A Vet's Top 10 List of Must-Read Animal Tales

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m an obsessive reader. This is probably why I always get asked which animal books are my favorites — and I love to evangelize on the subject. To that end, here are my top 10 favorite animal reads — in no particular order.

Homer’s Odyssey

Someone brought me this little 3-week-old kitten whose eyes were so infected that I had to remove them and hope for the best. The best couldn’t have been any better than Homer, a wonderfully inspirational cat and the eventual subject of this book, written by my good friend, Gwen Cooper. Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword, which highlights Homer’s impressive displays of feline resilience and the parallels to our comparatively lowly human lives.

Speaking for Spot

Vetstreet contributor Dr. Nancy Kay has written a primer for any owner who wants to learn how to become the best advocate for a pet in any health-care setting. Indispensable reading.

Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right

I’ll confess that I have a thing for books that claim to give you a perfect anything in any number of days. Dr. Sophia Yin has written a readable, entertaining, accurate, complete, up-to-date and effective book. It explains how puppies develop physically and behaviorally, while also serving as a nuts-and-bolts training manual for puppies. I love the color pics and the clear instructions on how to make training as simple and as painless as possible. You can even get it as an e-book!

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

Temple Grandin works her inimitable magic yet again with a discussion of what our animals need — this time, it’s more to do with their emotional cravings than their physical requirements. Don't miss reading.

Black Beauty

What can I say? It’s a classic. This book by Anna Sewell is so well written and so pitch perfect — not too saccharine and never cynical. Although it does bring on the tears, it’s still the best example of equine fiction that I can think of.

Eating Animals

This one is a clear winner from an animal-politics standpoint. Jonathan Safran Foer's prose is perfect. It's too bad that I ultimately don't buy the author's arguments in favor of vegetarianism. But I still found it to be a great read, and I feel that anyone who's interested in vegetarianism or veganism and the politics of eating animals should devour it.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

If you’re sick of hearing everyone talk about this Michael Pollan book, don’t you think it’s about time you bought the thing already? Although it’s undeniably a book about food, it’s one that’s already affected animal agriculture so profoundly that I can’t help but consider it more an animal book than anything else. Then again, that’s a foodie vet’s point of view for you.

The Culinary Canine

Perhaps this is another seemingly shameless plug, since I also wrote the forward to this book. This time, it’s all about food –– pet food, to be exact. With recipes supplied by celebrity chefs nationwide, this book by Kathryn Levy Feldman has lots of dishes that can be shared by humans and their dogs.

Complications

Here’s another book that few seem to take me up on. It's not exactly an animal book, but it's very much a book for those who are fascinated by medicine. I recommend it to devotees of vet medicine. Written by Dr. Atul Gawande, it's all about how human docs learn and come to make mistakes –– and how they handle it. Although it appeals mostly to medical providers — human and animal alike — I’d think that anyone with a strong interest in a pet's health care would absolutely eat up this relatively short read.

The Life of Pi

This may be the best not-necessarily-about-animals animal book I've ever read. It starts off at a simmer, but gets going like gangbusters after 50 or so pages. A tiger, hyena, orangutan and a boy in a lifeboat? Who can resist the lure of such fantastical fiction? Yann Martel's ending is especially magical.


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