Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures


A New York Times Bestseller

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2013

ALA RUSA's Notable Books List winner for nonfiction

2013 LA Times Book Prize finalist

A Scientific American Best Summer Science Book


Noted science writer Virginia Morell explores the frontiers of research on animal cognition and emotion, offering a surprising and moving exploration into the hearts and minds of wild and domesticated animals.

Did you know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve? Did you know that some dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead, and moths remember living as caterpillars?

Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals, from ants to elephants to wolves, and from sharp-shooting archerfish to pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs. With 30 years of experience covering the sciences, Morell uses her formidable gifts as a storyteller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to pioneering animal-cognition researchers and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects. She explores how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do. She probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even “lesser animals” have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality, and self-awareness—traits that many in the twentieth century felt were unique to human beings.

By standing behaviorism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond, and she shares her admiration for the men and women who have simultaneously chipped away at what we think makes us distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities come from.


North American publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Foreign rights contact: Crown Publishing Group, Karin Schulze (

Foreign rights sold: U.K. to Old Street; Australian/New Zealand to Schwartz; Croatian to Planetopija; Dutch to Balans; Hebrew to Matar; Japanese to Kodansha; Russian (including Ukraine) to Family Leisure Club; Korean to Chungrim; Turkish to Kitap Kurdu

Film rights: Gillian MacKenzie (



“[A] delightful exploration of how animals think ... Morell makes a fascinating, convincing case that even primitive animals give some thought to their actions.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


“After you read this book, you will be convinced that many different animal species have true thoughts and emotions. You will take a journey to the center of the animal mind.”—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human


“This enthralling book might change the way we perceive other species who share the planet with us ... A compelling read.” —The Bark magazine


“This charming book about animal intelligence ... has a nice arc to its structure—working from generally more basic (although still remarkable) cognitive abilities of creatures like adventurous ants to the complex thinking of chimp—and it is threaded through with philosophical questions that are as thought-provoking as the creatures and experiments she chronicles.” —Smithsonian magazine


“For page after exciting page, [Morell] shows [animals] making decisions, remembering the past, planning the future, and helping others in distress ... She resists the urge to close her fine book with musings on what makes humans special. Bravo. It’s humbler, wiser, and more instructive to stop looking down at animals from an imaginary evolutionary pinnacle and, instead, to try to see them as fellow thinking, feeling beings with minds as worthy of understanding as our own.” —Sy Montgomery, American Scholar


"Moving and entertaining ... She takes a journalist’s approach to the question of animal minds, but shows a deep compassion and empathy for her subjects ... Morell obliterates the lines that might separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom by relating trailblazing discoveries of the emotional and intellectual lives of animals." —Quest, KQED Northern California


“Morell’s Animal Wise is science writing at its best. Here she not only translates scientists’ jargon and data into enviable prose, but transmits her love of the field to her audience. Novice readers will be enthralled to learn about the intelligence of the creatures in this book, and experts will be extremely pleased to see how she makes their work and that of their colleagues accessible to everyone.” —Irene Pepperberg


“From chimpanzees playing computer games to amorous dolphins, Virginia Morell takes us on a lively tour of what we have learned about the emotions and intelligence of animals. By inviting scientists to tell their personal side of the story, she not only brings the animals closer but also the thrill of discovery.” —Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy


“The scientific expertise Virginia Morell provides to this very important subject, and the way she ties this in with the researchers who know their animals—because knowing them is their life work—make this an important book and a great read.” —Bernd Heinrich, author of Life Everlasting


Animal Wise brings the reader into the lab and field to learn firsthand from the scientists that marvel over the minds of other animals. Using the sharp pen of an investigative reporter, Morell exposes the expected brilliance of apes, dolphins, and parrots, but also surprises us with simple discoveries of genius among fishes and ants, and even laughter among rats.  Each page allows you to anticipate, sweat, grieve, and celebrate with dedicated scientists as you discover and experience their worlds, and those within the minds of the astounding animals that they study. Your journey causes reflection; a consideration of how we treat other species and what they think about us.” —John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science, University of Washington and author of Dog Days, Raven Nights and Gifts of the Crow


“Why is it that until very recently, many scientists claimed that animals can’t think? Every pet owner knows better, and Virginia Morell is our champion.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs


“These animals have incredible minds. Now thanks to Morell they have a voice. I love this book. It makes me even prouder to share this Earth with our non-human kin.” —Jennifer S. Holland, author of Unlikely Friendships


“Anyone who reads this book will be changed forever in their view of life on earth.” —Richard E. Leakey, author of The Sixth Extinction