7 books for pet lovers of all ages

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There’s nothing like the bond between pets and humans, which has found its way not only into cute cat videos or dog memes, but also into several works of literature. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — If YouTube, Snapchat, and memes are any indication, the one thing that might just unite humanity once and for all is our love for (mostly) furry creatures. There’s a good chance that a dog or a cat or even a turtle has more followers than you on Instagram, and you won’t even be bothered because they’re so cute.

If we can spend hours watching videos of adorable animals, why can’t we settle down and read a book about them? It may be because romance isn’t the only subgenre of literature that’s gotten a negative rap over time. Pet books are associated with children’s literature or schmaltzy tearjerkers, which can make it hard to take them seriously, but it’s high time we give them a chance. After all, there’s nothing like the bond between pets and humans, and in the hands of a quick-witted writer with the right ideas, there’s absolutely no limit to how interesting a story can get.

In honor of National Pet Month, here are seven pieces of pet-centric literature that are almost as good as cuddling with our four-legged friends.

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“Timoleon Vieta Come Home: A Sentimental Journey” by Dan Rhodes

The debut novel by British author Dan Rhodes is a parody of the classic film “Lassie Come Home.” It revolves around a dog of an unidentifiable breed, named Timoleon Vieta, who must find his way back home to his ramshackle farmhouse after his owner, a retired gay composer, begins dating again and abandons him in Rome. In Rhodes’ signature dry wit and style, the book reads more like a series of brief vignettes detailing Timoleon Vieta’s adventures and the people he meets along the way. Tread carefully, though — the ending has proved to be divisive among readers.

“Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen” by Sam Kalda

Mark Twain once wrote, “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” In this book, artist Sam Kalda, perhaps hoping to gather these friends and comrades, has compiled profiles of 30 influential men — including Ai Weiwei, Nikola Tesla, Sir Isaac Newton, Andy Warhol, Edward Gorey, Freddie Mercury, and Charles Bukowski — whose lives were further enriched thanks to the company of their feline buddies. Featuring gorgeous full-color illustrations and hand-lettered quotes about cats from some of the subjects, “Of Cats and Men” is a wonderful, whimsical look on why cat people become cat people.

“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White

In a barn, a spider named Charlotte becomes a sole friend to Wilbur, a little pig who yearns for company. When they learn that Wilbur is intended for slaughter, Charlotte begins weaving webs that literally spell out praise for him to spare his life. A classic book for children, E.B. White’s story of unconditional love and friendship continues to enchant and affect even the most jaded, grown-up readers. It also, of course, never fails to bring on the waterworks.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon puts a twist or two in your run-of-the-mill whodunit by having the victim be a dog — and the hardboiled detective be Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old who loves animals and has a mild form of autism. Told from the point of view of that young man himself, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a funny and engrossing tale that’s equal parts murder mystery and coming-of-age story as Christopher aims to navigate a world bigger than he’s ever known, going by logic and exploration, in order to find out who killed poor Wellington. 

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“Timbuktu” by Paul Auster

What do you do when the person you love most in the world is practically dying right in front of you? This is the question Paul Auster’s novella sets out to answer. Its protagonist, a dog called Mr. Bones, is the loyal sidekick of one Willy G. Christmas, a homeless man from Brooklyn who fancies himself to be a poet. Believing that he’s nearing his last days, Willy brings Mr. Bones to his hometown of Baltimore to tidy up some loose ends and find him a new home.

“Did He Do It?” by Stefan Zweig

A lot of us know what it’s like to fall in deep, undying love with a pet, and how this fixation can fall into codependence. In Stefan Zweig’s short story, he explored how such strong bonds could have a downside. When a young couple welcomes a new child, their bulldog grows increasingly possessive and jealous. The narrator, a neighbor of the couple, muses through flashback that something sinister may have been afoot following a terrible event in the couple’s lives — a great framing device that only highlights the tragic circumstances.

“Flush” by Virginia Woolf

For some, it may be difficult to imagine Elizabeth Barrett Browning earnestly writing a poem about Flush, her cocker spaniel, and harder still to understand why the Virginia Woolf would write a biography about him, pieced together from Browning’s poetry and letters — and Woolf’s imagination. However, it soon becomes clear that “Flush” is as much about Browning herself, about pet ownership and love for animals, and about society in Victorian England as it is about the life of a beloved dog, with plenty of wisdom and humor to go around.