It’s my great hope that someday humankind will be able to treat all animals with the same love and compassion that we show to our pets.

Almost everyone I’ve ever met has had at least one encounter with an animal that challenged their preconceptions about the kinds of emotions animals are capable of. For me, everything I’ve tried to find in religion I have found in my relationship with animals. That was one of the reasons I was able to write Sipsworth. Though, to be honest, it was really a mouse I rescued in 2020 who wrote the novel—in the same way he wrote me after arriving in my life.

Here are nine of my favorite books that feature animals as characters. The emotion between humans and animals in these titles feels so true that each book serves as a reminder for readers never to mistake a pigeon or a donkey or a mouse for just a pigeon, a donkey, or a mouse.

A Kestrel for a Knave

A boy’s friendship with a bird offers a sanctuary from the harsh conditions of his life in working class northern England

The Heart of the Valley

By Nigel Hinton

A book that Doris Lessing called “truly beautiful” follows, over a year, the lives of small animals’ living in a hedgerow. Its brilliance is in how it doesn’t impose human ideas of what animals know and feel; it simply tells their story with an objectivity that is deeply powerful and full of insight

Horse Crazy

By Sarah Maslin Nir

This book is unique in how it weaves the author’s love of horses into a social history that is interesting, original, and at times moving—especially when the author writes about her father’s experience of surviving the Holocaust.

The Pigeon

By Patrick Suskind

Most people know Suskind as the author of Perfume. But this novella is also strange and powerful. It shows how we project deep-rotted fears onto seemingly random things—like pigeons

The Small Miracle

By Paul Gallico

A struggling orphan, his donkey, and a small Italian town. Could you ask for more?

Spill Simmer Falter Wither

By Sara Baume

This story combines brilliance in language with the compelling narrative of two outsiders—a man and a dog—who understand each other through feeling. This book is destined to become a classic.

Why Look at Animals?

By John Berger

This small book of nonfiction first led me to think about mice in a new way. It’s classic Berger: Kind, full of insight, but intellectually penetrating and memorable.


By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

If you know, you know.


By Dhan Gopal Mukerji

Perhaps the least-known book on this list. I read this to my daughter when she was about ten. It’s the story of the most intelligent, daring, and loyal pigeon that ever lived.

Simon Van Booy is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than a dozen books for adults and children, including Night Came with Many Stars, The Presence of Absence, and, most recently, Sipsworth.