Using ultrasonic velocity and anisotropy measurements on a variety of shales with different clay and kerogen content, clay mineralogy, and porosity at a wide range of effective pressure, we find that elastic anisotropy of shales increases substantially with compaction. The effect is attributed to both porosity reduction and smectite- to-illite transformation with diagenesis. A means of kerogen content mapping using velocity versus porosity crossplot for shales is shown. Matrix anisotropy of shales dramatically increases with kerogen reaching the maximum values of about 0.4 at total organic carbon (TOC)= 15–20%. A strong chemical softening effect was found in shales containing even minor amounts of swelling (smectite) clay when saturated with aqueous solution. This effect results in a significant P-wave anisotropy reduction as compared to dry and oil-saturated shales. Since mature black shales are normally oil wet, this effect can only have a local significance restricted to the wellbore wall. Accurate measurements of phase velocities, including velocities at a 45° direction to the bedding plane, allow us to immediately calculate elastic stiffnesses and anisotropic parameters. Intrinsic (high pressure) properties of shales display an ε > δ > 0 relation. Introduction of the bedding-parallel microcracks in overpressured shales results in a δ decrease when fully fluid saturated and a δ increase when partially gas saturated, with a characteristic effect on the shape of the P-wave velocity surface at small angles of incidence. Filtering the contribution of the intrinsic anisotropy of shales, it is possible to estimate the pore fluid phase, microcrack density, and aspect ratio parameters using seismic anisotropy measurements.