10 of the best books where a dog is a main focus or a main character


Animal lovers are always looking for a great story involving animals. Those of us that adopt pets see them as main characters in our daily lives, and really that’s as it should be. So why not look for a book or even a movie in which an animal is a huge part of the story? Here are 10 of the best books where a dog is a main focus.

And because I couldn’t help myself, as I’m a huge cat lover, I’ve also included a little surprise at the end of this piece for cat lovers, so please keep reading until the end.

And I guess in the end you’ve gotta love to read to appreciate this list, but if you’re reading this, then I don’t think we have a problem there.

The books vary in genre so there’s something for everyone, but if you’re anything like me, then you’ll read them all.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Dig into any one of these epic stories and you’ll find a furry little friend who has lessons to impart or at least a dog to steal your heart

10. Cujo by Stephen King

Maybe it takes an animal lover, but by the end of this classic horror story, you don’t feel as bad for the human characters as you do for Cujo himself.

Cujo is by now a famous horror novel (and film) by the master of horror himself, Stephen King. First published in 1981, the story follows Cujo, a rabid Saint Bernard that attacks a mother and son…leading to a scene in which both are locked in a car while Cujo tries to get in for obvious reasons.

Now there should be pathos here for the dog primarily, as he suffers this condition because of a bat bite after all. The flawed mother and innocent son are victims too, but at the end, even King points to a sadder tone overall in the narrative where pathos is established for the dog primarily and the dog alone.

9. The Art Of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This book was released in 2008 and it follows the story of Enzo, a dog that believes if he is truly ‘prepared,’ then he will be reincarnated in his next life as a human, so he begins his study alongside his adoptive dad, Denny Swift, a race car driver.

The book takes us from the fantasy spectrum to a very real place as Enzo sees Denny through some incredibly difficult times. The book and film are of course tear-jerkers, big time, so have the box of tissues handy, dear readers.

The film stars both Milo Ventimiglia and Kevin Costner, who voices Enzo, and makes him all the more endearing, which of course wasn’t hard to begin with. The film also stars Amanda Seyfried.

8. Marley and Me by John Grogan

This book was also made into a film, this one starring Owen Wilson, but the book surely takes the cake.

This book isn’t fiction at all, but it plays like a novel with plenty of ups and downs. An emotional roller coaster for sure, and at the epicenter is Marley, a wild as can be Golden Retriever and writer/journalist John Grogan himself.

7. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Yes, the book is a specifically a ‘children’s novel,’ but that didn’t stop Harry Potter from becoming a worldwide bestseller amongst adults now did it? Of course not, and this gem here should be no different.

The story follows Marty Preston, who takes it upon himself to save an abused dog; he steals him and cares for him in secret.

This is a perfect example of when it’s okay to tell lies, even when it gets hard to keep telling them. In the end, anything is worth doing when an innocent, defenseless animal’s life is at stake. At least that’s what this book taught me when I read it first.

The book gets heavy before the end, but the reader is with both Marty and Shiloh through to the end. If you haven’t read this gem, please do so.

6. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The next two books certainly go together. They are both the classic novels by author Jack London.

London often wrote about sled dogs, as he spent a massive part of his life in northern Canada. He was a prospector digging for gold in the Yukon at one point in his life, so the inspiration for these two stories is easy to pinpoint for sure.

The stories themselves are epic adventures. In this story, the main character is a dog named Buck…a dog that is stolen and made to work as a sled dog. The novel follows his many adventures in that realm and others as he ages.

A film was also made from this book…released a few years ago, starring Harrison Ford himself.

5. White Fang by Jack London

In this book, London looked specifically at a wolf dog and as wikipedia.com states, London often wrote about dogs to: “…explore how animals view their world and how they view humans…” This book was also adapted into a film, starring the incomparable Ethan Hawke.

Interestingly enough, between the two books by London, this one here showcases the violent side of both counterparts—both man and dog—and it is very interesting as a study overall.

This same them of violence was also scrutinized by London in his short story, “To Build a Fire,” a chilling tale about a musher who gets stranded in the north during quite the cold spell. In the end we determine just who is shrewder and more capable of survival in such conditions: Man or dog?

You’d be surprised to find out just who survives the freeze.

4. A Dog’s Life: The autobiography of a stray by Ann M. Martin

Ann M. Martin is of course the author of the wildly popular Baby-Sitters Club series of books. The woman sure knows how to weave a story together that people collectively care about, and boy did she do it here too, telling the story of a stray dog.

Here the doggy is a female dog named Squirrel of all things. The reader follows her on her many adventures and yes, it wouldn’t be a story about a dog if there weren’t a few touching moments. Okay…there are more than a few, but this book is so worth the time.

3. Travels With Charlie: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

These last three books are perhaps on the higher scale in terms of important works that go beyond just being books that have animals that play integral parts of the story. These are era changing stories that catapulted each author into the realm of untouchable, really.

These books listed and their many other works did that as well, but these three here help me book end this piece nicely and prove the point that a book with an animal in it sometimes has that element which is most important in life: Tenderness…a quality many have lost here on this earth.

I don’t mean to be too much of a downer here, but in the end it’s true. The relationship between human and animal is a strong one and an important one that Buddhists, humans and even doctors have been trying to figure out, and in the end no one can, because these little critters can’t talk to communicate, and oh so much can be learned in that type of relationship, as all of the books on this list prove.

The title is pretty self-explanatory here, but Steinbeck, who also wrote Of Mice and Men and so many other classics, looks at this example perfectly in this road trip type of a story (a true story), where two best buds tackle the long, dusty road ahead.

2. Timbuktu by Paul Auster

Now talk about heavy. This one here takes the reader on a journey alongside Mr. Bones, a dog whose adoptive dad is a homeless man.

Now that alone is a difficult life, both for dog and human, but things get worse as Mr. Bones has to deal with the fact that his daddy here on earth is dying.

I’ll have to leave it at that and let you see the rest for yourself if you so choose to read this masterpiece by a master writer.

1. Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Now speaking of a master of the craft, to my estimation, there is no greater writer, alive or dead, than Jack Kerouac.

And okay…you got me. There’s no dog in this story, but you’ve gotta have something for the cat lovers out there. Trust me I know, being one myself.

And what a pivotal character the cat in this story turns out to be.

The story follows Jack Duluoz (who is of course Kerouac’s own alter-ego). Jack would fictionalize the true events of his life and put them into novel form, changing the names of everyone involved in the particular tale he had to tell.

In this book, the reader finds a tired Jack…a Jack who is frustrated with the type of success he found after years of rejection.

He decides to take a trip up to Big Sur in California in order to collect himself and reflect, but right near the start of the trip Jack is decimated to hear the news that his cat, Tyke, has died. The news destroys him and sends Jack on a spiral that in real life many have speculated led in part to his early death later in 1969. He was 47. The book transpires in 1960 or thereabouts.

If you’ve ever lost a dear animal, then you all know how Jack felt at the start of this story. It’s one of his greatest works and really takes a look at the emotional hold an animal can have on us humans, and how their deaths can affect us as we try to deal with life’s many, many complications.

Readers…any books in which there’s a dog or cat that you’d like to share? Let us know…

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