Celebrated primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall has long loved reading, and credits the books she read as a child with her later fascination for animals, biology and medicine: “Three books of my childhood probably had the greatest impact on my life. The Story of Doctor Dolittle and Tarzan of the Apes inspired me to understand what animals were trying to tell us and instilled within me an equally strong determination to travel to Africa, live with animals, and write books about them. The Miracle of Life was a large book my grandmother got for free by saving up coupons from cereal packets. It was by no means a book intended for children. It contained discussions of animal behaviour, plant biology, the workings of the human body, and the history of some of the great discoveries in biology and medicine. It was illustrated with black and white drawings and photos and helped to satisfy my burning desire to learn about these things.”

In addition to her 55-year study of wild chimpanzees and tireless animal-human conservation work, Dame Jane has gone on to author over thirty books, nearly half of which were written for children. Read on for her personal reading recommendations, and for further insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism, check out her MasterClass on conservation.

The Bible (also rec’d by Carl SaganMartin Luther King Jr.Maya Angelou & Neil deGrasse Tyson)

“I loved the poetry of the prose, and would read many of the passages aloud to myself.” -JG

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

“One of the books that I could just afford to buy was Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes.  I had just enough money to buy it. I read it from cover to cover up my favorite tree in Danny’s garden, Beech. I fell in love with Tarzan and was very jealous when he married the wrong Jane!” -JG

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (also rec’d by Rose McGowan & Ursula K. Le Guin)

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“A very special treasure was Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner illustrated with fantastic engravings by Gustave Doré.” -JG

The Essential Collection by Charles Dickens

One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens

“When I finally set off for Gombe many people felt it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to spend hours reading. A couple of people even suggested I take a good book to read while I was waiting for chimpanzees to arrive in a fruiting tree, or when I was sitting, hoping to see some, on the peak. I was shocked:  how could I be immersed in the world of the wild chimpanzees if I was reading books about another place, another time. But I did have one book with me – I was reading it when I left London. It was Monica Dickens One Pair of Hands. I read it many times when I had malaria!” -JG

The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Complete Poems by Thomas Hardy

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

Etre the Cow by Sean Kenniff

The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

“The first book that really made an impression was The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting.  An English country doctor who lived in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh who was taught how to speak to animals by his parrot, Polynesia. His amazing household ranging from Jip, the dog and Whitey the white mouse to Dab Dab the duck who took over as housekeeper when the Doctor’s sister left in a huff because he would have animals in the house and she found mice nesting in her linen cupboard…Mum got it for me from the library – we could not afford new books. I read it at least twice before it had to go back. In fact I loved it so much that Danny (my grandmother, with whom Mum, my sister Judy and I went to live after war broke out and my father joined up in the army) gave it to me as a great treat for Christmas, 1944.  It was one of the most exciting presents I remember – my very own book!” -JG

The Complete Works by William Shakespeare (also rec’d by Nelson Mandela)

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (also rec’d by Elon MuskTrevor Noah)

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll

The Miracle of Life by Harold Wheeler

Perhaps the volume that influenced me most was called The Miracle of Life. I spent hours poring over the small print of those magical pages. It was not a book written for children, but I was absolutely absorbed as I learned about the diversity of life on earth, the age of the dinosaurs, evolution and Charles Darwin, the early explorers and naturalists — and the amazing variety and adaptations of the animals around the world.” -JG

Books by Jane Goodall (full list)

In The Shadow Of Man (1971)

“I always wanted to write books – and I have written more than 30 books, some with co–authors. The first, In the Shadow of Man, was translated into more than 50 languages when originally published, and was a best seller. I wrote it on a typewriter in the Volkswagen camper that Hugo (my first husband) and I had bought and parked, as my office, when he was photographing wild dogs on the Serengeti.” -JG

My Life With The Chimpanzees (1988)

“In addition to writing for adults, I have loved writing for children. The first of these, My Life with the Chimpanzees, was written at Gombe during a series of rainy days – it was the only book that was first hand written on paper – the words just flowed from my pen and needed but little revision.” -JG

Through A Window (1990)

“Through a Window – the sequel to In the Shadow of Man – was written in Bournemouth, in my little attic room at the top of the house. One thing I remember vividly – I was using a laptop by this time. I had just finished the chapter on mothers and infants – all those so loved chimpanzees such as Flo, Olly, Melissa, Passion and so on.  I was preparing to go and join my family who were sitting on the lawn on a beautiful summer evening. And I pressed the delete button by mistake! And I could not retrieve it. I felt like bursting into tears, or shouting and screaming. But I had spent the last few hours in a very good place. The ideas and words had come together. So I took a deep breath and started the chapter again. I spent two more hours writing really fast. Completed the whole chapter – and I think it was even better than before!” -JG

A Prayer for World Peace (2015)

“A Prayer for Peace, is a revised and illustrated version of the prayer that I wrote some time ago. And I met and was so impressed by the Iranian artist, Feeroozeh Golmohammadi, who illustrated it.” -JG

(via Jane Goodall’s official site: 1, 2)

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