The 9 Best Books About Bears — Safety Tips and Species Insights Reviewed

Written by Maxwell Martinson
Updated: May 27, 2024

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Bears are one of the most beloved and feared animals on the planet. They’re massive, powerful, dangerous, and simultaneously adorable and lovable.

What apex predator has a more complicated role? How can you be Yogi Bear and one of the scariest forest-dwellers all at once?

In any case, these things make bears very, very interesting to humans for two reasons. First, we want to know how to handle a situation with a bear should it ever occur.

Experts say that bears don’t want to harm us but will do so in order to protect themselves or their young. So, knowing what to do if you encounter a bear might just save your life.

Second, we’re intrigued by these massive mammals, how they think, where they came from, and their role in the ecosystem. Both things are interesting in their own right!

We’ve compiled some of the best books about bears for you to read, regarding both safety and the cool things we all love about bears.

Let’s take a look.

  1. Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters
    • Provides real-life strategies for avoiding bear encounters
    • Debunks myths about the relationship between bears and humans
    • Teaches you to avoid conflict with bears
    • Written by bear expert Dave Smith
    Check Amazon
  2. What Bears Teach Us
    • Concentrates on the relationship between bears and humans
    • Focuses on black and brown bears
    • Explores the behavior of individual bears
    • Packed with stunning images
    Check Amazon
  3. Touching Spirit Bear (Spirit Bear, 1)
    • Fun fact: The author raised a bear for 27 years!
    • Nautilus Award-winning classic
    • Deals with the effects of violence on a young boy's life
    • Focuses on redemption -- from a bear that attacked him, his abusive parents, and his own actions
    Check Amazon
  4. In the Company of Bears
    • The author has studied and lived with black bears in the wilds of Northern New Hampshire
    • Examines the complex relationships that bears have with each other
    • Contains real-life stories of the author raising orphaned bears
    • The author's dyslexia kept him from obtaining an advanced degree, but now his techniques are used by scientists who study bears throughout the world
    Check Amazon
  5. How to Fight a Bear...and Win
    • Contains 73 survival tips, including how to fight a bear and win
    • Other tips focus on emergency situations that you hope you'll never have to deal with such as:
    • Landing an airplane
    • Identifying what types of insects you can eat
    • How to perform emergency surgery
    Check Amazon
  6. The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone: Their Ecology In The Yellowstone Ecosystem
    • Reviews the history of the grizzly in Yellowstone
    • Drawn from the academic work of John and Frank Craighead, a team of students, and their colleagues
    • Focuses on the battle to protect grizzlies and preserve their place in Yellowstone
    • Provides in-depth analysis of the bears' behaviors, population, habitat, and more
    Check Amazon
  7. Bear Safety Primer (Bears Book 2)
    • This primer was written to keep you safe when you're in bear country
    • Geared to hikers, anglers, and campers
    • Provides details on how to share space with bears and how to deter them from harming you or your provisions and gear
    • Written by a woman who spent over 28 years in remote areas of Alaska studying and living among bears
    Check Amazon
  8. Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the West
    • Provides detailed narratives of individual grizzlies
    • Written to help the reader understand that grizzlies are individuals just like we are
    • Learn how human activity is impacting bears and putting them at risk
    • Written in a style that is both scientific and casual so it's enjoyable and informative
    Check Amazon
  9. Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, 3rd Edition
    • This book centers around a solo backpacker who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness...and didn't make it home
    • It's a cautionary tale, using his partial skeletal remains and the last photos on his camera as guides to what not to do when in bear country
    • What can we learn from the hiker's mistakes?
    • How can we safely enter -- and explore -- their domain?
    Check Amazon

1. Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters by Dave Smith

This is a guide that gives you some in-depth information on handling yourself in bear country. From finding the right campsite to understanding how to act when a bear charges, you’ll find all you need to know in this guide written by bear expert Dave Smith.

One great aspect of Backcountry Bear Basics is the fact that it breaks down commonly held beliefs about bears and bear attacks. You can shake out some of the inaccurate knowledge you have and replace it with tried-and-true methods of avoiding negative bear encounters.

A few reviewers said that the information in this book is biased and outdated.

Pros and Cons of Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters by Dave Smith

ProsCons
This book provides tips from bear expert Dave Smith on how to handle yourself in bear country.A few reviewers said that the information in this book is biased and outdated.
It dispels inaccurate information about bear attacks and tells you what to do instead.
How to Avoid Unpleasant Bear Encounters
Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters
  • Provides real-life strategies for avoiding bear encounters
  • Debunks myths about the relationship between bears and humans
  • Teaches you to avoid conflict with bears
  • Written by bear expert Dave Smith
Check Amazon

2. What Bears Teach Us by Sarah Elmeligi (Author) and John E. Marriott (Photographer)

Laden with beautiful images, What Bears Teach Us details the bear’s relationship with humans and unpacks the way these animals behave as individuals.

Elmeligi has been working with bears for nearly 20 years and received two advanced degrees based on bear research. Marriott is one of Canada’s leading professional wildlife and conservation photographers.

This is an enjoyable read, certain to pique your interest and give you a new depth of knowledge when it comes to black and brown bears. You might find that you think of the bear with a little more respect and admiration after reading What Bears Teach Us.

Pros and Cons of What Bears Teach Us by Sarah Elmeligi (Author) and John E. Marriott (Photographer)

ProsCons
This book details the relationship between humans and bears as well as how bears behave as individuals.None
Elmeligi’s relationship with bears spans nearly 20 years and she earned two advanced degrees based on her bear research. Marriott is one of Canada’s leading wildlife and conservation photographers.
You’ll learn about black and brown bears.
It’s available in hardcover and Kindle formats.
Most Beautiful Images
What Bears Teach Us
  • Concentrates on the relationship between bears and humans
  • Focuses on black and brown bears
  • Explores the behavior of individual bears
  • Packed with stunning images
Check Amazon

3. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen 

Touching Spirit Bear isn’t a factual account of bears, but rather a novel that uses the North American Kermode bear as a central motif.

Kermode bears are often called “Spirit bears,” due to their rarity and the small presence of white bears in the population. Most Kermode bears are black, but a gene variation causes a small percentage of the population to be white.

This award-winning novel by Ben Mikaelsen gives us insights into the bear’s significance as it relates to a young boy’s journey to grapple with trauma, punishment, and redemption.

This book is geared toward kids 11 years old and up. It’s available in Kindle, Audiobook, hardcover, paperback, and mass market paperback formats.

A couple of reviewers said that sections of the book were “brutal.”

Pros and Cons of Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen 

ProsCons
This novel uses the North American Kermode bear as its central motif.A couple of reviewers said that sections of the book were “brutal.”
White Kermode bears, which are a rare mutation, are often referred to as Spirit bears. This award-winning novel provides insights into the bear’s significance as it relates to a young boy’s journey to grapple with trauma, punishment, and redemption.
It’s geared toward kids 11 years old and up.
It’s available in Kindle, Audiobook, hardcover, paperback, and mass market paperback formats.
Best Coming of Age Book
Touching Spirit Bear (Spirit Bear, 1)
  • Fun fact: The author raised a bear for 27 years!
  • Nautilus Award-winning classic
  • Deals with the effects of violence on a young boy's life
  • Focuses on redemption -- from a bear that attacked him, his abusive parents, and his own actions
Check Amazon

4. In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition by Benjamin Kilham (Author) and Temple Grandin (Foreword)

Ben Kilham is a state-sponsored researcher who has interacted with black bears for decades. His research and close interactions with bears have granted him access to knowledge that very few have ever had.

One bear that Kilham has worked with even lets him witness pieces of her everyday life, which is extremely rare. These insights have paved the way for a deeper understanding of the ways that bears interact with one another in the wild.

If you’re looking to understand bears on a unique level, this is the book for you.

This books is available in Kindle, Audiobook, hardcover, and paperback formats.

Some readers were displeased by the author’s opposition to science and the amount of time he spent discussing his learning disability instead of focusing on bears.

Pros and Cons of In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition by Benjamin Kilham (Author) and Temple Grandin (Foreword)

ProsCons
The author, Ben Kilham, is a state-sponsored researcher who has studied and interacted with black bears for decades.Some readers were displeased by the author’s opposition to science and the amount of time he spent discussing his learning disability instead of focusing on bears.
One bear that he has worked with allows him to witness pieces of her day-to-day life, which is very rare.
The book is available in Kindle, Audiobook, hardcover, and paperback formats.
Best Interactions with Bears
In the Company of Bears
  • The author has studied and lived with black bears in the wilds of Northern New Hampshire
  • Examines the complex relationships that bears have with each other
  • Contains real-life stories of the author raising orphaned bears
  • The author's dyslexia kept him from obtaining an advanced degree, but now his techniques are used by scientists who study bears throughout the world
Check Amazon

5. How to Fight a Bear…and Win: And 72 Other Real Survival Tips by Bathroom Readers’ Institute

‘How to Fight a Bear…’ clearly has a silly title, but it’s packed with useful information for anyone looking to spend time in the wilderness.

Naturally, you don’t ever want to fight a bear. The best way to win that fight is to prepare and avoid it at all costs. That said, bear-fighting and extreme survival situations can come up when you’re in the wilderness, so it’s useful to have some tips on what to do when you’re in trouble.

This book is both useful and amusing. It’s a great travel companion for your downtime. Give it a try and prepare yourself for the wilderness.

It’s available in Kindle, hardcover, and paperback formats.

Some readers weren’t pleased with the content, saying that most of it was common knowledge.

Pros and Cons of How to Fight a Bear…and Win: And 72 Other Real Survival Tips by Bathroom Readers’ Institute

ProsCons
This book is filled with useful information for anyone who spends time in the wilderness.Some readers weren’t pleased with the content, saying that most of it was common knowledge.
It includes extreme survival situations such as fighting a bear. You hope that you’ll never need these tips, but in the event that you do, you’ll be prepared.
It’s useful and amusing.
It’s available in Kindle, hardcover, and paperback formats.
Best Survival Guide
How to Fight a Bear...and Win
  • Contains 73 survival tips, including how to fight a bear and win
  • Other tips focus on emergency situations that you hope you'll never have to deal with such as:
  • Landing an airplane
  • Identifying what types of insects you can eat
  • How to perform emergency surgery
Check Amazon

6. The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone: Their Ecology in The Yellowstone Ecosystem by John Craighead, Jay Sumner, John Alexander Mitchell, and Craighead Wildlife-Wildlands Institute

The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone examines the results of a controversial study of the grizzly bear in Yellowstone. The study ran from 1959 to 1992 and was augmented by complementary studies conducted by John Craighead in Montana and Alaska. The findings of these long-term ecological research studies uncovered previously unknown information about grizzlies’ social behavior, reproductive biology, population dynamics, and much more.

Grizzlies are a keystone species in Yellowstone, and the ecosystem of Yellowstone has a large impact on the ecosystems surrounding it, particularly in the western and southwestern United States. That makes these bears extremely important for life in the west.

For those of you looking for a deep dive into the science, nature, and research of grizzlies, this is your book.

It’s only available in hardcover format.

Pros and Cons of The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone: Their Ecology in The Yellowstone Ecosystem by John Craighead, Jay Sumner, John Alexander Mitchell, and Craighead Wildlife-Wildlands Institute

ProsCon
This book examines the results of a controversial study of grizzly bears in Yellowstone as well as two complementary studies conducted by John Craighead in Montana and Alaska.It’s only available in hardcover format.
The findings of these long-term ecological research studies uncovered previously unknown information about grizzlies’ social behavior, reproductive biology, population dynamics, and much more.
Grizzlies are a keystone species in Yellowstone, and the park’s ecosystem has a huge impact on surrounding ecosystems in the west.
If you’re interested in the science, nature, and research of grizzlies, this book is for you.
Most Scholarly
The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone: Their Ecology In The Yellowstone Ecosystem
  • Reviews the history of the grizzly in Yellowstone
  • Drawn from the academic work of John and Frank Craighead, a team of students, and their colleagues
  • Focuses on the battle to protect grizzlies and preserve their place in Yellowstone
  • Provides in-depth analysis of the bears' behaviors, population, habitat, and more
Check Amazon

7. Bear Safety Primer by CJ Hernley 

This is the everyman’s guide to handling yourself in bear country. If you’re not looking to read a lengthy book, or you just want to get straight to the point, take a look at Bear Safety Primer.

The information in this book is essential if you’re a person who hunts, fishes, hikes, or camps in bear country. Bear safety can be straightforward if you know what you’re doing, but lack of bear safety can get you into extremely dangerous situations, even if you’re just out for an afternoon hike.

This 114-page book is available in Kindle and paperback formats.

Pros and Cons of the Bear Safety Primer by CJ Hernley 

ProsCons
This brief, 114-page primer will teach you how to behave in bear country.None
If you hunt, fish, hike or camp in bear country, it’s essential for you to know how to avoid dangerous situations.
It’s available in Kindle and paperback formats.
Best Primer for Co-Existing with Bears
Bear Safety Primer (Bears Book 2)
  • This primer was written to keep you safe when you're in bear country
  • Geared to hikers, anglers, and campers
  • Provides details on how to share space with bears and how to deter them from harming you or your provisions and gear
  • Written by a woman who spent over 28 years in remote areas of Alaska studying and living among bears
Check Amazon

8. Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the West by Julie Argyle 

Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the West is a detailed study on bears told through narratives highlighting particular bear individuals. You’ll get to know some North American grizzlies on an individual level, growing to appreciate their personalities through their interactions with their environments.

This book is told through the lens of photographer and author Julie Argyle, who spent 40 years observing and photographing bears and other wildlife within the Rocky Mountain West. Through these photos, you’ll also start to understand how human activity is affecting bears and putting them at risk. Grizzlies are already endangered, and this critical population needs to be fostered if we want to enjoy the presence of these great creatures for much longer.

This book is both scientific and casual, making it relatively easy to work through. Take a look, and get to know the grizzlies of the west.

It’s available in Kindle and hardcover formats.

Pros and Cons of Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the West by Julie Argyle

ProsCons
This book will allow you to get to know some North American grizzlies on an individual level.None
Photographer and author Julie argyle observed grizzlies and other wildlife in the Rocky Mountain West for over 40 years.
The photos are stunning and and clarify why grizzlies, which are an endangered species, must be protected.
It’s available in Kindle and hardcover formats.
Best Study on Grizzlies
Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the West
  • Provides detailed narratives of individual grizzlies
  • Written to help the reader understand that grizzlies are individuals just like we are
  • Learn how human activity is impacting bears and putting them at risk
  • Written in a style that is both scientific and casual so it's enjoyable and informative
Check Amazon

9. Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, 3rd Edition by Stephen Herrero 

A solo backpacker, Alan Precup hiked deep into the Alaskan wilderness. He was missing for his pre-established pickup at the end of his trip.

Only traces of his skeleton were found at his campsite, accompanied by a camera. Once developed, the last photos on Alan’s camera were of a large grizzly bear approaching his camp.

Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance details this story and continues to give one of the most effective and comprehensive preparatory guides for preventing bear attacks. A healthy study of this book will certainly give you more confidence the next time you enter bear habitat.

It’s available in Kindle and paperback formats.

Pros and Cons of Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, 3rd Edition by Stephen Herrero 

ProsCons
This book details the story of solo backpacker Alan Precup, who was killed by a large grizzly in Alaska.None
The book provides effective and comprehensive methodologies for preventing bear attacks.
It’s available in Kindle and paperback formats.
Best Info for Preventing Bear Attacks
Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, 3rd Edition
  • This book centers around a solo backpacker who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness...and didn't make it home
  • It's a cautionary tale, using his partial skeletal remains and the last photos on his camera as guides to what not to do when in bear country
  • What can we learn from the hiker's mistakes?
  • How can we safely enter -- and explore -- their domain?
Check Amazon

Which is the Right Book for You?

Those of you going out into the wilderness should certainly explore one of the bear attack books listed above. Getting detailed information from an expert is much more effective than piecing together various answers from random websites on Google.

Alternatively, anyone just looking to appreciate bears should explore one of the options on bear intelligence, habitats, and ecosystems.

And if you prefer fiction, check out Touching Spirit Bear, which is geared toward kids 11 years old and up.

Summary of the 9 Best Books About Bears

RankBook TitleAuthorBest For
1.Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant EncountersDave SmithHow to avoid unpleasant bear encounters
2.What Bears Teach UsSarah Elmeligi (Author) and John E. Marriott (Photographer)Most beautiful images
3.Touching Spirit Bear Ben MikaelsenComing of age book
4.In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and IntuitionBenjamin Kilham (Author) and Temple Grandin (Foreword)Interactions with bears
5.How to Fight a Bear…and Win: And 72 Other Real Survival TipsBathroom Readers’ InstituteSurvival guide
6.The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone: Their Ecology in The Yellowstone EcosystemJohn Craighead, Jay Sumner, John Alexander Mitchell, and Craighead Wildlife-Wildlands InstituteMost scholarly
7.Bear Safety PrimerCJ Hernley Primer for co-existing with bears
8.Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the WestJulie ArgyleStudy on grizzlies
9.Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, 3rd EditionStephen HerreroInfo for preventing bear attacks
About the Author

Hi! I'm Max and I'm a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I've been freelancing for more than five years and love the freedom and variety that this profession offers. Animals are also a big part of my life, and a lot of my time is dedicated to playing with my cat, Herbie.

The 9 Best Books About Bears — Safety Tips and Species Insights Reviewed FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the most famous bear?

Winnie-the-Pooh is the most famous bear in the world. Written by A. A. Milne in the early 20th century, Winnie-the-Pooh’s character has spread the world over and touched the hearts of hundreds of millions of people.

What are female bears called?

Female bears are called “sows,” and male bears are called “boars.” Males tend to be much larger, almost doubling females in weight.

How common are bear attacks?

According to the National Park Service, bear attacks are very rare. It’s more likely that a bear will ignore you or run away. In some cases, the bear may bluff charge you.

There are different ways to handle this situation, depending on the type of bear in question.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.