With the gift exchange season bearing down upon us, I thought it might be appropriate for me (an obvious dog lover) to offer up some suggestions for friends and family who might be similarly intrigued by all things canine. Please keep in mind that, being a writer by trade, I am deleting the most obvious choice (Marley and Me) because although it sold a bazillion copies and was made into a movie with Jennifer Aniston, it really is kind of predictable, with a plotline only slightly deeper than the Sears catalogue. I am also deliberately excluding non-fiction because I think books about training dogs are about as interesting as books about parenting children (and equally ineffective). Plus, I have personal issues with any grown-ass man who refers to himself as “the Dog Whisperer” (really… how obnoxious is that?!?).
With the above exceptions now duly noted, here are my top five choices (in reverse order for dramatic effect):
5. It’s a Dog’s Life Snoopy by Charles Schultz. While some may debate whether a book filled with cartoon strips should really qualify as a “must read” I will respond by stating the obvious… Snoopy is the greatest cartoon dog EVER. Who doesn’t love snoopy!?! You can’t go wrong with this choice. It is guaranteed to make the reader smile and perhaps even openly chuckle a few times, and what could be better than bringing a little laughter into someone’s day?
4. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. Let me start by saying that Anne Tyler books ROCK even when they have nothing to do with dogs. But this one, which centers around a rather eccentric fellow whose corgi turns nippy and who subsequently meets (and falls for) the dog trainer, is super cool. Funny and touching and interesting and well-written, you may want to add a nice bottle of wine to the gift package because this one really deserves to be read in the tub with a glass (or two) of something red or white.
3. My Dog Skip by Willie Morris. I have no idea why this book has been relegated to the dusty shelves of the “Juvenile Fiction” section because there is absolutely nothing juvenile about it. The reader will laugh and cry and remember things about their own childhood. He or she might even be tempted to rent the movie version, which came out a few years ago… but I recommend that only for those who possess a heart of cold, hard stone. I cried so hard in the theatre that I had to remain seated until all of the children (including mine) had left their seats because I didn’t want them to be traumatized by my puffy-eyed, snotty-nosed self, still whimpering after the credits had long since rolled by.
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. This is actually a bit of a stretch in the sense that it isn’t really about a dog, so much as it’s about an autistic boy. But the plot revolves around the boy’s drive to find out who murdered the neighbour’s dog, Wellington, so I think I am safe putting it on my list. It is such a cool, well-written book that everyone, pet lover or not, should give it a go!
1. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. OMG!!! There are no words to describe how magical this book is. The story is told through the eyes of Enzo, the family pooch, who stands witness to all of the trials and tribulations that his man, and his man’s eventual family, go through. There are no dog-eared pages in my copy of this book because it is impossible to stop reading and put it down. As protagonists go, Enzo should be ranked up there with Holden Caulfield (from Catcher in the Rye) and Scout (from To Kill a Mockingbird). This is one of the few books I have read more than once. Note: If the recipient might be reading this by a pool or on a beach, please add a small timer to the gift, to ensure that they do not lie there, enthralled, until their sunscreen has faded away and they are left lobster-red and super-sore all over (although still feeling all warm and fuzzy from such a great day of reading).