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11 Books All Animal Lovers Should Read

If you were the kid who galloped everywhere she went, or the one who brought home every furry vagrant that came across his path, these books are for you.

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11. Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell


Why You Should Read It: Even if you weren't the horse-crazy girl that everyone avoided for your habit of neighing and snorting in response to questions, Black Beauty is the quintessential animal story. Written in 1877, the novel was not originally meant for children, but was instead a commentary on the often cruel and neglectful treatment of working animals in England. Though there are many moments that would break the heart of even the toughest soul (the name "Ginger" will bring a tear to the eye of anyone who loved this book in their youth), the sweet reminiscences of an animal whose life was dedicated to serving his beloved human beings will remind you how much modern society owes to horses and other "beasts of burden."

10. Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White


Why You Should Read It: E.B. White's most famous book was, of course, Charlotte's Web. While Wilbur was a great guy and all, no one will remind you what's really important in life quite like Louis the trumpeter swan. Even if you're a cynical adult, this book is a wonderful story about friendship, family, and realizing your talents. Louis, who is born mute, learns to play a real trumpet (stolen by his father from a music store) to impress his lady love, the beautiful Serena. The book follows his adventures from the lake where he's born to his jobs as a trumpeter everywhere from Camp Kookooskoos to Boston to the Philadelphia Zoo. Too tough to read a kid's book as an adult? Read it to your kids, who will never hear a trumpet again without thinking of swans.

9. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London


Why You Should Read it: You all knew this book would show up on this list, and some of you are probably wondering why. One of Jack London's most famous works, The Call of the Wild is sad, bleak, and often violent. Still, the story of Buck, a family pet turned sled dog is a cold reminder of the cost at which the Klondike was won. London's stark (but frequently sympathetic) portrayal of early 20th century Canadian and American pioneers of the north is tempered by the experiences of a dog who has no choice but to rely on his human companions, even when they show staggering incompetence. His slow return to his wild roots is deliberately incongruous with the attempts of the people around him to "civilize" the wilds of the northern territories, and readers may even see in themselves the sometimes deep longing to return to primitive instincts.

8. Dog On It, by Spencer Quinn


Why You Should Read It: A recent addition to the list of great animal books, Dog On It is the first in a fun series of mystery novels told from the perspective of private investigator Bernie's dog, Chet. In the same vein as Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, or Rita Mae Brown's Mrs. Murphy series, the Chet & Bernie novels are quirky mystery stories mainly revolving around the personal life of Chet's quiet and generally goodnatured owner. A failed police academy graduate, Chet is often an unreliable partner for Bernie, but his dedication to solving crimes (and snacking) makes for a fun, lighthearted read.

7. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, by T.S. Eliot


Why You Should Read It: If you're a fan of musical theatre, you almost certainly saw this entry and rolled your eyes, but this is a book of poetry that anyone can enjoy (especially cat-lovers). Cat owners know that when you talk about your cat(s) to people who don't have feline friends of their own, they politely indulge you as their eyes glaze over with boredom. But when you talk about your cats with other cat lovers, you can go on for days about their odd little habits and weird (sometimes creepy) behaviors. Reading Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a bit like chatting with your cat friends. T.S. Eliot was, of course, an immensely talented poet who wrote many other beautiful works of art. This book is a far cry from other works like The Hollow Men, but you can still hear Eliot's clever and masterful tone as he talks about Old Deuteronomy and Mr. Mistoffelees.

6. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George


Why You Should Read It: Raise your hand if you spent half of elementary school pretending you were either a) a wolf or b) a girl raised by wolves. No one? Just me? Okay...still, even if you never acted out your fantasy of living in a den with fluffy wolf cubs, Julie of the Wolves will satisfy the secret part of you that sort of wishes you had. In addition to being the story of a girl who is saved from the Alaskan tundra by a kind wolf pack (sorry, I'm just never going to get over it), it's also the story of a girl caught between tradition and modern society, who longs for a place in both worlds but doesn't want to be a part of either. Miyax/Julie is a smart, capable young woman, and you'll find yourself torn between wanting her to return to her own people, and wanting her to stay with the wolves who love her. (Bonus: it's a series!)

5. P.S. Your Cat is Dead, by James Kirkwood, Jr.


Why You Should Read It: Strictly speaking, this is not a book about cats - or really animals at all. But the premise of the book is that a man's only friend (his cat) has died, and it is the final straw as he faces the burglar who's been robbing him regularly. This quirky, often laugh-out-loud funny story has been turned into a play and a movie over the years, but it's best read in its original form, where you can appreciate the new relationship between homeowner Jimmy Zoole and the burglar he ties up in his kitchen. Trust me on this one - the cat doesn't feature much as a character, but if you're a lover of animals and good humor, you're going to like this book.

4. My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara


Why You Should Read It: This is the quintessential horse story, and the more animal-crazy of you may have already read it, but if you haven't: do. My Friend Flicka is a classic for a reason (and no, I'm not going to talk about the atrocity that was the 2006 film). It's the story of a boy's relationship with his father, man's relationship with nature, and what it means to be responsible for a creature that depends on you to survive. Humans domesticated horses, and mustang or no, we have a responsibility to them, a fact which Ken McLaughlin learns after he and his filly, Flicka, face near-certain death together. Don't be embarrassed if you feel a little misty at the end of this book - the rest of us did too.

3. The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden


Why You Should Read It: I know, I know, another kid's book. Trust me, though, I wouldn't put it on here if it weren't important. If you've ever been new to a big city, then you know exactly how Chester the Cricket feels when he accidentally ends up in Times Square after getting pushed onto a commuter train. Mario Bellini, son of newsstand owners, takes Chester in as a pet, and from there Chester impresses everyone he meets...eventually. His impressive musical talent softens the hard exteriors of the New Yorkers bustling by, and soon he is a sensation. This is one of those stories that you can read on a quiet afternoon at home, and you'll feel like a better person for having done so. It's a book about the kindness of strangers and the excitement of traveling - and also about how comforting it is to finally go back home.

2. King of the Wind, by Margeurite Henry


Why You Should Read It: If you like animals, chances are you've read something by Margeurite Henry. She's the author of the bestselling book Misty of Chincoteague as well as dozens of other books about horses for both children and adults. King of the Wind is a semi-historical novel appropriate for all ages about the incredible story of one of the foundation horses of the Thoroughbred breed. Agba, a mute orphan in Morocco, becomes the sole caretaker of a beautiful stallion named Sham when he is gifted to the King of France by the Sultan. Sham is different from other English horses, who are broader and heavier than he, and Agba and Sham face many hardships before they are saved by the Earl of Godolphin, who comes to realize Sham's worth when one of the stallion's colts proves to be a promising racehorse. Agba's loyalty to his equine companion is heartwarming, and Sham's story is truly the ultimate tale of an underdog who came out on top.

1. All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot


Why You Should Read It: There is no one who could be called more of an animal lover than James Herriot. A British veterinary surgeon (and former member of the Royal Air Force), Herriot spent most of his life helping farmers and pet owners in rural English villages care for their pets and livestock. All Creatures Great and Small is actually a collection of stories from short novels that Herriot wrote, detailing the many funny, heartbreaking, and even strange experiences he had as a country veterinarian. He describes everything from birthing calves to the many "cats about town" that he was pleased to be acquainted with, and his genuine love and affection for animals and their people is evident in every word he writes. His children's books are also not to be missed, with many of them describing his own pets and local characters, and even his time in the Royal Air Force. His are the perfect stories to curl up with on a rainy day, with a cat on your lap and a dog at your feet.

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