Animal Rights Reading: A Top Ten Summer Book List

If you’ve been following the Care2 Animal Welfare blog and want to delve a little deeper into animal issues, these books are a great start. They’re enjoyable, informational, and might just inspire the activist in you. They’re also in no particular order.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

One of my all-time favorite books, Charlotte’s Web is the first time I, and I suspect many other children, were exposed to outright animal advocacy in literature. The first pages are both touching and harrowing. Young Fern convinces her farmer father to spare the life of a runt pig, declaring, “The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth would you have killed me?” Fern’s innocent wisdom points out something that the adults around her have become desensitized to — that an animal’s life, even a runt pig’s, has value.

Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn

There’s a reason everyone from Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Matthew Scully, presidential speech writer (and author of his own animal welfare book, Dominion) loves Dawn’s brilliant and well-researched look into all the ways humans use animals. Dawn thoroughly covers issues from eating animals to animal testing to animals in show business and manages to do so with a sense of humor. It’s not everyday I’d call a book on such heavy topics “fun to read” — but this one is. This is an animal welfare bible, with illustrations and cartoons throughout.

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy

Many people enter the world of animals rights with one thought: “How can I love one animal and eat another?” Psychologist and educator Melanie Joy examines how humans can compartmentalize animals, caring so deeply for some species while completely disregarding the welfare of others.There’s no question that humans psychologically condition themselves to separate animals into categorical uses. Just think: if you found out that juicy “steak” you just bit into wasn’t cow but golden retriever, would it be as appetizing?

Making Kind Choices: Everyday Ways to Enhance Your Life Through Earth- and Animal-Friendly Living by Ingrid Newkirk

If Thanking the Monkey is the animal rights bible, this is the phonebook. Ingrid Newkirk (yes, that Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA) will tell you how to advocate for animals in every aspect of your life, AND she lists companies to help you. Everything from how to kindly deal with home invaders to how to throw a cruelty-free party. This is a simple guide to animal-friendly living that proves even small acts can make a difference.

Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement by Peter Singer

Some say the modern animal rights movement started right here, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in animal issues and their history. Singer, a philosopher, isn’t always gentle with his arguments, but his manifesto, published in 1975, will have you looking at the world with new eyes.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Safran Foer is traditionally a novelist, so his examination of animal agriculture doesn’t read like most. He’s new into the world of animal welfare and his good-natured curiosity is charming and relatable. The combination of personal accounts from farmers and ranchers, scientific facts and stats, and the author’s innocent investigator role makes Eating Animals readable for everyone, no matter what their stance on [the act of] eating animals may be.

Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good by Jonathan Balcombe

A lot of books on animal issues focus on their mistreatment and suffering. But Balcombe, an animal behavior research consultant, writes about the joy that animals express. He reminds us that animals have a range of emotions and, when given the freedom, express complex personalities. He uses science and anecdotes to prove “that the animal kingdom is rich in pleasure.”

Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food by Gene Baur

Baur is the founder of Farm Sanctuary, and this book chronicles his journey from rescuing a downed sheep he found in a stockyard’s dump heap to lobbying for animals in Washington and running one of the most well-known and successful animal advocacy groups and sanctuaries today. This book gives a compelling inside look into activism and advocacy, as well as individual portraits of Farm Sanctuary’s animals and their amazing, heartwarming journeys from slaughterhouse to animal utopia.

Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat by Howard Lyman

If you’re skeptical about the excruciating tales animal rights folks will tell you about today’s factory farms, then read this book and get the info first-hand, from none other than a cattle rancher. Lyman started looking into animal agriculture practices because of personal health problems and ended up a compelling animal rights advocate. After talking with the approachable, every-man Lyman, Oprah Winfrey declared that she’d never eat a hamburger again. You might do the same.

Irreconcilable Differences by Nathan J. Winograd

This book is recommended by my fellow blogger Sharon Seltzer, who says: “Winograd is the founder of the No Kill movement that advocates no adoptable pet needs to be euthanized in an animal shelter in the U.S. There are homes for all pets and the fault for not finding homes lies with animal shelter and how they operate. The book addresses the problems in animals shelters and why we continue to euthanize adoptable pets.”

Of course there are many other books that could have gone on this list — please let us know what you think! Have you read any of the above books? What was your experience? What other animal welfare books do you recommend?

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photo credit: istock


CareTwo Support
CareTwo S3 years ago

Great recommendations!

Julie Botsch
Julie Botsch5 years ago


Lynne A.
Lynne A.8 years ago

I love animals and like learning ways to make things better for them.

Animal Book
Animal Book8 years ago

What a great list of stories book. I have another book to add to the list in case others were interested in good books.

Animal Book
Animal Book8 years ago

What a great list of stories book. I have another book to add to the list in case others were interested in good books.

monique l.
monique l8 years ago


Evan R.
Past Member 8 years ago

thanks for the list i hope to start reading Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat by Howard Lyman ive seen movies and what not on this topic but will see if itll make me stop eating hamburgers once and for all

Kelly M.
Kelly R8 years ago

"Making Kind Choices" is a really good book!
I am reading "Animal Liberation" right now.

Jessica Almy
Jessica Almy8 years ago

What a great list! I manage a website -- -- that reviews kids books and movies from a veg perspective. It's nice to see someone tackling the same issues for "grown-ups!"

Andrea M.
Andrea M8 years ago

As an avid reader I am always looking for new books to read. Thanks for the awesome list!