January 24, 2014

My Five Favorite Dog Books


cover images from Goodreads

Inspired by the dog book post on My Imperfect Dog yesterday, I thought I would share some of my favorites which have stayed with me over the years. 

The first is a novel, The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, which also has a place in my top ten of all categories.  I have read it twice, and the melancholy magic of its mystery was not diminished even when I knew the outcome.  The book follows a man who tries to piece together the circumstances of his wife's death through attempts to illicit communication with the sole witness: their soulful Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lorelei.  It is a beautiful novel about love and loss and the secrets we all keep, and it's one that I can hardly talk about without a lump in my throat.  

It would be redundant to say that Dog Years is "poetic," since Mark Doty is a prominent contemporary poet.  He resides in a world of metaphor, and for that reason he cuts into the difficult, the unsayable, with a blade of revelation. This is so much more than a dog book. We're given glimpses of a human life that is woven into and around the lifetime two retrievers and a through dreams, vignettes and intimate scenes. It portrays the immediacy that dog love demands, the beauty of it at its most basic and wild.   

Pack of Two was one of the first dog memoirs that I read, and still one of the most affecting. The author, Caroline Knapp, struggled with eating disorders and addiction before getting her German Shepherd, Lucille, and learning how to take care - and be taken care of by - a dog.  It's a beautiful journey of healing and friendship, of both the canine and human variety as Knapp meets kindred spirits at the dog park along the way.  It's the tale of a first dog and the independence and strength they can help us find.  I related so much to this book because I adopted Lasya at a time when nothing was stable or certain, but I felt that with her by my side everything would be okay.  Tragically, Caroline Knapp passed away at an all-too-young age.  Her best friend Gail Caldwell wrote a tribute to their friendship, Let's Take the Long Way Home, and makes mention of their many dog walks together.  

The New Work of Dogs by Jon Katz is an unsentimental look at the very different lives of twelve dogs in a New Jersey city, from service dogs to shelter dogs.  It is a powerful portrayal at the changing role of dogs in society, and suggests that their modern jobs may be more difficult and complicated than we realize.  

I was lucky enough to meet the author of Part Wild, Ceiridwen Terrill, at a book-signing here in Denver.  I really admire Terrill's bravery in telling the story of her wolfdog Inyo and illuminating the heartbreak and danger of trying to contain wild animals in human bonds. She went farther than personal memoir with a great deal of research into the challenges facing wild wolves, the still-debated origin of domestic dogs, and the "genetic tameness" experiments with foxes in Russia. She is also an accomplished writer and describes nature and its creatures in eloquent detail. While Terrill was drawn in by the fairy tale allure of wolfdogs, she is now an advocate for for legislation and enforcement banning the continued sale and breeding of these animals. This is a compelling and important book emphasizing the differences between wolves and dogs.   

What are some of your favorite dog books?  



14 comments:

  1. Great reviews and recommendations! I haven't read some of these, and I thought I'd read every dog book! I also love Dog Years and Pack of Two; so lovely and well-done. Some of my favorites: Bones Would Rain from the Sky (Suzanne Clothier); everything by Patricia McConnell; Inside of a Dog (Alexandra Horowitz). I'm interested in looking up Part Wild!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to re-read the Clothier and 'The Other End of the Leash' - I'm reading 'For the Love of a Dog' right now, McConnell is brilliant. I'll have to borrow 'Inside of a Dog' from my boyfriend! You might especially like 'Pack of Two' since Lucille is a German Shepherd-type (I can't remember if she is purebred).

      Delete
  2. I haven't read one single one of your recommendations! I'm adding all five to my library list. Thanks so much for the suggestions! I totally agree with Inside of a Dog and Patricia McConnell from Abby. I also loved A Dog's Purpose (tissues required) and the book Dean Koontz wrote - the name is totally escaping me right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been meaning to check out the Koontz book - his fiction is not my thing any more (read a few as a teen), but I'll read practically anything dog related. I'm glad to have added some new ones to your list!

      Delete
  3. I can't thank you enough for when you first recommended Dogs of Babel to me. I've read a few times myself and also passed it on to others, hoping they would do the same. It's a book that will sit with me forever, so incredibly moving.

    I really want to read the Mark Doty book as well as Part Wild.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You would really love Part Wild, especially.

      Delete
  4. I appreciate this list, I'm always looking. Books enhance the experience of life so much and your writing on this blog does the same. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Someone above mentioned the Dean Koontz dog book, which would fit in to the capital-A discussion we had - at least on the 'bestselling' level if not the 'literature.'

      Delete
  5. I am not a huge reader, but these sound great. I will most definitely read anything with animals involved!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'The Dogs of Babel' is a really captivating one, the kind of book that sweeps you away as you're reading. I hope you'll check them out!

      Delete
  6. We do have a lot of books in common! The Dogs of Babel is an all-time fave. Isis was still alive when I read it, and it affected me so much. I remember crying and crying into her fur when I finished it. I felt so bad for Lorelei!

    When I came up with my top five, I created a list on GoodReads, so I could remember them. They are: Dogs of Babel, A Dog's Purpose, Last Dog on the Hill, Merle's Door, and Suspect. Suspect is a mystery by Robert Crais. It's his first "dog book," but boy does he get it right with his German shepherd character!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Goodreads - it's one of my favorite places on the internet! I don't normally read mysteries but 'Suspect' sounds intriguing. I haven't read any of the rest of you favorites aside from 'Dogs of Babel' so I'm off to add them to my list!

      Delete
  7. The Art of Racing in the Rain is an excellent dog book :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for visiting The Ginger Sisters at Rubicon Days! We enjoy each and every comment and love getting to know our readers.