The best books with cats as characters

Who am I?

Gwen Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoirs Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, as well as the novel Love Saves the Day (narrated from a rescue cat's perspective) and The Book of PAWSOME: Head Bonks, Raspy Tongues, and 101 Reasons Why Cats Make Us So, So Happy--among numerous other titles. The first book in her forthcoming "Homer Whodunit" Cozy Mystery Series, You Only Live Nine Times, will be released in Summer 2022. Gwen's work has been published in more than two-dozen languages, and she is a frequent speaker at shelter fundraisers across the U.S. and Europe.

I wrote...

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

By Gwen Cooper,

Book cover of Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

What is my book about?

Everyone warned that Homer, abandoned and blind at only three weeks of age, would always be an “underachiever.” But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a five-pound dynamo with a giant heart. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease, survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night.

But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that transformed Gwen’s life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized that Homer had taught her the most valuable lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

The books I picked & why

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I Am a Cat (Bilingual)

By Soseki Natsume,

Book cover of I Am a Cat (Bilingual)

Why this book?

The original, and still unsurpassed! First published in Japan in 1906, this gleeful skewering of the foibles of Japan’s upper-middle-class during the Meiji era—told in first-person narration from the perspective of an eminently observant and sardonic housecat—manages to feel fresh and modern more than 100 years later and reads like something that could have been published last week. When I first set about writing my own novel from a cat’s perspective, Love Saves the Day, this was the first book I turned to for inspiration. It was so good, it almost left me too intimidated to write mine. Almost.

The Master and Margarita

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Christopher Conn Askew (illustrator), Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky

Book cover of The Master and Margarita

Why this book?

This satirical Russian novel, completed in 1940 but not published until 1967—in Paris, due to Communist censorship—was something of a revelation for me when I first read it in my early twenties; having thus far only been exposed to Dostoevsky and Chekhov, I’d had no idea that a Russian novel could be so funny! Chief among The Master and Margarita’s comic delights (from this cat lover’s perspective, anyway) is the character of Behemoth—a preternaturally large and possibly demonic black cat who walks on his hind legs and speaks fluent Russian, and who excels at the quintessential Russian pastimes of chess and vodka. He’s also an adept at joke telling—which makes perfect sense, given that cats are nature’s comedians. An unforgettable cat in a hilarious, unforgettable book!

Wish You Were Here

By Rita Mae Brown, Sneaky Pie Brown,

Book cover of Wish You Were Here

Why this book?

Not only is the Mrs. Murphy cozy mystery series written from the point of view of a sleuthing cat, it’s actually (allegedly!) written by a cat—the feline in question being Sneaky Pie Brown, author Rita Mae Brown’s real-life tabby companion, who supposedly makes use of Ms. Brown’s typewriter on the sly. Wish You Were Here is the first in a delightfully long series of cozy mysteries set in the fictional small town of Crozet, Virginia—where murders seem to happen with startling regularity, and where postmistress Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen’s beloved cat, Mrs. Murphy, always seems to be one step ahead of the official investigators. I fell hard for the acerbic, no-nonsense Mrs. Murphy and for this series, which was a direct inspiration for my own “Homer Whodunit” mystery series. 

Breakfast at Tiffany's

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of Breakfast at Tiffany's

Why this book?

The iconic 1961 film, starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, diverges from Truman Capote’s 1958 novella in many of its particulars. But in both versions, Holly Golightly’s chosen companion is a nameless stray cat—simply called Cat—who follows her home one day and ends up carrying an awful lot of symbolic freight for such a small critter: freedom, isolation, rootlessness, and big-picture questions as to whether anyone can truly be beyond the basic need to love and be loved. To me, however, Cat is first and foremost a cat—one of the very great cats in one of the post-war era’s very great works of literature.

Alice in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll, Illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer,

Book cover of Alice in Wonderland

Why this book?

The Cheshire Cat was one of the first literary critters I ever fell in love with as a child, and Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are two books that I continually return to as an adult, certain of finding new delights. My two favorite things when I was young were books and animals, so it’s no surprise that I was enraptured by the Cheshire Cat from the get-go. More than just his cat-ness, however, were his trademark mischievous grin; his ability to appear and disappear at will; the creative liberties he takes with the English language; and his gleeful philosophical absurdities, which nevertheless seemed perfectly logical to me as a small child in a world where adults rarely seemed to make sense.

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