For many people, summer means grilling and swimming and sunbathing— but for dog lovers who happen to be bibliophiles like me, there’s pretty much nothing as fantastic as kicking back with a great book while your dog lounges beside you (or, let’s be real: on you). Certain to not only entertain but educate you, these are the canine-centric books you need to be reading this summer. Grab a cool drink, sit back with your pooch, and dive into these books (presented in no particular order).
1. Really Important Stuff My Dog Taught Me by Cynthia L. Copeland
Full of beautiful photos of our four-legged best friends and paired with a collection of life lessons and quotes from the likes of Dr. Seuss, Maya Angelou, Steve Jobs, and more, this quick read serves as a reminder that our dogs are our best teachers. Each gorgeous picture is paired with an inspirational sentiment that resonates with the reader’s heart. Copeland reminds us that although we may train our dogs to obey commands or do tricks, if we really observe them, dogs can teach us what is truly important in life and help us become better and happier people.
2. The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned From Pets Who Were Left Behind by Ken Foster
Always a dog lover, it wasn’t until Foster adopted his first dog that he began noticing how many abandoned dogs there were. A memoir that explores his experiences in recovering and sheltering lost animals, this book isn’t about Foster as much as it’s about his dogs and the vital role they played in helping him get through hard times (including 9/11, a heart condition that lands him in the hospital, and the deaths of loved ones). And while he helps rescue several dogs, they return the favor by showing him the benefits of compassion and selflessness. Plainly written and deeply felt, this book weaves together personal anecdotes, educational vignettes, and resources for those interested in rescuing dogs.
3. The Art Of Racing In The Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein
Like Charlotte’s Web, this book is written from the perspective of an animal— in this case, an old dog named Enzo. On the eve of his death, Enzo recounts his life’s story and the story of his family, which includes race car driver Denny, his wife Eve, and his daughter Zoe. When Eve becomes ill, the family struggles and nearly falls apart. Because he’s spent a fair amount of time watching TV with his dad, Enzo knows of the Mongolian legend that a dog who is prepared will be reincarnated in his next life as a human. He then begins honing his plan to be reincarnated as a human. Touching and entertaining, this novel reveals that death does not diminish the bonds of love. Spoiler alert: keep lots of tissues handy.
4. The Divinity of Dogs: True Stories Of Miracles Inspired By Man’s Best Friend by Jennifer Skiff
A lesser book could be dismissed as quasi-religious drivel, but this collection of uplifting stories about people who’ve had other-worldly experiences through their relationships with dogs is intensely heartwarming. Full of incredible, heroic, and unforgettable dogs, these stories reveal the many ways they enable us to encounter divinity. Though many stories will trigger tears, each will bring a smile to your face. With beautiful anecdotes, gorgeous dog photos, and true, poignant stories, this is the kind of book that leaves you feeling the way your dog does when you come home from work: loved and lucky.
5. Little Darling’s Pinups For Pitbulls: A Celebration Of America’s Most Lovable Dogs by Deirdre Franklin
Combining education and eye candy, this book explores the history of one of the country’s most glamorous and grassroots animal advocacy efforts: Pinups for Pit Bulls. Since 2005, the non-profit has been cranking out gorgeous pinup calendars featuring beautiful women alongside their Pibble babies. The intent? To show folks that Pit Bulls are undeserving of their bad reputation, which not only causes them to be targeted by Breed Specific Legislation but also contributes to their routine euthanasia by rescues and shelters. With never-before-seen photos, the best of their calendar images, and essays and testimonials from former pinups and volunteers, this book looks every bit as good as it will make you feel.
6. The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
It’s universal: we’ve all wondered what dogs are thinking and feeling. Written by Brian Hare, the founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and his wife Vanessa Woods, a research scientist at the center, this fascinating tome explores what cognitive science knows about the mysteries of the canine brain. By examining the evolution of dogs, humans, and our relationships, the authors point to the domestication of man’s best friend as evidence of dogs’ unique and complex social intelligence. Super scientific yet fun and highly readable, it will change the way you understand dogs.
7. Dogtology: Live. Bark. Believe. by Jeff Lazarus
Entertaining, enthralling, and thought-provoking, this new book explores “Dogtology,” what the author calls our dog-centric “religion.” Lazarus argues our devotion to our dogs (or Dog, as he refers to them) now mimics some of the greatest religions and theologies of the world. While we may not actually worship dogs as we do deities, our shared zeal and reverence is undeniable. Ultimately, our obsession with dogs is essentially a “bone-a-fide” religion– and Lazarus’ analysis of the tenets, rituals, and trappings of this newly named religion are inventive and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a safe bet that every dog lover will see themselves (or someone they know) in this book.