Dog Days of Summer: Ten of the Best Books About Man’s Best Friend
Groucho Marx famously once said: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." Wise words, to be sure—but what if you could combine the two?
I’m a dog person. I used to be a cat person, and I do still love my fluffy feline, but when I met my husband he came with a dog, and, well, I’ve gone to the other side. Fortunately for my bookish tendencies, the dog book is a well-established form.
Heck, Lassie was published in 1940, and The Call of the Wild in 1903. Yet it seems there’s been a resurgence of popularity in dog stories. I can’t seem to stop running across them. I usually finish a dog book in a puddle of tears reaching for the tissue and burying my face into my sweet puppy’s fur. A great dog book reminds us why we’re dog people in the first place—and maybe that makes us cry.
Here are my favorites in no particular order. Even though the summer is almost over, they will be a great addition to your future “Dog Days of Summer” reading list.
1. Shep: Our Most Loyal Dog by Sneed B. Collard III and Joanna Yardley: I love this children’s book for its unbelievable true story. I also love it because I’m from Montana (where this story takes place) and because Australian Shepherds are undeniably the world’s greatest dogs.
2. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson: This one’s a classic, and rings true for young and old. It shows how a “rascal” of a dog can find its way into your heart.
3. Marley and Me by John Grogan: I disdain books turned into movies (not all of the time) so I have refused to watch this one on screen. However, reading this book rekindled my affection for dog books, and reminded me of how a dogs command our unconditional love. (I also think of this one every time my dog finds a skunk or something stinky to roll around in.)
4. A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me by Jon Katz: Katz (insert species-related joke here) chronicles his affection for an adopted border collie who steals his heart and teaches him a great deal about himself. A friend told me about this book one day after my husband went to the animal shelter “just to look,” (Yeah, right!) and came home with our own high-strung, homeless border collie whom I now love more than anything in the world.
5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: Perhaps my favorite on the list, and also a classic. Every time I think of it, I remember sitting in my elementary school desk during “free-reading” time and never wanting this story to end.
6. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski: I read this book at exactly the right time in my life. We had just adopted a puppy, and I could relate to the way Edgar trained his family’s special breed of dogs. There’s also just something really special about the relationship between a boy and his dog (see above).
7. Hondo and Fabian by Peter McCarty: This is a sweet, simple picture book for young children. The pictures are lovely, and the story full of whimsy. However, the best dog I ever knew as named Hondo, and for that reason alone, this is one of my favorites!
8. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: This one’s so much more than a dog book. While funny and of course, sad; it’s a philosophical and spiritual gem. We dog people are very aware that our pooches teach us about life, but what if we could actually know what they’re thinking?
9. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron: Who says that cats are the only ones to have “nine lives?” What if a dog just kept coming back and learning from his past lives? I read this one shortly after saying good-bye to our beloved seventeen year-old Aussie, and I couldn’t stop imagining where he had been or where he might be headed.
10. Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck: If I had the opportunity to travel across America and observe the places and spaces that make up this great country, I can’t think of a better companion than one’s dog. Steinbeck’s respect and affection for his sweet standard poodle makes the trip, and read, worthwhile.