From the general to the specific, we’re compiling a must-read list for the bear enthusiast and activist.  We’ll be adding many more titles here over the coming months.  For longer 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.

The Last Dance by Alan Knght OBE & Sean Whyte.

Published in October 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.  No bears were bought but all were rescued their lives were traded in exchange for training the Kalandar gypsies in another profession.

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

Finally, on 18 Dec 2009 the reader sees Raju, the last dancing bear, walking up the stony road to the bear sanctuary in the Bannerghatta Biological Park near Bangalore, Southern India.  Alan Knight, Kartick Satyanarayan and Mary Hutton, founder of Free the Bears, are waiting at the gates to welcome him.

Highly recommended.

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.  Highly recommended.

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. She has also felt the hateful stare of one bear that she could not befriend, and she has grieved in the abject horror of captivity for a sun bear in Indonesia. Featuring photographs from Poulsen’s personal collection, Smiling Bears provides an enlightening and moving portrait of bears in all their richness and complexity.(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)




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

Page updated 04 March 2020