There are dozens of books devoted to dogs that shape our childhoods. Old Yeller. Sounder. Where the Red Fern Grows. Dog of Flanders.
Wait…why do most of the dogs in children’s books die? #ScarredForLife.
The discovery of that disturbing trend aside, we decided to ask the Internet (and former English Lit majors on our staff, of which there are quite a few) whether there were as many varied and rich selections of literature on the doge life for adults.
The answer? A nice, long list of books we’re going to download on our Kindles immediately. Or, maybe even actually buy the physical books.
Here, for your above-seventh-grade-reading level pleasure, are 14 Books About Dogs For Adults (and we pawmise, no dog deaths happen in most of them.).
1. E.B. White on Dogs by E.B. White
Many of us first come into contact with E.B. White through his classic children’s books about animals (Stuart Little, anyone?). It’s no surprise then that not only was E.B. White an animal ruver, he was also mad about dogs–his dogs in particular. He often wrote about their misadventures, or commented on current events from their POV in his pieces for the esteemed magazine,The New Yorker. White’s dry, wit and his obvious love for his pooches comes through sharply in this collection of essays edited by none other than his granddaughter, Martha White.
2. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Poetic, moving, with just all-around beautiful writing, Racing tells the story of Enzo, the dog of up-and-coming race car driver Denny Swift. Told from Enzo’s perspective on the eve of his death, the novel poignantly captures the heartbreak and rewards of what it means to be family, from one wise puplosopher.
3. How Dogs Love Us by Gregory Berns
Neuroscientist Gregory Berns is on a quest: to find out if his dogs truly feel love. The answer to this question turns into a scientific research project that not only results in intriguing insights into the canine brain, but also indelibly strengthens the bond between Berns and his adopted dog, Callie. A must-read for not just science geeks (the book is remarkably free of jargon), but all pup parents.
4. Off the Leash: A Year in the Dog Park by Matthew Gilbert
Like you’ve never wanted to write a story about the people you meet in the dog park. Well, Boston Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert did just that with this book. Chronicling the year Gilbert and his first puppy (and first dog ever!) become regulars at a dog park in the Boston area, the stories are hilarious, touching and chock full of “that’s SO right!” moments for anyone who frequents a dog run with their pooch.
5. My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley’s
Some are born dog people. And some become. Such was the case of British BBC writer J.R. Ackerley, the literary editor of the network’s weekly magazine The Listener. When he adopted high-strung German Shepherd Queenie, he quickly became besotted, so much so that he devoted an entire memoir just to her. The book was also recently made into an animated movie, featuring the voices of Vanessa Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini and Christopher Plummer. Both capture the every day little peccadilloes and misadventures that all pup parents face with the typical, dry understatement the British have perfected into an art form.
6. Travels with Casey by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
Both the story of a man and his dog in one RV and a look at why exactly America is dog-crazy, it’s like Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, minus the 60s lingo and with more fur. Also, we’d love to see this made into a film to resurrect the great road-trip movie genre that was started with Thelma and Louise but derailed by Britney Spears in Crossroads. One Yellow Lab and one New York Times Magazine writer can totally bring it back to gold!
7. Thurber’s Dogs by James Thurber
Another of the greats from The New Yorker’s offices, and in fact a contemporary of E.B. White’s (the two often collaborated), this collection of comics and their accompanying witticisms illustrates Thurber’s brilliant humor and his sharp satire on the relationships between men and women.
8. A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
Here’s another puplosophy tale, but this has a reincarnation twist. Bailey’s search for the meaning of life takes him through three lives, all as different doges. Take dashes of insight and spice them with literally laugh at loud funny moments, and A Dog’s Purpose handles with surprising grace the great question we all face: why are we here?
9. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Illustrations by Jules Feiffer
Shut-up, it’s an adult book. It’s an allegory, for pup’s sake. There are PUNS. It’s deep. It’s the kind of book you only truly understand when you’re older. THE DOG IS TIME! Seriously, mutherpuppers. Think about it for a sec, and let your mind be blown.
10. The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare
We’ve all been tricked by a dog once or twice (it’s ok to admit it). Brian Hare’s book gets at the science of just how dogs hornswoggle us, and why we should never underestimate them. The book delves into the social intelligence of pups, and how their long relationship with us hoomans makes their development unique in the animal kingdom. Completely fascinating, it helps to explain exactly why you can’t resist your pooch’s puppy eyes (and how they know you can’t).
11. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
This classic by Jack London was originally written for adults, despite it currently being a staple of high school summer reading lists nationwide. It’s a classic for a reason. Set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, it narrates the adventures of Buck, who slowly goes from domesticated doge to..well…wolf. Sort of. Interestingly, London wrote another, companion book, <em>White Fang</em>, chronicling the opposite process of a wolf being domesticated by a man (he jokingly would refer to it as “Call of the Tame.”). Although probably not scientifically accurate, both of these books are excellent reads for any age.
12. The Lost History of the Canine Race by Mary Elizabeth Thurston
For the history buffs out there, and also just for the canine curious, Thurston’s work chronicles exactly how dogs became man’s best friend. Spanning thousands of years and examining the role of dogs in different civilizations, Lost History shows just how intertwined dogs are in our homes, our lives, and yes, we’re going to say the obvious, our history.
13. My Dog: The Paradox by Matthew Inman
Have you seen this hilarious, on-point comic on the website The Oatmeal about the ironies of pup parent life? You haven’t? GO THERE NOW AND READ.
And then buy the book which compiles these pawesome comics into one delightfully compact volume, and your weekend reading for the next six months will be done.
14. The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins
Not all of these poems are about doges. But the ones that are….oomph. That is the sound of your heart melting while simultaneously breaking, then healing, all within the span of five seconds.
Want proof? Watch this video where the poet himself recites two of them. If you don’t cry and laugh AT THE SAME TIME, clearly you have no soul a dog wants to know.