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Top five books to teach us about animals

Author of The Longest Story, Richard Girling picks the five books you need to read about animals.

Author Richard Girling’s The Longest Story: How Humans Have Loved, Hated and Misunderstood Other Species has been praised for its lucid prose and persuasive argument.

It cycles through the influence of philosophers, theologians, writers, farmers, artists and activists on humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom.

Here, Girling selects his top five books on learning more about animals.

01 Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson

Williamson’s still-unsurpassed classic combines poetic imagination with close observation of a wild animal in its natural environment. To survive, the young otter must cope with threats from other creatures of the wild as well as persecution by humans. The final, climactic encounter between Tarka and the otter-hound Deadlock is an heroic battle of wills and savage instincts.

02 Mama’s Last Hu by Frans de Waal

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The world’s leading primatologist delivers a coup de grace to the notion of human exceptionalism. In holding up a mirror to the chimpanzee, de Waal shows us a clear reflection of our own emotional selves.

03 Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery

The CEO of Compassion in World Farming reveals the true price of intensive modern agriculture. Our food is cheap only if you discount harm to the climate, animal suffering, species loss and pandemic disease.

04 Darwin comes to Town by Menno Schilthuizen

The Dutch biologist Schilthuizen describes how impoverished rural landscapes are driving more and more wild species to seek refuge in towns and cities, where the need to adapt to alien environments is accelerating the speed of evolution far beyond anything imagined by Charles Darwin.

05 Red List of Threatened Species by IUCN

Viewable online, the International Union for Conservation of Nature provides a relentless tally of our species’ impact on other co-inhabitants of the planet. At the current count, 37,400 species are threatened with extinction, including 41 per cent of all amphibians, 26 per cent of mammals and 14 per cent of birds.

The Longest Story: How Humans Have Loved, Hated and Misunderstood Other Species by Richard Girling is out now (Oneworld, £20)

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