First there was Chick Lit, then came Dog Lit. And I confess, Dog Lit has become my guilty pleasure. I read it all from memoirs about naughty Labradors to novels about Eskimos and their sled dogs.
Like any genre of writing there are good and bad offerings. But judging by the pile of
books taking over my bedside table, I feel qualified to give you a top ten of dog-inspired summer reads. Enjoy.
1.Todo in Tuscany by Louise Badger and Lawrence Kershaw (Hodder Paperbacks): I read this book in one sitting. It's a memoir about a couple escaping the London rat race to move to a villa in Tuscany - and the villa comes with a dog.
Think Driving Over Lemons crossed with Marley and Me. It's a must for music lovers too because the authors work in the classical music biz and describe life with their diva clients.
2.My Life With George by Judith Summers (Penguin): Judith Summer's memoir about her husband's death and how a puppy brings joy to her family is a tearjerker. It's also hilarious and well written.
Buy it in hardback - it's a keeper. The Sequel, The Badness of King George, is equally good.
3. Dogsong by Gary Paulsen (Simon Pulse): This novel is pigeon-holed as a "young adult" read but it's so poetic and haunting that it deserves a place in the top 10.
The novel's central character is a 14-year-old Eskimo boy Russel Susskit who lives with his father on the tundra. Disillusioned with modern life, he follows the advice of an old shaman and heads out onto the ice with a sled and dog team.
The adventure that follows will keep you turning the pages. Gary Paulsen has won numerous awards and written many books about dogs; every one that I've read, both memoir and novels, has been first class. This would be an idea book to read with your children.
4. Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (Little Brown): A fascinating account of the author's time spent in sub-Arctic Canada studying wolves.
Following a small pack, Farley Mowat comes to respect and admire the wolves and learns about the indigenous beliefs surrounding these animals - and he befriends a man who can speak "wolf."
The book is credited with changing public perception of these often-misunderstood animals, although some critics claim it's a heavily fictionalised memoir. Either way, it's still a cracking read.
5. Dogs Never Lie About Love by Jeffry Masson (Vintage): Neither a memoir, nor a novel, but a meander through the history of canines, our relationship with them and the author's musings about his own three pooches. A good book to dip into - perfect if you're on holiday with children.
6. White Fang by Jack London (Penguin Classics): Possibly the first offering of Dog Lit? Published in 1906, Jack London's classic is a must-read especially if you like the great outdoors.
Written from White Fang's viewpoint, who's half wolf and half dog, the novel follows his life from pup to family dog. It's a moral tale about inhumanity, kindness and the special bond between human and animal. A true classic.
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper Collins): I haven't read this New York Times bestseller yet. But, it's on the large pile.
Like White Fang, this novel is written from the dog's viewpoint. Enzo watches television to learn about life and "humanness" and tries to help his owner, a racing driver, with his problems. Expect a film, Universal has already acquired the rights.
8. One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing (Ebury Press): If ever a man deserves the title of "Dog Hero" it's Pen Farthing. The Royal Marine arrived in Helmand Province, in Afghanistan, as part of a mission to help the locals but soon discovered that the dogs, brutally treated by some, also needed his protection.
The bestseller is about how Pen falls for the dogs and even brings one home with him. The dog is Nowzad - the name he gave to his charity, which continues to rescue dogs from Afghan today.
9. Chaser by Dr John W Pilley and Hilary Hinzmann (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Chaser is a Border Collie who knows the words for ball, house and tree. She's also learnt the names of 1,000 toys and can identify each one.
In the book Chaser's human, a retired psychologist, details how he trained such a smart dog, which he says can also understand complex sentences. So next time your pooch acts as if they comprehend your every word, well...
10. Choosing the right dog for you by Gwen Bailey (Hamlyn): A fantastic easy-to-use, and visual, encyclopedia covering 200 different dog breeds. An ideal read if you're thinking about sharing your life with a puppy or rescue.
In fact, this book helped me to decide that a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the perfect breed for my lifestyle and character. My own dog Tilly celebrated her eighth birthday last week. Bless her.
NEXT BLOG: Let my dog eat cake! Monica and Tilly visit a patisserie for dogs.