Summer Reading: Books about Animals, Fiction, and Nonfiction 2019

My pick of the books to read this summer, from books about animals to the latest fiction and nonfiction from Canada and elsewhere.

Summer Reading 2019: Fiction, nonfiction, and books about animals
Two of the books I've enjoyed reading this summer. The pins are by Lili Chin.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This page contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

It’s beautiful weather here, and time for pottering about in the garden and sitting with a book. These are the books I’ve read or am reading this summer.

You can find them all in my Amazon store:

Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond by Alexandra Horowitz

In Our Dogs, Ourselves, Horowitz takes a fascinating look at the human-dog relationship, ambiguities and all. She’s been listening in on the ways people talk to their dogs and details the fun things that happen in a dog cognition lab. In reflecting on historical changes in breeds, such as the increasingly flat faces of some dogs, she urges dog owners to do better. And the relative risks and benefits of spay/neuter surgery may not be what you think. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, and heart-breaking book. Delightful and hard-hitting in equal measure. This book will be published on 3rd September, and you can read an essay on things people say to their dogs to get a taster or check out my interview with Alexandra Horowitz about the book.

Our Dogs, Ourselves book cover.  Summer Reading 2019

Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love, and Humanity by Mark Goldstein

Goldstein is a brilliant story-teller, and Lions and Tigers and Hamsters is full of stories from his career as a veterinarian. Lions, tigers, hamsters, cats, chimps and many other animals feature, along with the life lessons he learned along the way. Sections titled Ask Dr. Mark look at issues like the overuse of antibiotics, the costs of veterinary care, and whether homeless people should have pets. Full of humanity, this book brought tears to my eyes more than once.  Read my interview with Dr. Mark Goldstein about the book.

Lions and Tigers and Hamsters book cover. Summer Reading 2019

The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

Amira is going home to her grand-mother’s house in Toronto to finish the final project for her Master’s degree, but it turns out the basement has been rented to a barbershop quartet. One of the singers, Duncan, is especially irritating and doesn’t understand her Muslim background, but he’s also strangely handsome with his green eyes and lumberjack shirt. The Chai Factor is a charming romantic comedy.

The Chai Factor book cover. Summer Reading 2019

The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez

When a woman’s long-time friend and mentor dies, his third wife persuades her to look after his Great Dane, Apollo, who is “not a bad dog, in fact he’s a very good dog, but he takes up a lot of space.” She and the dog are both grief-stricken, and as she practically becomes unhinged, a friendship blossoms with the dog. The Friend is a meditation on loss, love, and writing, and Nunez’s prose is spare and conversational.

The Friend book cover. Summer Reading 2019

Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, Search, and the Power of Reunion by Susannah Charleson

When Susannah Charleson drives 9 hours to pull a dog from a shelter before its deadline is up, she realizes that the bedraggled, flea-bitten dog was once much loved. What happens to dogs when they get lost? This beautifully written book, Where the Lost Dogs Go, details Charleson’s work with her dog Ace to reunite people with their missing pets, and the way a rescue pet can help the rescuer. At the back you’ll find essential tips for prevention and what to do if a dog is missing.

Where the Lost Dogs Go book cover. Summer Reading 2019

Woo, the Monkey Who Inspired Emily Carr: A Biography by Grant Hayter-Menzies

Canadian artist Emily Carr bought Woo, a Javanese macaque, from a pet store to live in her home, and ultimately gave her to the Stanley Park Zoo when she was too ill to care for her. Hayter-Menzies tells the story of Woo and how she inspired Carr’s art. As well, he visits Story Brook Farm Primate Sanctuary to find out more about how difficult it is to take proper care of monkeys in captivity. This engrossing book is meticulously researched. The author is donating 40% of his royalties from Woo, the Monkey Who Inspired Emily Carr to Story Brook Farm.

Woo the Monkey who inspired Emily Carr book cover. Summer reading 2019

Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce

This compassionate book takes you through the dog’s senses so that readers can learn what it is like to “walk in their paws.” Bekoff and Pierce encourage us to let dogs be dogs, give them more freedom, and to take account of their noses, eyes, ears, and senses of touch and taste. You can read an extract from Unleashing Your Dog in Bekoff’s Psychology Today blog, Dogs: An exciting journey through their sensory worlds.

Unleashing your dog book cover. Summer reading 2019

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground takes its title from a Mohawk phrase for depression. In this set of essays, Elliott fiercely explores what it means to be mixed race, to grow up both on and off the reservation, and to deal with intergenerational trauma. Along the way she tackles racism and issues of colonialism and reconciliation in Canada. The final essay on abuse has blanks for the reader to fill in, although she provides her own answers for you to mull over. Important, contemporary Indigenous writing.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground book cover. Summer reading 2019

The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family by Lindsay Wong

In The Woo-Woo, Wong’s family in Vancouver doesn’t believe in Western medicine, and her paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and her mother are deeply afraid of ghosts. Meanwhile the neighbourhood is full of grow-ops and bears. Is Wong doomed to be afflicted by the woo-woo too? Wong’s darkly comic memoir is disturbing and riveting.

The Woo Woo book cover. Summer reading 2019

Smart Ass: How a Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature and Rediscover My Own by Margaret Winslow

I’ve just started Smart Ass, in which Winslow, a 50-year-old geology professor, decides to get a donkey. Caleb is a very tall, white, shaggy donkey who takes an instant liking to her, but is, of course, determined to be his own self. This is a story about learning to live with another kind of animal and what it teaches us about ourselves.

Smart Ass book cover. Summer reading 2019

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Having read previous novels by David Nicholls, I was delighted to see he has a new book. His writing is funny and captures all the ups and downs of growing up and falling in love for the first time. In Sweet Sorrow, 16-year-old Charlie signs up to a theatre company in order to spend more time with 15-year-old Fran, who is playing Juliet. Sadly my copy has been delayed in the mail, along with the next book on this list.

Sweet Sorrow book cover. Summer reading 2019

The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas

Having grown up fascinated by his great-grandmother’s stories of life as a Romani gypsy, Damian Le Bas hits the road himself in The Stopping Places and visits the atchin tans, the stopping places where Travellers have stayed for generations, to find out the truth about their history, lore, and way of life. Along the way, he visits horse fairs and Gypsy churches, in search of a sense of belonging for himself.

The Stopping Places book cover. Summer reading 2019

Books from the Book Club

This month, the Animal Book Club is reading What's a Dog For?: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend by John Homans. It’s a very readable account of the relationship between people and their dogs, and as you can tell from the title it covers a lot of ground. Engaging stories about Homans’s own dog, Stella the Labrador, are, of course, included.

What's a Dog For? book cover. Summer reading 2019

In September, the book club will be reading Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond by Alexandra Horowitz (see above). And then in October, another new release, this time Clive Wynne’s Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You, which published 24th September.

Dog is Love book cover. Summer reading 2019

If you would like to join the book club, or the related Animal Books group (for general chit-chat about animal books), ask to join on Facebook and then answer the simple question. Once I see your answer I will add you to the group.

You can find all of the books mentioned here in my Amazon store:

I'll be taking a bit of a break over the next few weeks. "You will find me if you want me in the garden, unless it's pouring down with rain."

What are you reading this summer?

Note: I received an advanced reader edition of Our Dogs, Ourselves, and a complementary copy of Lions and Tigers and Hamsters.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the award-winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. She is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psychology, writes The Pawsitive Post premium newsletter, and also has a column at Psychology Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats. 

Useful links:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate and Marks and Spencer affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Follow me!

Support me