The best novels featuring realistic dogs

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I brought home my first rescue thirty years ago, my life has been full of dogs and dog-related activities that I can hardly imagine the person I would've been without them. My own books often feature one or more dogs, not because I particularly decide to write about dogs, but more because I live with dogs, it’s what I know. When I’m browsing for a good read, if a book features a dog, that’s a draw for me, just because dogs are dogs; they are such good creatures, so infinitely lovable, that their presence enhances a book for me just as their presence in my life enhances my every day.


I wrote...

Bloodsucking Bogans

By Tabitha Ormiston-Smith,

Book cover of Bloodsucking Bogans

What is my book about?

Dingo Flats hasn't been the same since the Murphy family moved back to town. The boys are delinquents, the daughter's a disgrace, and old Granny Murphy is constantly causing trouble. Even the dogs are delinquents. The crime rate's doubled since they arrived. And what's with all the dead rats that have started appearing on the doorsteps of local businesses? The tabloid thinks it's a plague, but Sam's dad is convinced it's warnings from the Mafia. 

Meanwhile, Sam's friends are determined to make her over and marry her off, and she's staring down the barrel of having to give up her police dog pup. What's a cop to do?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Last Family in England

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith Why did I love this book?

Unlike so many books where the point of view character is a dog, Haig has really thought his way into the dog. His creation, Prince, is not a counterfeit, a man in a dog suit, as it were, but a real dog. Haig’s empathic projection of how a dog might see things and interpret events is both charming and very believable. Further, Prince is a truly relatable character, without being ‘cute’. His well-meaning, doomed struggle to make sense of things he cannot understand, and to take control of a bad situation and save his family, is the very essence of tragedy; he is prevented by his very nature from achieving what he so desperately desires. 

The ending will break your heart, but it’s a fantastic read that will leave you feeling richer for having read it.

By Matt Haig,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Family in England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FROM THE NUMBER ONE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Meet the Hunter family: Adam, Kate, and their children Hal and Charlotte. And Prince, their Labrador.

Prince is an earnest young dog, striving hard to live up to the tenets of the Labrador Pact (Remain Loyal to Your Human Masters, Serve and Protect Your Family at Any Cost). Other dogs, led by the Springer Spaniels, have revolted. As things in the Hunter family begin to go badly awry - marital breakdown, rowdy teenage parties, attempted suicide - Prince's responsibilities threaten to overwhelm him and he is forced to break the Labrador Pact…


Book cover of Kazan: The Wolf Dog

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith Why did I love this book?

This is an old book, in the tradition made so popular by Jack London. There were a number of these ‘proud, free dog of the North’ type of books published, and they are all great reads, yet this one is in my opinion the finest of them. It never descends into mawkish sentiment, but tells Kazan’s story from his own viewpoint; there is little of the human world, and we get a glimpse of just how alien a wild animal is, how different from our own, more domestic companions. 

A tremendously exciting read, with not a dull page in it.

By James Oliver Curwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kazan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This carefully crafted ebook: "Kazan, the Wolf Dog" is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents.
Excerpt:
"Kazan lay mute and motionless, his gray nose between his forepaws, his eyes half closed. A rock could have appeared scarcely less lifeless than he; not a muscle twitched; not a hair moved; not an eyelid quivered. Yet every drop of the wild blood in his splendid body was racing in a ferment of excitement that Kazan had never before experienced; every nerve and fiber of his wonderful muscles was tense as steel wire..."
James Oliver Curwood was…


Book cover of Dog Boy

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith Why did I love this book?

Of all my picks, this one is the most startling read, I think. It follows the life of a very small boy, left for some reason abandoned, who takes refuge with a stray bitch and her litter, and consequently grows up as a dog.

This, too, is very much a tragedy; although he lives as a dog, and everything he knows is of being a dog, yet the boy is not a dog and cannot remain one, and his own complete failure to understand his circumstances when he is rescued results in one of the most heartbreaking endings to any book I have ever read.

It’s a strange and beautiful experience, reading this book, and although yes, it will break you, it gives a rare insight into how it can be for anyone brought up outside his proper culture.

By Eva Hornung,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dog Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A vivid, riveting novel about an abandoned boy who takes up with a pack of feral dogs

Two million children roam the streets in late twentieth-century Moscow. A four-year-old boy named Romochka, abandoned by his mother and uncle, is left to fend for himself. Curious, he follows a stray dog to its home in an abandoned church cellar on the city's outskirts. Romochka makes himself at home with Mamochka, the mother of the pack, and six other dogs as he slowly abandons his human attributes to survive two fiercely cold winters. Able to pass as either boy or dog, Romochka…


Book cover of Lassie Come-Home

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith Why did I love this book?

No list of dog books would be complete without this classic. We’re all familiar with the story, but it’s been presented so many times in a bowdlerised, Disneyfied fashion. The original book is a must-read for the dog lover. There’s no anthropomorphising, no sophisticated soliloquies, and almost no dialogue—certainly none from the main character, who is above all a dog, and purely a dog. Her stolid, stubborn, indomitable perseverance is the essence of dogness; it’s beautifully done, and the terrible limitations of a non-human protagonist are squarely met and wonderfully dealt with. It’s a classic for a reason. 

By Eric Knight, Marguerite Kirmse (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Lassie Come-Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Sold in financial desperation to a wealthy duke living in the far north of Scotland, a collie undertakes a 1000-mile journey in order to be reunited with her former master in Yorkshire.


Book cover of His Dog

Tabitha Ormiston-Smith Why did I love this book?

I’m a sucker for a book where a struggling person turns his life around, and His Dog is a wonderful example. A bitter, failed man, run to seed and given up to drink and bad ways, takes in a stray dog, and we see the gradual transformation of his life in response to the dog’s pure goodwill. It’s a charming book, and as it goes on, and terrible risks are encountered and overcome, it is in emotional terms one of the most exciting books I’ve read. Originally published in 1922, the book deals with subjects that don’t change over time, so it remains as relevant today as when it was first written. A beautiful and heart-warming book.

By Albert Payson Terhune,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked His Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.


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Evil Alice and the Borzoi

By DK Coutant,

Book cover of Evil Alice and the Borzoi

DK Coutant Author Of Evil Alice and the Borzoi

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor Cross Cultural Psychologist Dog Lover Traveler Reader

DK's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Cleo Cooper, a cross-cultural psychology professor, is living the dream on the Big Island of Hawaii. With ocean-dipping weekends, she enjoys her dog, her job, and her boyfriend Ben - until the day she’s on a research vessel and a dead body is caught in the dragline.

The police determine it is murder and set their sights on a gentle former student, Kai. It doesn’t take much urging from Kai’s auntie for Cleo to investigate. But Ben grows distant, and Cleo’s dog grows ill. A couple of accidental deaths later, and someone makes an attempt on her life.

What happened to Cleo’s life in paradise? Can she discover the true killer? Can she stop the killer before the killer stops her?

Evil Alice and the Borzoi

By DK Coutant,

What is this book about?

Paradise is shaken when the body of a young woman is dragged onto a university research vessel during a class outing in Hilo Bay. Cleo Cooper is shaken when she finds her favorite student is on the hook for the murder. Danger lurks on land and sea as Cleo and her friends are enticed to search for the true killer. In between paddling, swimming, and arguing with her boyfriend, Cleo discovers all is not what it seems on the Big Island of Hawaii. But will she figure out the truth before she becomes the next victim?


5 book lists we think you will like!

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