From the general to the specific, we’re compiling a must-read list for the bear enthusiast and activist.  We’ll be adding more titles here over the coming months.  For lists detailing titles which cover individual species please see the “Reading List” on our various species and subspecies factsheets

Please note:  We have linked to the appropriate pages on and other sites where you can often “look inside” these books.  UK residents should be able to find most if not all of these books on as well as on other good online bookstores.  We don’t receive commission on sales and encourage you to shop around for the best deals.  Good second hand copies of many of these books are often available on Amazon and on Alibris.  It should be possible to borrow most if not all of these books via your local library.

Are You a Polar Bear? by Andrew Gabriel.

It’s not every day that a bear conservationist gets to review a children’s storybook, and you probably will not be surprised to learn that in Andrew Gabriel’s book you won’t find facts and figures on polar bears and their Arctic environment. Instead what you get is a gentle story, albeit with a few slightly scary moments, as our hero bear cub sets off across the Arctic to find his lost mother.

Beautifully illustrated by Catherine Suvorova, the story will introduce you and the lucky child or children you read it with to a cast of Arctic wildlife none of whom, of course, are the little bear cub’s mother. Not to spoil the ending, everything turns out well in the end so, if read at bedtime, there’s no danger of bad dreams. 

Our Director, David, highly recommends this book.

For more information go to the publisher’s page:

A Sun Bear in Trouble by Martin D Hill.

This is the story of a young sun bear, Uca, from Sumatra and it begins as she is kidnapped by poachers. Sadly this is all too common and is one of the reasons that sun bears, the smallest of the bear species, are vulnerable to extinction. Fortunately, Uca is one of the luckier bears and is rescued by the Sumatran Sun Bear Team (even better, they really exist!).

Helped in no small part by Iole Eulalia Rosa’s colourful illustrations, we learn about Uca’s new life in the Bear Sanctuary and the hope that one day she can be free once more in “a time when all bears, both big and small, might wander free and fearless in their forest worlds.”

 Aimed at 3 to 9 year olds this book is highly recommended.

You can buy the book here.

The Last Dance by Alan Knght OBE & Sean Whyte.

Published in 2019, this book looks at the barbaric practice of dancing bears and how a coalition of animal charities brought it to an end.  Compelling photos show bears being surrendered and the ropes being cut to set them free. The process of negotiation with the Kalandar gypsies is  detailed and how they were persuaded to give up their bears and accept alternative livelihood training. 

The Last Dance takes the reader inside the sanctuaries in Agra, Bhopal and Bannerghatta where the rescued bears now enjoy peaceful, contented retirements. 

Available via this link with all royalties going to International Animal Rescue working to save and care for captive bears.

Smiling Bears by Else Poulsen.  A zookeeper explores the behaviour and emotional life of bears. 

Few people have known bears as intimately as Else Poulsen did. This remarkable book reveals the many insights about bears and their emotional lives that she gained through her years of work with them.

Always approaching each bear with the same two questions in mind — “Who are you?” and “What can I do for you?” — Poulsen has shared in the joy of a polar bear discovering soil under her paws for the first time in 20 years and felt the pride of a cub learning to crack nuts with her molars.

Featuring photographs from Poulsen’s personal collection, Smiling Bears provides an enlightening and moving portrait of bears in all their richness and complexity.  An amazing book by an amazing woman.(Greystone Books, 2009)

Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock.  Arguably the grizzly bears’ greatest advocate, this is the story of how the author returned from military service in Vietnam needing to regroup and found the grizzly.  It is also a powerful argument for the preservation of the grizzly and the wilderness in which it lives.  Recommended.

For nearly twenty years, alone and unarmed, author Doug Peacock traversed the rugged mountains of Montana and Wyoming tracking the magnificent grizzly. His thrilling narrative takes us into the bear’s habitat, where we observe directly this majestic animal’s behavior, from hunting strategies, mating patterns, and denning habits to social hierarchy and methods of communication. As Peacock tracks the bears, his story turns into a thrilling narrative about the breaking down of suspicion between man and beast in the wild.

(St. Martin’s Press, 1996)

Tracking Gobi Grizzlies by Douglas Chadwick.

Published in 2017, this book tells the story of the work being done to save the rare Gobi bear from extinction.  It becomes clear that, as is so often the case, saving an apex predator, in this case the Gobi bear, will ensure the survival of the rare, interconnected ecosystem which it inhabits, together with its rare animals and plants.

Beautifully produced by Patagonia and profusely illustrated with original colour photographs.

Click here for our page about the Gobi bear.


For a range of factsheets and papers about bears take a look at our Downloads page.

Page updated 10 February 2021