7 of the Best Jane Goodall Books Worth Reading

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Dr. Jane Goodall is a famous scientist, primatologist and anthropologist. She is the leading expert on chimpanzees, as her 60-year career involves studying these wild animals’ social behavior and family interactions.

Although she dedicates her time to creating awareness about chimpanzees and pushing for the protection and conservation of the species, Dr. Goodall is also an author of numerous books for children and adults. If you’re interested in reading more about her experiences, consider reading some of the best Jane Goodall books below.

The Importance of Jane Goodall’s Work

In 1960, Dr. Goodall, who lacked official academic training, ventured to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania to observe the Kasakela chimpanzee community. During her observations, she discovered groundbreaking evidence about chimpanzees that challenged many scientific theories at the time.

For example, Dr. Goodall found that chimpanzees are omnivores, not herbivores. She discovered that chimpanzees have complex social interactions with each other and they also create and use various tools in the environment, such as those to help them harvest termites.

Dr. Goodall tracked humanlike behaviors of chimpanzees, such as armed conflict. In the 1970s, the Kasakela chimpanzee tribe used the Tanzanian park’s woodlands, valleys and rainforests as a battleground for war after its leader died. This conflict is now considered the first-ever documented chimpanzee war, essentially changing how we think about humans in the natural order.

Although Dr. Goodall stopped fieldwork in 1986, she is still active in the wildlife conservation community. Chimpanzees and other animal species, such as orangutans, gorillas and pandas, live in environments where illegal logging and unsustainable forestry practices occur. These human activities lead to rapid deforestation, endangering these animal populations and reducing birth rates, ultimately threatening their extinction.

7 of the Best Jane Goodall Books to Check Out

Dr. Goodall experienced wildlife in a way many of us never have, so it’s interesting to hear her firsthand account. She recounts memories of her time spent in Tanzania and describes her scientific observations of chimpanzees, our closest relatives. 

Luckily, a full list of Jane Goodall’s books is available on the Jane Goodall Institute wiki website. Below are seven of the best Jane Goodall books to read if you’re interested in learning more about this legendary scientist’s career.

1. My Life with the Chimpanzees

When Jane Goodall was a child, she was gifted a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee, which sparked a lifelong love of animals. She turned this love into a career and decided to visit Tanzania at only 26 years old. 

Dr. Goodall’s book, My Life with the Chimpanzees, is a fascinating biography of the world’s renowned naturalist. It includes details about the dangers she encountered in the wild but also describes how chimpanzee communities bear a surprising resemblance to humans.

2. Jane Goodall’s Animal World: Chimps

The answers to some of the main questions about chimpanzees are outlined in Jane Goodall’s Animal World: Chimps. Dr. Goodall describes the characteristics of chimps, how they live their daily lives, what they eat, how they care for their young and other interesting facts. 

Goodall’s book is useful for children because it helps them understand chimpanzees and the animal world. She also covers chimps’ behavior, habitat, reproduction and lifecycle to increase the reader’s knowledge of the amazing species.

3. In the Shadow of a Man

One of Jane Goodall’s most well-known books is In the Shadow of a Man, which provides detailed insight into her time spent in the Gombe Stream National Park between 1960-1970. The book combines Goodall’s scientific research of chimpanzees, such as the psychology of the animals, their social hierarchies and the revolutionary discovery of tool-making and use among chimps. 

Goodall’s personality shines through the book and she even includes some humor. Consider reading In the Shadow of a Man to learn more about her and her life’s work.

4. Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe

Dr. Goodall’s Through a Window is often referred to as a follow-up to her book, In the Shadow of a Man. The book discusses the various types of relationships chimpanzees form. It’s considered an important contribution to the scientific community.

For example, Goodall explains how mother and child chimps bond and the changes that occur when young male chimps mature. Male chimps take on more responsibilities as they age, such as food foraging and patrolling their habitats.

5. Reason for Hope

Reason for Hope is an insightful memoir from Dr. Goodall, where she reflects on her career and even describes her personal, spiritual journey. She discusses her time in the wild and imparts some of the knowledge she brought back that changed her life. Unlike some of her other books, GGoodall’sReason for Hope is a more honest, intimate novel rather than a scientific one. 

Some emotional, inspirational stories from Goodall are included in the book. For example, she explains what it was like to discover cannibalism in chimp communities and how she coped with the death of her husband after a long battle with cancer. One theme in this book is GGoodall’sperseverance through even the darkest of times.

6. Pangolina

One of Jane Goodall’s more lighthearted books is Pangolina, released in 2021. It’s a heartwarming children’s fiction novel about pangolin, an endangered species suffering from illegal trafficking and wildlife trading.

The main character is Pangolina, an animal written in the first person. Pangolina has a voice, which teaches children to value animals because they have feelings, just like humans. Goodall also includes some solutions to trading and trafficking, helping children to understand the importance of wildlife conservation and empathy toward all animal species. 

7. The Book of Hope

Last but not least on the list of top Jane Goodall books is The Book of Hope. In this novel, Goodall and her co-author, Doughty Abrams, discuss her thoughts about the future. It’s no secret that many people experience feelings of hopelessness during dark times, especially as the climate crisis looms and sustainability and conservation are important issues. 

However, the book is filled with Goodall’s optimistic perspectives and includes what readers can do to exist in a more sustainable world. Goodall touches on the COVID-19 pandemic — she describes that the global health crisis should not distract us from climate and biodiversity challenges but instead serve as a call to action to implement change.

Explore Dr. Jane Goodall’s Life Through Her Books

Dr. Jane Goodall is a legendary humanitarian, conservationist and scientist who altered the scientific community for the better. If you care deeply about the environment, consider reading one or more of Dr. Jane Goodall’sbooks. Her unique perspective on animals, particularly chimps, often includes life lessons that will stick with you. 

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About the author

Steve Russell

Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.