining, this journalist uncovers the parts of a zoo that few of us will ever see from the outside. You get a peek into the people who run it, the politics, and the life of the animals within the Lowry Park Zoo as they strive to reinvent themselves. Whatever your stance, you will never look at zoos the same way again.

The Beauty of the Beasts by Ralph Helfer – Ralph Helfer was one of the first Hollywood animal behaviorists to train exotic animals using affection and kindness. These behind-the-scenes stories from his show biz days will make you laugh at his ingenuity and feel envious of his amazing experiences with some of the wildest of animals. The pictures inside are a nice added treat.

The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey – While not the cuddliest of animals, I have always held a special place in my heart for great white sharks. Even if you do not, this book is a fascinating look at these mysterious creatures who gather in large numbers off the equally intriguing Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco.

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee – What animal lover hasn’t fantasized of owning their own zoo or animal sanctuary? A memoir of a family who actually lived this crazy dream, the tales of the logistics of suddenly becoming responsible for 200 exotic animals is enough to discourage at least some of us. Especially when the jaguar escapes.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison – These true stories from a Botswana safari guide are a fun read, often leaving you shaking your head at the craziness of a job in the African bush, where elephants and lions lurk between your bedroom and your bathroom.

If you have any good animal book recommendations, please feel free to send them our way – we “book-birds” are always looking for the next great hammock companion. Happy reading!

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