Winter has a lot to offer readers, even if you are not particularly a fan of cold and snow. So many of the things we associate with winter - slowing down, staying in, cozy afternoons spent under blankets — are also things that are associated with reading. It’s been reported that people almost always read more books in January and February than any other month.
Since you're here, I can only imagine that you're one of the many dog lovers who read our blog. It's been a requested topic, and by popular demand I have culminated a specific list just for you of the best books about dogs.
Reading In The Winter Months
As the weather turns colder and the sky darkens, winter (and autumn) can feel like the perfect time for curling up with a good book. (Crackling fire and hot drinks optional!) Reading a book can be a fun and enjoyable way to spend leisure time. Books can take you to new worlds, introduce you to new characters, and provide a way to escape from everyday life.
Even as a child, I already knew two things: books are good, but if you throw in a story about a dog, well, now that’s taking a good thing and making it amazing. What better way to enjoy a good read than to add in a dog? Here are the perfect dog-centered books to warm you up at this time of year.
Great Novels Featuring Man's (and Woman's) Best Friend
1. Dog On It, Spencer Quinn, mystery, first of a series but each book stands on its own
Synopsis: Meet Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog on It, who works alongside Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Chet might have flunked out of police school ("I'd been the best leaper in K-9 class, which had led to all the trouble in a way I couldn't remember exactly, although blood was involved"), but he's a detective through and through.
2. Swimming for Sunlight, Allie Larkin, Fiction
Synopsis: Aspiring costume designer Katie gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog best friend, Barkimedes. While she figures out what to do next, she heads back to Florida to live with her grandmother, Nan.
3. Dogs Year, Mark Doty, Memoir
Synopsis: With the world becoming ever-sadder around him, and a longtime partner losing his battle with AIDS, Doty adopts a new dog to join his pack. This memoir details the lows of human tragedy and the highs of just being alive with a light and poetic touch.
4. Watchers, Dean Koontz, Suspense
Synopsis: Looking for a dark thriller to set your teeth on edge while keeping you turning page after page? Look no further than this suspenseful story by the infamous king of suspense, Dean Koontz. This twisted tale of a cursed young man and his encounter with a peculiar dog in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains is bound to thrill and chill.
5. Because of Winn Dixie, Kate DiCamillo, Middle-Grade Fiction
Synopsis: In this charming tale, a young girl named India Opal Buloni finds a new dog at the local supermarket—that she dubbs Winn-Dixie—whose presence seems to change Opal's summer for the better. Still one of the most well known dog novels to this day.
6. A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron, Novel
Synopsis: This utterly charming novel of "A Dog's Purpose" by W. Bruce Cameron has everything you want in a dog novel: poignancy, humor, insight, and beauty. By living and reliving the many lives of the story’s protagonist, Bailey, the reader is treated to a delightful investigation of man’s bond with dogs and the many roles they play in our lives. Be ready to laugh and get ready to cry when you pick up "A Dog's Purpose". Any book from a dog's perspective is a win for me!
7. Marley & Me, John Grogan, Memoir
Synopsis: Adapted into the 2008 film starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, John Grogan tells the story of an unruly, wild, but lovable Lab who left an indelible mark on his family's lives. Marley grows up to be a mischievous handful. Still, even while he's destroying the furniture and failing dog training obedience school, he always manages to bring out the best in John, Jenny and their growing family.
8. Ancestor Approved, edited by Cynthia Lietich Smith, Short story collection
Synopsis: Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).
9. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein, Novel
Synopsis: In this beautiful and sweeping novel, we get to see the world through the eyes of a philosophical old pooch named Enzo. It's definitely one of the greatest animal stories. This dog’s human is an up-and-coming race car driver. The novel reflects on life, from the saddest moments to the most triumphant, and is almost impossible to put down. By the end, Enzo shows himself as the hero of the story and you’ll be hoping that he really does reincarnate as a human. (Oh, and it’s also been made into a movie you might have heard about.)
10. Birdie & Harlow: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn't Want Kids (…Until I Did), Taylor Wolfe, Self-Help
Synopsis: In this hilarious, uplifting memoir, Wolfe describes her intense bond with Harlow, as she grapples with the chaos of her 20s, marriage, and eventually new motherhood.
11. The Call of the Wild and The White Fang, Jack London, Novels
Synopsis: I couldn’t choose just one of these two classic novels by Jack London, so a two-for-one it is. In “The Call of the Wild,” we follow the harrowing adventures of Buck, a beloved pet taken from his family, shuttled to Alaska, and forced to be a sled dog in a completely foreign and brutal environment.
“White Fang” is almost the opposite story, where a dog-wolf hybrid protagonist, White Fang, is rejected by his first dog pack, forced into dogfighting, and ultimately saved by a patient and loyal friend.
12. The Friend Zone, Abby Jimenez, Fiction
Synopsis: "The Friend Zone" is about Kristen and Josh. Kristen is a young entrepreneur creating fun dog accessories for smaller pets. She and her pooch, Stuntman Mike, live in a little apartment in LA. She meets Josh Copeland - he’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry.
Even her dog adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday and Kristen may not be able to have children. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.
13. Jonathan Unleashed, Meg Rosoff, Novel
Synopsis: This is a great, lighthearted romantic comedy. Add a dog to the mix? I’m hooked. This dog novel follows a young New Yorker named Jonathan Trefoil as he navigates career, friendship, romance, and, you guessed it, dogs. When he starts taking care of his brother’s Border Collie and Cocker Spaniel, his world view starts to shift. This funny, poignant novel is a perfect summertime read
14. The Lost Recipe for Happiness, Barbara O’Neal, Fiction
Synopsis: With her faithful dog, Alvin, and her grandmother's recipes, Elena arrives in Colorado to find a restaurant in as desperate need of a fresh start as she is—and a man whose passionate approach to food and life rivals her own.
15. The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, Jen Ferguson, Young Adult
Synopsis: In this complex and emotionally resonant novel about a Métis girl living on the Canadian prairies, debut author Jen Ferguson serves up a powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.
16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, Novel
Synopsis: When Christopher’s neighbor’s dog dies in mysterious circumstances, he’s on the case. Though he’s known for being somewhat of a misfit, he’s a winning protagonist. Obsessed with prime numbers, Christopher is, er, let’s say a quirky guy who finds dealing with other human beings challenging. His investigation of the neighborhood mystery turns into a thoroughly unpredictable story with a dog at its heart.
17. Biloxi, Mary Miller, Novel
Synopsis: This is a surprisingly funny story about a down-on-his-luck guy, Louis, who just can’t get a break. His wife dumped him, his dad died, and he gave up his job in expectation of a windfall that isn’t materializing. Then he meets a very good dog named Layla. Louis’ bond with Layla changes him, transforming him from a comically unlikable individual to a person with a proverbial second chance.
18. Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus, Fiction
Synopsis: It was obvious from the start that one of the best aspects of the book was one that the show could never nail. Six-Thirty, Elizabeth’s dog, is a big part of what makes the novel so charming. This is no ordinary dog. Six-Thirty—in the book, named for the time of day when he, as a stray dog, follows Elizabeth home; in the show, named for the time he always wakes Elizabeth up—serves as one of the novel’s main points of view.
We learn of his most intimate thoughts and of his history, including an ejection from military canine bomb-sniffing training that led him to wander around unclaimed. This is all delivered in perfect English that, while quirky, admittedly does not feel particularly canine like but is easily explained away in the novel by the assertion that Six-Thirty is an unusually smart dog, as evidenced by his ability to learn almost 1,000 words taught to him by Elizabeth.
The Incredible Journey of Dog Books
Some authors continually include our canine companions, like Barbara O’Neal and Abby Jimenez. Others really get how important our furry friends are to us, such as Jen Ferguson who included an author’s note at the beginning of the dog book, prefacing which animals may be in danger and which are ultimately okay. As someone whose reading experience would be greatly diminished by fear over if the dog is okay in the end, Ferguson made me a lifelong fan by setting me at ease before I was even worried.
Many dog books have dogs as the main characters, some are a true story, while some may even include the dog as a lesson in the story. A lot of the ones mentioned in this list have even been turned into a feature film.
The Best Places to Read Books, Particularly Dog Books
While I can (and do) read just about anywhere, and acknowledge the powerful role books have played in helping make almost-intolerable situations tolerable, I do have certain favorite places I love to read. These are places I seek out when I have a book in hand. And I like to think there's a kind of art to pairing the perfect place to read with a fitting book. Whether you are a dog owner or not, getting lost in a good story or starting from that first page requires an even better setting to do it in.
A Window Seat on a Train or Plane
Trains have given me some of my best reading experiences. There's something about the rhythm of the rails that suspends time and concentrates my mind. I also love to grab the window seat on a plane so I can lean up against the wall with a pillow and a good book, making the flight go by even faster.
A (Quiet) Cafe
Cafes or bars in quiet restaurants, hotel lobbies, or even standing on their own are excellent for reading. Sitting at a bar or on a comfortable couch with a book in hand and something nice to eat and drink, feels like you're the main character of your own book.
A Cozy Chair by a Roaring Fire
I know it's a cliché, but the crackling sound and the warmth are wonderful accompaniments to reading. And the fire acts as a kind of hourglass — you can put on another log and dive into another chapter or read until the fire goes out. It's even better at a hotel or in a lodge when you're not responsible for tending the fire and can just sit back and relax. My dog loves joining me in these moments.
A Park Bench
Parks are always great for reading. I have several parks right by my apartment with plenty of benches. Some of them even facing the water which adds a nice touch.
A Sunny Porch
Any porch with a hammock, daybed, or Adirondack chair is calling my name in the summer. Porches are designed for reading, talking, relaxing. Some of my best reading experiences have been on balconies or porches, especially when I've stocked up on new books to read.
I would like to say this is where I get most of my reading done, but the truth is, my bed is so comfortable that I usually end up falling asleep 10 minutes into opening up my book at night. But from what I have heard, the bed is a great place to read. I think most readers would agree.
The Beach or The Pool
I love bringing books on vacation. I get most of my reading done when I am away from my computer and on a comfortable chaise lounge somewhere basking in the sun.
What's better than the actual physical presence of a cuddly, fuzzy, rambunctious dog? A heartwarming book about a cuddly, fuzzy, rambunctious dog. For all you canine-obsessed humans, we hope you have enjoyed this list of chosen modern classics and literary mainstays, touching memoirs and quirky reflections, each telling a riveting story with a captivating dog at the center.