Summer Top 10 Reading List – dogs, dogs and a little mystery


As summer nears, we bloggers here at Patheos have been asked to share our summer reading lists. Let me tell you, when you’re talking about books, you’re talking about my biggest love.

I try to average a book a week every year; sometimes I make it. Sometimes I don’t. But I always have several dozen books next to my bed, either in various stages of reading or in the “to read” pile. And I’m always adding more.

So let me whittle my bedside pile down to a few books I’d love to read this summer, along with a few suggestions for books my animal-loving readers might also like. Some are new, some are old:

1)  “A Dog’s Journey”, by W. Bruce Cameron. This is the sequel to his beloved bestseller, “A Dog’s Purpose”. I confess that I’ve been hesitant about reading this one; “A Dog’s Purpose” had me in tears the entire time (inbetween bouts of laughter), but since losing Scout in January I’m particularly sensitive to dog books and sad dog story endings in particular. But since Cameron is such an excellent author, I’ll definitely be reading this over the summer. I’m stocking up on tissues.

2) “Wallace”, by Jim Gorant. I just recieved my review copy of  Gorant’s book about Wallace the frisbee-champion pit bull. I loved Gorant’s book about the Michael Vick dogs in “The Lost Dogs” and his ability to weave such a feel-good story out of a tragic situation, so I can’t wait to dive into this one. (“Wallace” releases in August, so check back for my review.)

3) A few months ago, I started reading Temple Grandin’s “Animals Make Us Human” but set it aside because I got distracted by … who knows. I have three or four books going at once. But that’s on my list to finish, along with Alexandra Horowitz’s “Inside of a Dog.” I am deeply interested in dog communication and behavior.

4) One of the benefits of doing what I do – in addition to sitting in my pajamas drinking tea most of the day while I write and think about writing – is getting to check out new books (see “Wallace”, above). And I just got an email about a new thriller by Norb Vonnegut called “The Trust.” The pitch? “Norb has combined his wealth management expertise and intuitive,  darkly humorous writing into a fast-talking, suspense thriller that burrows inside the world of big-money philanthropy and reveals how financial criminals hide behind the First Amendment.” Oh yes, that’s right up my alley. The book releases in July, so stay tuned for a review.

6) And in the “mystery of a different form” department, I’ve been deeply involved over the last year or so tracing my family tree. It’s fascinating. (You can read a little about my experience in this post on my personal blog.) I’m not content to just find the names of my ancestors; I want to know who they are, how they lived, what their world was like when they were alive. So in that spirit, you won’t be surprised to learn that in that pile next to my bed there are many history books. And right now, I’m reading “At Home” by Bill Bryson. If you’re at all interested in why average life is the way it is – why our houses are designed the way they are, what life was like before electricity, where appliances came from – then you should definitely check out this book. Bryson has a way of telling a story that not only educates but amuses, even on the most mundane of topics (like candles). And if you’ve never read his “A Walk In The Woods,” about walking the Appalachian Trail, by all means, put it on your reading list, too.

7) While we’re talking about history, I just found out that Erik Larson’s book “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” is now out in paperback. Oh, yay for me! Larson is the master of historical narrative; I first got hooked on “Isaac’s Storm”, the recounting of the 1900 hurricane that nearly wiped Galveston off the map. Larson managed to make a book about weather a thrilling page turner; I’ve loved everything I’ve read so I can’t wait to get a copy of this one.

8) And since we’re talking about my favorite authors, I just found out A.J. Jacobs has a new book, “Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection”. Jacobs is one of the best at the genre I love to write, namely “I do stuff and write about it, you don’t have to do the same stupid things yourself.” Definitely on my summer reading list. (And I have no idea why, at #8, rather than showing a number you may be seeing a smiley face …)

9) I’ve already read this but have to recommend it for animal lovers: Jackson Galaxy’s memoir, “Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean”. Galaxy is the host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell” and is hand’s down the expert on cat behavior. In his book, he shares – very intimately and honestly – how his own addictions, bad choices, and generally screwed up lifestyle led him to his own ability to understand the brokenness in felines and help cat owners help their cats. Happier cats = happier cat owners = fewer cats in shelters. There are tips for cat lovers and owners, but it’s definitely a deeper book about battling our own demons.


10) With the kids off school, it’s the perfect time for the entire family to spend a little time training the family dog. If you can’t make it to a class, get yourself a clicker (available at any pet supply store for under $5) and a copy of Dogtown’s “Relationship Manual For You and Your Dog”. It’s an excellent primer on dog care, behavior, and training, written in super easy to understand language with lots of diagrams. Basic training is first step to solving almost any behavior issue, so head the problems off by engaging your pup in some fun exercises that will also build your relationship.

I’m always reading – not on an e-book reader, but actual books, books with pages I can mark up, books I can read in the bathtub or the backyard, books I read in bed while eating goldfish crackers. So I’d love to know what’s on your reading list this summer!

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