Our Symphony with Animals
Aysha Akhtar

Book cover image

Narrated By: Deepti Gupta

Duration: 11 hours and 28 minutes

What to expect

A leader in the fields of animal ethics and neurology, Dr. Aysha Akhtar examines the rich human-animal connection and how interspecies empathy enriches our well-being.

Deftly combining medicine, social history, and personal experience, Our Symphony with Animals is the first book by a physician to show how deeply the well-being of humans and animals are entwined.

Interwoven throughout is Dr. Akhtar’s own story of being a young girl who was bullied in school and sexually abused by her uncle. Feeling abandoned by humanity, it was only when she met Sylvester, a dog who had also been abused, that she found strength for both of them.

Against the backdrop of her inspiring story, Dr. Akhtar asks, what do we gain when we recognize our kinship with animals? She travels around the country to tell the stories of a varied cast of characters―including a former mobster, an industrial chicken farmer, a Marine veteran―and comes face to face with a serial killer.

Through storytelling that is entertaining, profound, and touching, Dr. Akhtar reveals what happens when we both break and forge bonds with animals. She demonstrates how humans are neurologically designed to empathize with animals, and how violence against them goes against our nature. In equal measure, the love and friendship we give to other species biologically reverberates back to us.

Humanity’s compassion for animals is the next step in our species’ moral evolution and a vital component of our own health. Our Symphony with Animals is the definitive account for why our relationships with animals matter.


Wildlife: general interest, Domestic animals and pets

Listen to a sample

“The scientific story of how humans are designed to bond with animals—and the cost, to us and to the rest of animate creation, of breaking that bond.”

Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author

“Takes us from one example to another of animals making our lives better. Being there for us without judgment regardless of the circumstances, animals have an immense healing power that science is only beginning to grasp.”

Frans de Waal, New York Times bestselling author

“Highly recommended for a global audience.”

Psychology Today

“[Akhtar] has the scientific chops to make a strong case for animals as our co-equals, worthy of compassion and respect. That recognition, she implies, will make us better people.”

Washington Independent Review of Books

“This deeply affecting book reveals just how important animals are to human health and happiness.”

Shelf Awareness

“Akhtar’s book draws a sobering but hopeful picture of what has been done and what remains to be done to improve animals’ lives.”

Publishers Weekly

“A heartfelt call for compassion for all living species.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Themes of vulnerability, injustice, redemption, and love are woven into a moving narrative that drew me in and kept me hungrily turning the pages.”

Jonathan Balcombe, author of Second Nature

“In this notable volume, neurologist Akhtar uses personal childhood trauma to launch a thoughtful discussion of the extent of, and limits to, human empathy toward animals…She concludes with suggestions on how to make a difference.”

Publishers Weekly

“[A] important and illuminating work. For all the feel-good tales of animal empathy at its best, Akhtar also offers harrowing examples of extreme and graphic viciousness that will be tough going for sensitive readers.”


"The definitive account for why our relationships with animals matter.”

Vegan Magazine

“Shows interacting with animals can help foster emotional intelligence and human connection.”


“Explores the ways in which human and non-human animals connect…The stories laid out here are rich, sometimes complicated, often painful…[and] affirms that all living beings are searching for safety and comfort. We gain so much from animals and when we can show them empathy, we can gain even more.”


“Beautifully examines the deep personal connections we have with animals and how that influences our world—and our individual selves.”