The study of animal communication and cognition has flourished in recent decades, with researchers learning all sorts of astonishing things about the cognitive capabilities of everything from dolphins to elephants to octopuses to primates.
This page is a curated list of some great books about animal communication and cognition! I’ll keep this page up to date with any new books I come across, so you can always refer back to it!
🌟 Starred titles are ones that I personally highly recommend!
Note: The links on this page are Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a small commission from any book you buy through these links (at no additional cost to you).
Animal cognition: Evolution, behavior and cognition (Wynne & Udell, 2020)
An introductory textbook covering all the latest research on animal cognition. Covers all aspects of animal cognition, with Chapters 11 and 12 discussing communication and language specifically.
🌟 Animal languages (Meijer, 2020)
A book all about how animals communicate—from Alex the gray parrot who knew more than 100 words, to Washoe the chimpanzee who learned sign language, to Noc the beluga whale who mimicked human speech.
The animal mind: An introduction to the philosophy of animal cognition (Andrews, 2020)
An introductory text focused on trying to understand just what animals know about the world, and what they know about the mental states of humans and other animals. Chapter 6 looks at communication specifically.
Animal minds: Beyond cognition to consciousness (Griffin, 2001)
Griffin argues that some animals are consciously thinking beings who are self-aware, looking at a variety of evidence from tool use to communication. Chapters 9 and 10 examine communication specifically.
🌟 Baboon metaphysics: The evolution of a social mind (Cheney & Seyfarth, 2008)
Cheney & Seyfarth have spent years designing groundbreaking experiments aimed at understanding just how much baboons know about the world and about each other. This book summarizes decades of research and paints a picture of the mental world of baboons, including how and what they communicate to each other.
Beyond words: What animals think and feel (Safina, 2015)
Weaving decades of field observations with exciting new discoveries about the brain, Carl Safina’s landmark book offers an intimate view of animal behavior to challenge the fixed boundary between humans and nonhuman animals.
Deep thinkers: Inside the minds of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (Mann, 2017)
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are some of the smartest creatures on earth. This book looks at just how much they know, and how they communicate. Each chapter is coauthored with different leading scientists in the field.
How to speak whale: A voyage into the future of animal communication (Mustill, 2022)
What if animals and humans could speak to one another? Tom Mustill—the nature documentarian who went viral when a thirty‑ton humpback whale breached onto his kayak—asks this question in his thrilling investigation into whale science and animal communication, looking at cutting-edge research on how animals communicate.
🌟 Other minds: The octopus, the sea, and the deep origins of consciousness (Godfrey-Smith, 2017)
This is one of the most unexpectedly fascinating popular science books I’ve read. You wouldn’t think that cephalopods like octopuses and cuttlefish would be a particularly interesting topic, but these creatures show some surprisingly advanced cognitive traits. Their nervous systems are so drastically different from ours that they may have an entirely different form of consciousness.
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