Need a good read? Need a last-minute gift idea for that book-loving dog person in your life? Well, we’re here to help with old classics you may remember and some newer books that are worth a look.
Children’s and Family Books
These are great family reading books for the little ones—and won’t drive you crazy when you have to read them again!
Walter the Farting Dog, by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, illustrated by Audrey Coleman: Walter the dog suffers from farting, or rectal flatulence, as they say in the medical profession. But every dog has his day, even a farting dog. There are a series of Walter the Farting Dog books, and all are highly entertaining.
The Digging-est Dog, by Al Perkins, illustrated by Eric Gurney: Duke the dog goes from sad to glad when he gets adopted, but he never learned how to dig. Then he gets the knack—a little too well!
Corgiville Fair and The Great Corgiville Kidnapping, by Tasha Tudor: Tasha Tudor had many corgis on her farm and she used them in illustrations in many of her books. These two stories are set in the enchanted town of Corgiville, where the corgis and boggarts play. The artwork is as much fun as the stories.
Newf, by Marie Killilea, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr: The real-life story of Marie Killilea, her daughter Karen and their family is an incredible one, and their lives were touched by several Newfoundlands. This book tells the story of a Newf who rescues a kitten from a snowstorm.
Good Dog, Carl, by Alexandra Day: Carl the Rottweiler does some babysitting. One of numerous Carl books, with beautiful artwork. This book says it all without a single written word. A wonderful tribute to a gentle giant breed that sometimes has an undeserved bad rap.
Once, I Ate a Pie, by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider: A sweet set of poems written from the perspective of over a dozen dogs, all telling you about life from their point of view. Once I Ate a Pie helps kids and adults understand that nobody’s perfect, and everyone is lovable.
Go, Dog. Go!, by P.D. Eastman: Eastman has almost as many classics as Dr. Seuss. This is a great book for beginning readers and for teaching opposites, and it will have you wondering: where are all those dogs going in their cars?
Cowpie Corgi: A Dog’s Tale by Randi Yocum, photographs by Sam Yocum II: Written and photographed by Central Texas authors, this book tell the true story of Scout the corgi, a farm dog who goes to great lengths to avoid a bath.
Flawed Dogs: The Year End Leftovers at the Piddleton “Last Chance” Dog Pound, written and illustrated by Berkely Breathed: This delightful book of poems are written about each dog at the make believe shelter – why they were given up and how they were deemed unlovable. Sweet and funny, it helps kids see the reality of dogs being given away for silly reasons and leaves one with a feeling that there are plenty of unlovables ready and waiting for a caring person to take them home.
The Leanin’ Dog by K.A. Nuzum: This easy chapter book tells the tale of an agoraphobic girl and a claustrophobic dog and how they slowly move one another toward hope. This is a beautiful story in which friendship and the power of being needed trump despair.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt: Appelt’s impressive novel (her first) entails animals in crisis—a topic of enduring popularity. But the author, whose path from picture books to fantasy is discussed in the Story behind the Story, breathes new life into the sentient-animals premise, introducing strong currents of magic realism into a tale as rich and complex as “the gumbo-like waters of the bayous.” Jennifer Mattson
These books are great for older kids to curl up with. We intentionally avoided “tragic doggie death” stories—hence the shortness of the list for this age group.
The Shepherd, The Angel and Walter the C
hristmas Dog, by Dave Berry: The humorist spins a hilarious tale about a family who loses a beloved dog on Christmas Eve—only to have another one show up unexpectedly.
A Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith: It’s been a classic animated movie, a live-action film, even parodied on The Simpsons. This is the book it’s all based on—more in-depth, funnier and more compelling in this original version.
Older Teens and Adults
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot. Herriot (real name: Alf Whyte) wrote a series of books about his life as a country vet in England, with lots of great stories about dogs and their owners. Herriot’s books were adapted into a long-running BBC television series, now out on DVD. This is the first of the series. Great for lovers of all animals.
Dumb Witness, by Agatha Christie: The master of murder mystery spins a tale in which the dog, the “dumb witness,” plays a pivotal role in the murder and its solution. The subplot is also the story of how a dog and his new owner find each other.
Vic & Blood: The Chronicles of A Boy and His Dog, by Harlan Ellison: The writer of the classic Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” spins a tale of Vic, a loner wandering through a post-nuclear apocalypse with only his dog to help him. His super-smart, telepathic dog.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by Dave Wroblewski: It’s gutsy for a debut novelist to offer a modern take on Hamlet set in rural Wisconsin–particularly one in which the young hero, born mute, communicates with people, dogs, and the occasional ghost through his own mix of sign and body language. But David Wroblewski’s extraordinary way with language in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle immerses readers in a living, breathing world that is both fantastic and utterly believable. In selecting for temperament and a special intelligence, Edgar’s grandfather started a line of unusual dogs–the Sawtelles–and his sons carried on his work. But among human families, undesirable traits aren’t so easily predicted, and clashes can erupt with tragic force. Edgar’s tale takes you to the extremes of what humans must endure, and when you’re finally released, you will come back to yourself feeling wiser, and flush with gratitude. And you will have remembered what magnificent alchemy a finely wrought novel can work. —Mari Malcolm
The Art of Racing In the Rain, by Garth Stein: Enzo ultimately teaches Denny and the reader that persistence and joie de vivre will see them through to the checkered flag. Stein…creates a patient, wise, and doggish narrator that is more than just fluff and collar. This should appeal to fans of both dogs and car racing. — Library Journal
A Dog’s Life, by Peter Mayle: Acclaimed author of books such as A Year in Provence Peter Mayle wrote this book detailing the exploits of his dog in the French Provencàl countryside—from the perspective of Boy, his dog. Enjoy Boy’s life story as HE sees it!
Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond of People and Dogs, by Caroline Knapp: This is Knapp’s personal exploration of her relationship with her rescue dog after she lost both her parents and had overcome her 20-year alcoholism. She finds new love with Lucille, her mixed breed dog, and explores the emotional connection between dog and owner.
And these are just the beginning. There are lots of great dog books out there. And for our cat-loving friends, there are the books by writer, critic, and self-described curmudgeon Cleveland Amory about his relationship with his cat, Polar Bear. The first book is The Cat Who Came for Christmas, in which Amory details how he became “cat-owned.” Amory, a well-known animal rights activist, developed a passion for relieving the suffering of abused animals, and his and Polar Bear’s legacy lives on at the Black Beauty Ranch, near Tyler, Texas.
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Our thanks to Jay Robison for all his hard work on this blog post! Stay tuned for more posts from Jay in the coming months!