Arts & Culture

Our Favorite Dog Books

There’s nothing quite like a good dog story

Besides Old Yeller, perhaps no other dogs in literature have tugged at as many heart strings as Little Ann and Old Dan in Where the Red Fern Grows. Garden & Gun editor in chief David DiBenedetto mentions the classic in his letter in the October/November issue: “What I discovered then was that a book could rip your heart right out, causing you to shed tears, actual sobbing tears, on those yellowed pages.”

Plenty of other canine characters have jumped from the pages into our memories. Here are a bedside-table’s worth of favorite dog books from G&G contributors and editors.

White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London

“The first is about the forced domestication of a wolf-dog, the second about a domesticated dog going wild. In both, the ‘felt life’ of a dog is as palpable and brilliantly rendered as the drawing room life in a Henry James novel. No writer that I know of has gotten so convincingly into a dog’s mind.”

Charles Gaines, contributing editor

Dog Years by Mark Doty

“It’s part of that cluttered field of dogs taught me what matters about life memoirs, but because it is written by the warm and marvelous Mark Doty, the book is never cloying or cutesy, but piercing and real. ‘It isn’t that one wants to live for the sake of a dog, exactly,’ he writes. ‘But that dogs show you why you might want to.’”

Allison Glockcontributing editor

My Dog Skip by Willie Morris

“This is my favorite book about a dog/boy relationship. And just bringing up the movie My Dog Skip gives me a knot in the throat.”

George Singletoncontributor

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“From this first book, Wilder’s autobiographical series about her pioneer family features Jack, a brindle bulldog who was not only Laura’s first friend but a loyal protector—the ideal of a dog to me, when I first read the books as a girl. When rising creek waters (deceivingly) appear to have taken his life in the second book, Laura fights back tears, asking her parents if Jack can go to heaven. ‘Yes, Laura, he can,’ Pa answers. ‘God that doesn’t forget the sparrows won’t leave a good dog like Jack out in the cold.’ Cue the tears.”

Amanda Heckertdeputy editor

Melancholy Bay: An Odyssey by John Rucker

“Long out of print, it’s the first book I ever reviewed, as a cub reporter, and when I put it down I knew: I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write like Rucker wrote. Took about ten years to figure out what that meant.”

T. Edward Nickens, contributor

Afield: American Writers on Bird Dogs edited by Robert DeMott and Dave Smith

“A piece I wrote for this book, and the writing by other writers, helped me get close to what I experienced with my bird dog Ben from the time I was 16 to 26 years old.”

Clyde Edgertoncontributor