The best pet books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about pets and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Dog Years: A Memoir

Dog Years: A Memoir

By Mark Doty,

Why this book?

No matter how dark and hopeless we sometimes feel, dogs are always there to lick away our tears. This poignant memoir highlights the salutary power in a dog's unconditional love, offering heartfelt insights into why dogs, of all the animals, have so much to teach, and so much to give, even when all seems lost.

From the list:

The best books about inspiring dogs

Book cover of Pets in America: A History

Pets in America: A History

By Katherine C. Grier,

Why this book?

This book was one of my primary go-to’s when I was writing my own book, Citizen Canine. It’s an in-depth exploration of the changing status of cats and dogs throughout American history, and it’s fascinating. Chock-full of photos and great anecdotes, it’s a must for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into the American history of pets. 

From the list:

The best books for serious thinkers about cats and dogs

Book cover of Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

By Jon Katz,

Why this book?

I love and grieve hard. Sometimes debilitatingly so. When I lost my first cat, Olif, I couldn’t go in my studio for a year. Without my best boy in there with me, just crossing the threshold triggered a kind of PTSD, and I’d buckle under the grief. I finally saw a therapist and got the help I needed to move forward.

Books can help us with our grief too, and Going Home is one that’s helped me. Glancing through it now, I see I’ve opened straight to the chapter, “Guilt.” Yea, that one’s insidious, isn’t it. Katz covers them all:…

From the list:

The best dog books to tug on your heartstrings

Book cover of You Don't Want a Unicorn!

You Don't Want a Unicorn!

By Ame Dyckman, Liz Climo (illustrator),

Why this book?

An unsuspecting little boy wishes for a unicorn, only to discover that magical pet ownership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Unicorns leave holes in the ceiling and piles of (cupcake) poo on the floor. And don’t even mention the shedding! Both Ame Dyckman and Liz Climo are hilarious on their own, but as an author/illustrator team, they’re an absolute hoot!

From the list:

The most unusual unicorn books

Book cover of The Mysterious Tadpole

The Mysterious Tadpole

By Steven Kellogg,

Why this book?

Tadpoles aren’t known for being very exciting pets…unless they’re from Lock Ness, the most mysterious lake in Scotland! A little gift turns into a big surprise when a family discovers they may be harbouring a baby Loch Ness monster. I love how the family must come up with practical but inventive solutions to house their growing monster, which was an approach I also used with the pet care in If I Had a Gryphon.

From the list:

The best picture books about magical creatures other than dragons and unicorns

Book cover of Pirate's Perfect Pet

Pirate's Perfect Pet

By Beth Ferry, Matt Myers (illustrator),

Why this book?

Kids will enjoy the captain's search for the perfect pet and all the "commotion" the pirates cause wherever they go, "as good pirates should". A visit to the zoo lets the captain cross "peg leg" off his pirate checklist, thanks to a lion (the scene is handled in a humorous way without being scary). And the "poop deck" pun at the end (naughty parrot!) is sure to have everyone laughing

From the list:

The best children’s books for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" or any day a salty yarn is needed

Book cover of The Bread Pet: A Sourdough Story

The Bread Pet: A Sourdough Story

By Kate DePalma, Nelleke Verhoeff (illustrator),

Why this book?

Cats, dogs, hamsters, fish, but what about a less expected pet? Maybe sourdough starter as a pet is the perfect start to caring for pet!?! The main character, Cora, promises her uncle that she will keep the pet alive. She does not anticipate how fast her pet will grow. How will she come up with a solution? And fast? This charming unexpected pet book also includes recipes. 

From the list:

The best pet books for kids who want pets

Book cover of Buddy Unchained

Buddy Unchained

By Daisy Bix, Joe Hyatt (illustrator),

Why this book?

If you have a passion for compassion, this book about a chained dog who is rescued from neglect will make you want to unchain all the Buddys in the world. The illustrations vibrate with this lovable mixed-breed’s emotions—ranging from despair to joy. From his happy new furever home, Buddy narrates his story, which will have an emotional resonance with even the youngest audiences. As Buddy says: “I have my real home. Now I have everything.” No matter how many times I read this book, the ending still tugs at my heartstrings.
From the list:

The best picture books about rescued dogs

Book cover of The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies

The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies

By Wallace Sife,

Why this book?

This book is full of comforting information for those who have lost a pet and are going through the grieving process. I remember reading this book and feeling so grateful that a psychologist put together this information specifically for those of us who are coping with losing a pet. I love my dogs, and they are a big part of my family. When I have lost them, I feel devastated. Pet grief is a bereavement process that deserves attention, care, and understanding, and this book helps us to understand that intense grief. 

From the list:

The best books for children and adults coping with the loss of a pet

Book cover of Strictly No Elephants

Strictly No Elephants

By Lisa Mantchev, Taeeun Yoo (illustrator),

Why this book?

Many books focused on inclusion are about including everyone, but since I’m a pet lover, I loved this story about a boy’s pet being excluded from Pet Club Day just because being an elephant didn’t fit the accepted, traditional definition of a pet. Not about to back down, the boy  meets others with nontraditional pets and they form their own club which is inclusive. The illustrated spread showing the members is hilarious and the sign on their new clubhouse sums up the message of the book perfectly—All Are Welcome!

From the list:

The best children’s picture books on inclusion

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