An illustration of pink animals against a lighter pink background and green 'A' and 'Z' letters
Reading lists

The ultimate A-Z of books for animal lovers

From bears to zebras, we have the perfect book for you or a friend – whatever your favourite creature. Jump in for some zoological reading inspiration.

Who hasn't wished they could, like Dr Doolittle, talk to the animals? Just imagine it: chattin' with a chimp in chimpanzee. Plenty of authors have, from E.B White to Lewis Caroll and Yann Martell, and the stories they've left behind offer us a flight of fancy into how to communicate with our furry friends. 

While there are undeniably more books about, say, dogs than there are dolphins, a vast expanse of the animal kingdom is represented in books they'll never read. Mercifully, we can – and we've rounded up the best of them for this practically purrfect literary animal alphabet.

A is for Ant

B is for Bear

C is for Caterpillar

D is for Dog

An image from Snoopy

Snoopy by Charles M. Schultz

It was not without controversy that the team ranked the 10 best dogs in fiction, and so in the name of consistency – and to avoid a ruckus – we maintain our position here. Good Boys and Girls appear, of course, in Ulyesses, Anna Karenina and Of Mice and Men, but have any captured the heart like Snoopy? No, no they haven’t.

E is for Elephant

G is for Guinea Pig

H is for Hawk

I is for Insect

J is for Jaguar

K is for Koalas and Kangaroos

L is for Lion

M is for Mouse

N is for Newt

O is for Owl

P is for Pig

Q is for Quail

That Quail, Robert by Margaret A Stanger

Before H is for Hawk, Q was for Quail. In the mid-Sixties, an unlikely book about a bird became a bestseller. Sound familiar? Bobby White, a quail hatchling, emerged in a nest of the Cape Cod home of a retired couple. When their friend, a former children’s nurse Margaret Stanger, quail-sat Robert for three months an unlikely affinity emerged – and one that caught the attention of a nation. That Quail, Robert, fluttered up the New York Times bestseller chart.

R is for Rabbit

S is for Sheep

T is for Tiger

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

A Canadian philosophical novel about a castaway tiger that may or may not exist doesn’t sound like a natural phenomenon, and yet that is exactly what Martel created on the turn of the new millennium. Life of Pi has sold more than 12 million copies across 50 countries, and inspired an Oscar-winning adaptation. At its heart? A bengal tiger so vivid and striped it dominates every cover.

V is for Vole

W is for Worm

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Nematode: it’s a kind of worm, don’t ya know?! We learn of its many benefits to the scientific community in Brandon Taylor’s Booker Prize-nominated college story, Real Life. Love, life and academia entwine as biochemistry student Wallace pleads for good results from his worms in an attempt to make sense of who he is, and what he wants.

X is for Xenarthra

Sparky! By Jenny Offill

Xenarthra is the group name for several animals, among them, sloths - an unlikely source of literary inspiration. Their meandering pace to life has been at the heart of several books, but among the best is Sparky! By Jenny Offill. Perhaps better known for her autofiction, which has accrued a cult-like following of readers, Offill is also the author of a heartwarming picture book about a sloth who makes a rather too sanguine pet.

Y is for Yellow-fin tuna

Z is for Zebra

Z is for Moose by Kelly L Bingham & Paul O. Zelinsky

See what we did there? Bingham and Zelinsky are well-familiar with the animal alphabet: it inspires their brilliant and funny children’s book, Z is for Moose. When Zebra is tasked with getting all the right animals in all the right places, he considers it an easy task. Until, that is, Moose gets involved. You’ll notice we deliberately didn’t invite him to this party.

What did you think of this article? Did we miss a crucial book or body part? Let us know by emailing us at

Images: Mica Murphy / Penguin

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