Who's a Good Boy? 10 Good Dog Books

August 17, 2018 | Bill V.

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This is my dog Rufus and yes, he's a good boy!

Happy Rufus the dog photo

Dogs bring a lot of joy into the lives of their human ball throwing, treat giving, neck scratching servants. So I thought to myself, why not share some interesting dog reads during the dog days of summer?

John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley

Travels with Charley is a lesser know book by John Steinbeck that outlines his travels in camper throughout the United States circa 1960 with his blue French poodle Charley. It's both a travelogue and social commentary, but it's also a very sweet man dog relationship book. It's an easy, old fashioned read and I liked it a lot, although it wasn't clear then or now if it's a work of fiction or non fiction. Nonetheless there is much honesty in it. You might also like Bill Steigerwald's Dogging Steinbeck where he tracked the trip in the 1990s and analyzed how truthful the original was.  Or, for something more current, you can read Travels with Casey by Benoit Denizet-Lewis about his own four month journey in an RV with his dog. 


My Dog Tulip book by J.R Ackerley

My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley is not an easy read and very likely not to everyone's taste. It deals in a very frank way with defecation and then the author's attempts to get his female dog Queenie impregnated. Ackerley was a "man of letters" in mid century Britain, the literary editor of the BBC's weekly magazine The Listener. I recall reading this book as a young gay man tracking down the writings of the closeted British gay men of the previous century. I think you will either love it or hate it, but either way, you will be in a select group and it makes for very interesting dinner conversation (no need to thank me). There is also a DVD of it starring the irascible Christopher Plummer.  You may also be interested in his more explicitly gay novel We Think the World of You or his semi autobiographical Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journey, describing his time as a private secretary for a minor (and eccentric) Indian maharaja in the 1920s. It's been described as a Firbankian, an allusion to Ronald Firbank, another early 20th century gay writer, who starts his short story Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, with the baptism of a Spanish Infanta's dog (also very amusing and also worth dipping into).


Fifteen dogs  an apologue by Andre Alexis

Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue by André Alexis:

A quirky and prize winning book, set mostly in the minds of sentient (and sometimes talking) dogs. Not for the faint of heart, a dog's life is tough in this novel. Set it Toronto you will very likely recognize both High Park and the Beach areas.  I could really hear the voice of the speaking dog when I read it some time ago. Having my own dog, who is part of my family pack, it resonated with me. My husband on the other hand, could not get into it and didn't finish it.  


Lives of the Monster Dogs book by Kirsten Bakis

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis: "A group of elegant monster dogs in top hats, tails, and bustle skirts become instant celebrities when they come to New York in 2008. Refugees from a town whose residents had been utterly isolated for a hundred years, the dogs retain the nineteenth-century Germanic culture of the humans who created them. They are wealthy and glamorous and seem to lead charmed lives - but they find adjusting to the modern world difficult."

Thurber's Dogs

Thurber's Dogs and The Dog Department: James Thurber on Hounds, Scotties and Talking Poodles: If you have a dog you will recognize the truth in Thurber's stories and especially his illustrations. Whenever I see my dog curl up in a donut shape I always think of Thurber.

What it's like to be a dog  and other adventures in animal neuroscience

What it's Like to be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience: "What is it like to be a dog? A bat? Or a dolphin? To find out, neuroscientist Gregory Berns and his team began with a radical step: they taught dogs to go into an MRI scanner-completely awake. They discovered what makes dogs individuals with varying capacities for self-control, different value systems, and a complex understanding of human speech. And dogs were just the beginning." If you like this one you will also be interested in the same author's How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and his Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain.

Being a Dog Following a Dog into a World of Smell

Being a Dog: Following the Dog's Nose into a World of Smell is a fun book, especially if you are a dog owner like me and have always wondered what is my doggo's experience when we go for a city walk or for a country/park walk. "Alexandra Horowitz, author of the bestseller Inside of a Dog, explores what dogs know in even greater depth, following their lead to learn about the dog's spectacular nose and how we mere humans can improve our underused sense of smell. Here Horowitz, a leading researcher in dog cognition, continues to unpack the mystery of a dog's nose-view, in order to more fully understand our companions. She follows the dog's nose--exploring not only its abilities but the incredible ways it is being put to use."

White Fang  and The Call of the Wild and other stories


As I get older I find myself unable to read very long books and also wanting to re-read (or in some case simply read) classics. It's in the latter category I suggest we all pick up Jack London's The Call of the Wild and White Fang . They both originally started life as adult novels but more recently you will often find them read by older bright children (bookworms or the world unite!) or sullen teens doing a summer English class.  In one the wolf slowly becomes domesticated rather like a dog and in the other the dog slowly becomes wild like a wolf. Possibly of dubious scientific veracity, it is nevertheless a rip roaring read and I promise this winter you will see me on the subway commuting to work engrossed in them both.

Marley & me  life and love with the world's worst dog

I cannot tell a lie, I have not read John Grogan's Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog but it makes pretty much everyone's best dog book lists so I include it here so you can make your own decision. "The story of a family in the making and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life. Is it possible for humans to discover the key to happiness through a bigger-than-life, bad-boy dog?". I am dubious. There are even DVDs. And children's books. Enough said.

Flush a biography by Virginia Woolf

Do you remember reading your first Virginia Woolf novel? I am home writing this blog late at night and looking at my bookshelves and see Mrs Dalloway which I re-read most every few years. What a lovely surprise then to find out about Woolf's doggy biography Flush,  Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog. "In Orlando, Woolf plays with gender, space and time. In Flush, she inhabits a different species. "Flush, in other words, is a Woolf in dog's clothing"


And for something completely different ...

Isle of dogs

Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson. This was a cottage DVD we enjoyed it and I hope you will too.  It's got the Wes Anderson quirky charm, but also has a Japanese anime/manga feeling (but not without some controversy).


Two of my quirky librarian co-workers suggested these two items as well.

Open Me...I'm a Dog

Open Me ... I am a Dog by Art Spiegelman (of early graphic novel Maus fame): "Through the magic of words and pictures leaps a book that's not only playful as a puppy -- it IS a puppy! Honest."


Dogs by Emily Gravett: "Gorgeous pictures of big dogs and small dogs, hairy dogs and bald dogs, stroppy dogs and soppy dogs delight in themselves but the best is kept to the end when the reader finds out exactly who the narrator is."

Rufus the dog semi asleep

This is a more mellow picture of my dog Rufus, he's resting his head between my feet during a winter nap, which during the humid and hot dog days of summer is something difficult to imagine, but I needed some tie in for another photo of him.


Many other TPL librarians have written about dogs so you may also enjoy their blogs:



If you're the type whose voice goes very high when they see a dog, or very low, and who often find themselves going Awwwww then you may also enjoy the Reddit board r/aww .


And for something completely opposite of r/aww I would suggest Francis Alys' El Gringo set in Mexico.