The 4 Best Delia Owens Books You Should Be Reading

Delia Owens might not be the most prolific author out there currently.

But what she lacks in sheer quantity, her back catalog of work more than makes up for in quality.

The 4 Best Delia Owens Books You Should Be Reading

Her books, usually centered in some way around the natural world, have become incredibly popular over the last few years, covering animal behavior and observations, as well as also including memoirs of her time studying animals across Africa.

With over 40 years of experience in zoological research and animal behavior, Delia is arguably one of the most qualified people to be talking in this field, especially with such a rich personal history to draw from.

If you’re looking to pick up one of Delia Owen’s books, then make sure to check out our list of publications that she has released over the years, in chronological order.

From autobiographical books to fiction novels, there’s plenty to discuss here.
So, let’s get started!

Cry Of The Kalahari (With Mark Owens)

Cry of the Kalahari

We’re starting our list with the first book that Delia Owens released, Cry of the Kalahari, which she first published with her then-husband Mark in 1984.

The book documents the couple’s early time they spent in Africa and across the Kalahari, as well as the decisions that ultimately lead to both of them moving to Africa in the first place.

And let me tell you, it’s certainly a fascinating tale!

Both Mark and Delia had been trying to search for a specific research topic for them to carry out their respective Ph.D. doctorates.

While Delia had decided to specialize in animal behavior, both noted that the areas in that they wanted to study their research were rapidly shrinking.

Many, if not all, of the US’s untapped natural biodiversity, has been destroyed, if not irrevocably damaged, by human habitation and settlement.

This left them with very few options in terms of research locations. However, one corner of the world still had its natural beauty. In the heart of Africa.

So, selling all their belongings to afford the trip, and with nothing but a few changes of clothes, a couple of plane tickets, and a beaten-up Land Rover, the two would eventually set up camp in the Kalahari Desert.

Delia and Mark’s first autobiographical piece would then outline not just the challenges that the two would face, trying to survive out in the dry wilds of Africa, including having very few belongings, little food, and no easy way to get water.

But it also documents the natural wonders that the two saw in their observations, from lions and giraffes to hyenas, rhinos, and elephants.

They had found their untapped corner of the world to carry out their studies, and they couldn’t be happier.

If that sounds as much of a gripping tale to you as it does to me, then you need to check this book out for yourself.


  • An incredible first-hand account of the Owens living out in the Kalahari for over 3 years.
  • With such an emphasis on the study of lions and hyenas, this is a book that is perfect for animal lovers of the natural world out there!
  • This is a gripping account of what it took to survive out in the Kalahari for 3 years, from animal encounters to surviving droughts, and wildfires, and keeping up enough funds to stay.


  • While the couple’s love for wildlife is commendable, many may take issue with their disdain and treatment of local villages and populations as nothing but a threat to wildlife. It’s a view that many conservationists contest to this day.

The Eye Of The Elephant (With Mark Owens)

The Eye Of The Elephant: An Epic Adventure in the African Wilderness

Where better to go in this autobiographical series than the next book and the next step in their lives?

The Eye of the Elephant, first released in 1992 picks up after the two have been expelled from Botswana in the early 80s, their interactions with local villages and cattle farmers causing them to be kicked out of the country.

Leaving their camp home of over 7 years, the couple decides to relocate to Neighboring Zambia, where the proximity to the Kalahari could allow them to continue their research.

However, they soon encounter a problem, one that was seriously plaguing many populations of elephants around this time.

You know that natural beauty that we mentioned in the last entry? The one that attracted the Owens to Africa in the first place?

Well, as we’ll find with the 70s and 80s, that luscious natural world was just as much under threat as everywhere else in the world.

In some cases, even more so.

The booming market for ivory across the world also caused a surge in the number of hunters and poachers killing.

It had reached the point that the overall population of African elephants was cut by more than 700,000 in just 10 years.

As a result, there is much less of a distant gaze with this book and much more active conservation efforts on the part of the Owens to try to help out these majestic animals.


  • The book paints a vivid and heart-wrenching depiction of the ivory trade of the 1970s and 80s, demonstrating how the economic demand for this luxury item was having devastating consequences on elephant populations across Africa.
  • The strain that these efforts put on Mark and Delia is very clear here, in a heart-wrenching way.


  • The fact that Delia & Owen were unprepared to fight poaching efforts is very clear and can be a little frustrating by modern standards.
  • Somewhat appropriately, it reflects much of the conservation efforts of the day: seeing the symptom, but not the cause.
  • Still, the efforts of the Owens to help educate local peoples on protecting elephants are to be commended.

Secrets Of The Savanna (With Mark Owens)

Secrets of the Savanna: Twenty-Three Years in the African Wilderness Unraveling the Mysteries of Elephants and People

The final autobiographical book by the conservation power couple of the late 20th century covers the last few years of their time in Africa.

Now separately documenting the wildlife that they find, this book continues to follow much of the daring exploits that the Owens had to deal with when trying to counter poacher efforts.

However, this book isn’t just a biography of accounts of saving baby animals from poachers, but also contains some truly amazing insights into animal behavior (for more baby books, read here).

Well, with Delia’s Ph.D. being in this field, you can imagine just how insightful those are!
Covering plenty in their conservation efforts, there is a fascinating sense of melancholy to this book too, especially as the Owens are forced to leave Africa finally.

It’s a phenomenal conclusion to a great series!


  • This book goes into plenty of zoological detail on Owen’s observation of animal behavior, and how they resembled human behavior in so many ways.
  • The continued efforts against poaching are gripping.


  • The section covering their return to the USA might feel a little boring to some.

Where The Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing: Reese's Book Club (A Novel)

Finally, we have Delia’s debut novel.

Drawing on her many years of experience dealing with both animals, and people, she infuses her knowledge into this first novel, Where The Crawdads Sing.

Rumors about a ‘marsh girl’ have been circulating in late 1960s North Carolina for years.

So, when a young man turns up dead, the cops are immediately suspicious of this elusive woman.

However, as more details start to come out about the murder, suddenly the marsh girl, isolated from society for almost her whole life, might not be so guilty after all…

Are you fascinated? I sure was! It combines the best aspects of Delia’s writing, from nature’s beauty to even striking terror!


  • An intriguing murder-mystery plot, taking place in the heart of wild North Carolina, including the elusive ‘Marsh Girl’
  • One of the best-selling books of all time!
  • Some truly amazing descriptions of nature are in this book!


  • The dialogue is a little clunky.

About The Author

There may be some readers out there who are interested in learning more about Delia’s background.

For those people, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

Early Childhood

Delia Owen was born in 1949 and spent much of her younger childhood growing up in Southern Georgia.

It was in the woodland areas around her childhood home that her mother encouraged her to explore and learn about the wild animals and plants that they lived close to.

It’s this early love for nature and understanding it that would define her later work, both as an academic and as an author.

Furthermore, it is at the University of Georgia that she would earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology, and would also meet her long-time partner, Mark Owens.

Both would complete their Bachelor’s Degrees in Zoology at the University of Georgia, and Delia would go on to earn a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior, at the University of California, Davis.

Delia & Mark Owens Move To Africa

The two would end up getting married in 1973, and moved to Africa the following year, settling down mostly in and around the Kalahari Desert, to continue studying animals.

They would initially set up camp in Botswana.

However, they were expelled from the country in the early 1990s, before eventually moving to and settling down in Zambia for several years in the 1990s.

Leaving Africa

The Owens would be forced to leave Zambia after they were wanted for questioning involving a murder case, though no charges were being pressed against the family, and Zambian officials have stated that they do not believe Delia or Mark to be guilty of any charges.

Conservation Work In The United States

Delia has continued her zoological studies into animal behavior since she returned to the US, as well as being the Co-founder of the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Protection back in Georgie, in Stone Mountain.

Between giving lectures on animal behavior, she has also become involved with bear conservation efforts across the country.


So, what exactly is Delia Owens up to now?

Well, between writing and publishing her books, Delia has dedicated herself to the conservation of Bears in their natural habitats, as I previously mentioned.

She has since moved back to the United States and currently lives in North Carolina, after having lived in Boundary County in Idaho, close to the Canadian border.

Delia has also had a number of her scientific papers and studies published in many scientific journals, such as the Journal of Mammalogy, Animal Behavior, and even the prestigious science journal Nature.

She’s also published articles in several science magazines over the years, from International Wildlife to Natural History.

Final Notes

So, which Delia Owens book was your favorite?

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Books Has Delia Owens Written?

In terms of her total, Delia Owen has written 4 books over her career. However, in terms of her solo novel work, Delia has published only one, her 2018 hit Where The Crawdads Sing.

Why Was There Controversy Surrounding Where The Crawdads Sing?

People who were keeping track of Where The Crawdads Sing when it was being released may remember there is some controversy surrounding the book upon publication.

This is due to the similarities that people noted between Kya’s murder case and those of Delia’s case in Zambia that we mentioned earlier.

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Noah Burton