Editors’ Picks: Summer Beach Reads for Animal Lovers
No trip to the beach is complete without a book to read. And not just any book will do — for Vetstreet’s editors, the perfect summer beach read is light, entertaining, well-written and, above all, about animals.
Here’s what we’re reading this summer, from classics that have stood the test of time to a tearjerker so moving you’ll want to have some tissues in your beach bag.
New and Notable
Travels With Casey, by Benoit Denizet-Lewis
Inspired by John Steinbeck’s famed travelogue,Travels With Charley, New York Times Magazine writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis sets out with his 9-year-old Labrador mix, Casey, on a 13,000-mile cross-county road trip. In Travels With Casey, the pair meets fellow dog lovers, dog rescuers, pet psychics and even Cesar Milan.
As Denizet-Lewis travels — and bonds — with Casey, he explores America’s relationships with dogs and what it means to be man’s best friend. At the beginning of the memoir, he quips: “I don’t think my dog likes me very much.” By the end of their journey — well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Flora 717 is a lowly sanitation worker bee tasked with cleaning up waste and burying the dead. But unlike the other bees in her caste, she can talk, she’s exceedingly brave, and she’s curious about the outside world. Flora’s special abilities could save her hive from a long, cold winter — or bring her to her doom.
Though the idea of a dystopian novel told entirely from the perspective of a bee may be off-putting for some, Flora’s narration never feels forced or contrived. (Thankfully, there is not a single buzz pun.) Believe us, you’ll be rooting for the tiny striped heroine — and for every bee you meet after you finish this book.
Classics Worth Revisiting
Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck
In 1960, with his trusty Poodle, Charley, by his side, author John Steinbeck took to the open road in a camper named after Don Quixote’s old and stubborn horse. His goal was to see — and reconnect with — the “real” America. He recounted his journey in the classic travelogue, Travels With Charley. Though there is some lingering speculation that much of the memoir is embellished, it remains a stirring and emotional tale of a dying man taking one last adventure with his best friend.
Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry
With the Chincoteague Pony Swim beginning on July 30, now is the perfect time to dust off Marguerite Henry’s 1947 children’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague. The story follows Maureen and Paul Beebe, siblings who desperately want to own Phantom, an elusive wild mare who for many years evades capture. When Phantom and her newborn colt are caught and auctioned off at a pony roundup, the Beebes finally get their chance.
Inspiring True Stories
A Three Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas
When Abigail Thomas’ husband is hit by a car, he suffers severe brain damage and must live the rest of his life in an institution. Although Thomas’ spouse is still alive, she is compelled to create a new life for herself that does not include him as she used to know him. She fills the void with a lot of knitting and three dogs who become her new family. A Three Dog Life is a touching memoir about picking yourself up and moving forward with the help of the healing love of pets.
The Eighty-Dollar Champion, by Elizabeth Letts
Snowman was one of the more famous horses of the 20th century, and his life reads like a movie script. A used-up plow horse destined for the slaughterhouse, Snowman was saved from that fate when a young Dutch riding instructor named Harry de Leyer spotted him and liked the look in his eye. De Leyer bought the rangy gray directly off the slaughterhouse trailer for $80. He used the gentle Snowman as a beginner’s lesson horse at the Long Island girls’ school where he taught for a year and then sold him to a local doctor for his son. The horse, however, had other ideas. He kept jumping out of his pasture to return “home” to the trainer who saved his life — and the rest became show jumping history.
The Eighty-Dollar Champion recounts the exploits of the improbable pair as they won some of the nation’s highest show ring honors, all the while being doted upon by the de Leyer children — for whom Snowman was simply a pet.
Just for Fun
The Grumpy Guide to Life, by Grumpy Cat
Reading anything about Grumpy Cat is the worst. And now she has another book? Not impressed. Why would anyone want to read a book penned by the most adorably grouchy cat in the world? And to think she spouts out demotivational advice? Is she even qualified to do that? We are not looking forward to this hilarious book at all.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
You might want to have a tissue (or, really, a box of them) handy while reading The Art of Racing in the Rain: Garth Stein’s novel is a beautifully written meditation on compassion and the bond between humans and their pets. Enzo, the main canine character, is lovable, loyal, enlightened and remarkably articulate, but he still has the soul of a dog. His owner, Denny, is loving and kind. He is flawed — of course, because he’s human — but he’s a character with whom you’ll almost certainly identify. You’d be hard-pressed to find another book that leaves you laughing and crying in such equal measure. For those who have known the pain of losing a beloved pet, this is a surprisingly enjoyable summer read.