Rockaway's Reading: Doggone Good Reads


As I approached the tragic end of Marley and Me by John Grogan, I decided to go to another room so I could weep in private. After about 20 minutes, my husband stuck his head in and asked, “Is he dead yet?”  I replied, near  tears, “No, but he’s VERY SICK.”

A good dog book can be as exciting as a game of fetch, as comforting as a belly rub, as much fun as a day at the dog park, or simply a lesson in unconditional love. You don’t have to be a dog lover to become engrossed in a good dog book, but it doesn’t hurt. Here are some exceptional books that I really enjoyed.

Like Marley and Me, Merle’s Door, Lessons From A Freethinking Dog, is a memoir by nature writer, Ted Kerasote. It is a moving and funny nonfiction book about the author’s remarkable relationship with a stray Labrador mix, whom he meets in the wild while on a kayaking trip. During their 13 years together, Merle gives the author a lesson or two in canine decision-making and independence. Kerasote’s ability to anthropomorphize Merle is what makes the book so endearing. Merle, given his own door, freely roams his hometown, and is even dubbed the “Mayor” by its inhabitants. The author includes scientific information about dog behavior that is enlightening. Merle is the author’s best friend and constant companion as they enjoy the sportsman paradise of rural Wyoming. The book is a heartwarming exploration of a special bond. Kerasote never owned Merle. Merle chose to be with him.

Enzo, the narrator, of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is highly intelligent, philosophical and funny. He also happens to be a yellow Lab mix. Reminiscing as death approaches, Enzo tells the story of love, loss, and redemption that was his life with Denny, an aspiring race car driver. Using racing as a metaphor for life, Stein tells a heart-wrenching and uplifting tale that is totally engrossing.

If an unusual narrator like Enzo is appealing, check out Unsaid by Neil Abramson which is narrated by Helena, a dead veterinarian. Afraid to move on, she is haunted by the life she has left behind: her bereft attorney husband, her beloved but unhealthy animals, and Cindy, a research chimp that Helena has taught to use sign language. It is a remarkable and riveting novel that explores the transformative power of human-animal communication and relationship.

If you think you wouldn’t enjoy a good dog book, you would be barking up the wrong tree. Try one and you will be begging for more.

Notable Mentions: A Dog’s  Purpose and A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron, Children’s Chapter Books: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and, A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin.

Rockaway Readers Recommend:  Claire Honig - The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, Roberta Miller - Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari,  Anne Keenan - A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner and,  Phil and Joyce Levine - House of Spies (and other books in the Gabriel Allon spy series) by Daniel Silva.

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