I think books make the best gifts, don’t you? There’s something about a book — e-book, paperbound, coffee table or otherwise — that’s smart, imaginative and personal all at once. Nothing says “you and I have this in common” like a book does.

Enter the underrated genre of animal books. If you’re reading this, I have to assume you’re an animal lover as well as a reader. And since most animal lovers and readers tend to associate with more of the same, it only makes sense that you’d want to share animal stories.

Something for Every Animal Lover on Your List

To that end, and with your holiday list looming large on your conscience, I offer you this, my second annual animal book holiday giving guide. With one exception, it includes books published in 2013 or late 2012.

Underwater Dogs Cover

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel. Even if you’re not an avid reader, you’ll still agree books make the best gifts. That is, after you see this one. I’ve never met a swimming dog pic I didn’t love, but this book raises the bar by offering us underwater views of dogs in all their goofy and exuberant glory.

Conclusion: The. Best. Coffee. Table. Book. Ever! Except for maybe this one…

I Am Maru by mugumogu. Think cats get short shrift in the photo category? Maybe historically. But I Can Has Cheezburger changed all that, didn’t it? And even better than the exploits of a bunch of namelessly irresistible cats is this offshoot of ICHC-style kitty fame: Maru. If you’ve missed him on YouTube, you need to go there right now. No, really. Now.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel by Anton DiSclafani. OK, so I’m not a big fan of the genre, but this book strays way beyond salacious teenage fiction, delving deep into traditional horse devotee territory. That makes it a great pick for anyone you know who esteems the intersection of equine and romance in their reads.

Kitty Jones Kitty Crafts: Beautifully Designed Projects for a Cat-Friendly Home by Jen Curry. I’m a committed crafter, so this book is totally up my alley. Might be just the thing to share with your favorite crafter, too. And along the same lines (though not as recently published) is this who-woulda-thunk-it DIY read:

Crafting With Cat Hair Book

Crafting With Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya and Amy Hirschman. I think you might have to be seriously into cat crafts to enjoy this one. I qualify. Do you?

Unlikely Loves: 43 Heartwarming True Stories From the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer S. Holland. If you’re a fan of Unlikely Friendships, the book that explores the oddball bonds between members of different species, you’ll be happy to hear that Ms. Holland has recently released this one. Just as charming. Just as lovable. Who can resist?

And here’s one my son gave me for my birthday this year:

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal and Matthew Inman. Cheeky. Irreverent. Hilarious. Think South Park or Family Guy for cat lovers. No, the humor is definitely not for everyone. But I’m sure it’ll make the perfect gift for someone you know.

Then there’s always the veterinary book to recommend…

Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat by Marty Becker with Gina Spadafori. In case you’ve missed out until now, Dr. Becker is a Vetstreet contributor, the author of scores of animal books, and happens to reign supreme as the veterinary profession’s de facto father figure. This book, his most recent creation, is a must-read for anyone who thinks they know everything there is to know about their cat. (Because you don’t!) You can read the first chapter of Your Cat: The Owners Manual here.

OK, so those are my holiday gift musts. And here are some more I recommended a year ago. How about you? Do you have any new animal books you’d like to pass along?