"Summer" is to "beach reads" as "sit" is to "treats". Come this time of year, we want to curl up in the sandy shade with our pup, some ice-cold lemonade… and a doggone good read. And as pet parents, we don’t want to settle for reading just any best seller. We want books that are all about the dogs. These five picks, which range from humorous to heart tugging, are the second best companion for whiling away a day next to the water (because your dog will always be first!) So pack a collapsible water bowl, load up the car, and download or order one of these pup-approved picks to bring with you to the beach:
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
In 1960, an ailing Steinbeck set out to answer one question: "What are Americans like today?" His vehicle was a pickup truck, his journey cross-country, and his sole companion his beloved French poodle, Charley. The duo made it a full 10,000 miles driving around the US, providing Steinbeck the opportunity to reconnect with the country he depicted so eloquently in his iconic road trip saga, Grapes of Wrath. It also provided Charley with plenty of time for wag-worthy antics. Much of the storyline is said to have been fictionalized, but Steinbeck's appreciation for his canine copilot is undeniable. Consider it a companion to your own dog-friendly road trip this summer.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Mysteries come in different shapes and sizes. But for 15-year-old Christopher Boone – the unlikely star of this 2003 classic novel – what baffles him the most is anything pertaining to human emotion. In fact, Christopher finds it so difficult to understand any of his peers or family members' motives that he relates better to animals than to his fellow humans. When his neighbor's dog is murdered, Christopher sets out on a journey for justice, uncovering surprising truths along the way. Without giving too much away, one might argue that closure and redemption are symbolized in the form of Fido. Let’s just say we've seen justice, and it may or may not be a golden retriever.
My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
Childhood-dog memoirs are something of a cultural staple at this point. But before there were best-selling tearjerkers, there was Thurber. He himself prefaces his short story, The Dog That Bit People, with the disclaimer that "probably no one man should have as many dogs in his life as I have had." So it makes sense that his 1933 autobiography – often considered his best work – would weave his beloved mutt, Muggs, into the tapestry of his childhood home. Throughout this idyllic retelling of turn-of-the-century Midwestern life, Thurber renders Muggsy a standalone character as zany and quintessential as the rest of his (human) family.
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it benefited just about every pet owner who wanted to know more about the inner workings of his pup's mind. In this, her first book, author Horowitz blends brilliant scientific research (she's a dog behavioral scientist; talk about a dream job) with smatterings of down-to-earth anecdotes about her own dog, Pump. This isn't a training manual, or an unapproachable scientific breakdown of dog psychology. Rather, it's a mind-blowing peek into everything you never knew that you should know about your dog. Case in point: Dogs can smell sadness.
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Spoiler alert: The "octopus" in this sweet novel refers not to the sea creature, but rather, to the fatal grips of canine cancer. This inventive analogy is testimony to Rowley's imaginative interpretation of human nature as he dabbles with magical realism throughout the course of the novel, and with powerful results. The premise is grim – the struggling protagonist, Ted, learns his beloved dachshund, Lily, is mortally ill – but the delivery is more tender than tearjerker, and will resonate with anyone ever who's experienced the emotional depth of pet-owner love.
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