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Great Reading for Animal Lovers: Fiction and Non-Fiction Books To Enjoy

Updated on October 31, 2013
Dean and Trixie Koontz hard at work on a literary masterpiece.
Dean and Trixie Koontz hard at work on a literary masterpiece.

Those of us who enjoy reading especially like reading about things we love. If you love animals, then it is hard to beat a great story that involves those adorable critters that make life all the more interesting by sharing with us their love, loyalty and laughter. While we often find animals as the central theme in children's books, if we look a little harder we can also find them in adult literature ranging from mystery thrillers and science-fiction dramas to light comedic novels and much, much more. As every young boy or girl already knows, any great adventure is all the more exciting when the journey is taken with a faithful pet by your side.

The Darkest Evening of the Year - Dean Koontz

Anyone familiar with Dean Koontz knows that caring canines often make appearances in his novels. From Boo, Odd Thomas' ghostly traveling companion, to Einstein, the genetically-enhanced Golden Retriever in Watchers, dogs have played critical parts in many of Dean's best stories. But none of those pooches take center stage in a story the way that a rescued Golden Retriever named Nickie does in The Darkest Evening of the Year.

The story focuses on Amy Redwing, founder and owner of a Golden Retriever rescue organization who saves Nickie from a hostile situation. But Amy has secrets in her past and those secrets begin to catch up to her and her friend Brian McCarthy. As the story develops, it becomes clear that Nickie is an exceptional dog with extraordinary talents and she has no intentions of letting the bad guys harm her new family.

The Darkest Evening of the Year is one of my favorite books by Dean Koontz which is high praise coming from me since Dean is my favorite author, a title he had to wrest from the rather strong grip of Piers Anthony and must continuously defend against the ever resourceful Tim Powers. If you only read one book from this list, it has to The Darkest Evening of the Year.

Unsaid - Neil Abramson

If you only read two books from this list, make the second one this debut novel from Neil Abramson. I do have to warn you that there are a few tearjerking chapters in this one, but in the end, the depth of emotion the book wrings from you is part of its charm. Abramson does a great job of making you care about the characters -- human and otherwise.

The story revolves around an attorney who has lost his young wife to cancer and must now find a way to care for the animals that have been left in his care while trying to get his career back on track at the same time. The tale is narrated by the deceased wife as she watches her soulmate struggle with the new world he finds himself in. Helpless to aid him in any way, she can only observe and hope he finds his way.

Just when he starts to get his feet under him again, a new crisis comes along to challenge him when a friend of his wife comes to him for help saving a chimpanzee with the language skills of a 4 year old child. He wrestles with the moral dilemma of just what is intelligent life. As he puts his career and his dignity on the line, the reader must wonder will it be his ruin or his redemption?

A Big Little Life - Dean Koontz

As I mentioned when discussing Dean Koontz's The Darkest Evening of the Year, Dean is known for including dogs in many of his stories. A Big Little Life tells the story of his golden retriever Trixie. She came to live with Dean and his wife Gerda after she was retired from a career as an assistance dog for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) due to elbow surgery. CCI is a non-profit organization that does wonderful work training dogs to be both companions and assistance dogs for people with a variety of disabilities.

In this book, Dean celebrates Trixie's rich life and the years of joy she brought to his and Gerda's lives. The book is a true testament to the love he felt for this wonderful animal who gave so much of herself during her life. Anyone who has ever read a Dean Koontz book and enjoyed the extra pleasure that the inclusion of a dog has added to it owes it to himself or herself to read this book.

We will discuss Trixie more later when we discuss the books she wrote (with a little help from Dean). Additionally, Dean made her the star of some children's books he wrote. Below is a video where Dean discusses the first of those books called I, Trixie, Who Is Dog. She went on to star in three other books by the prolific author.

Animal Magnetism - Rita Mae Brown

Dean Koontz is not the only best selling author to sing the praises of non-human companions. Any reader of Rita Mae Brown's highly successful mystery series is familiar with Sneaky Pie, the adorable cat who co-authors the Mrs. Murphy book series. Mrs. Murphy is, of course, a feline detective who helps her human friend, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, find her way through one adventure after another. So it probably comes as no surprise that Rita Mae is an animal lover.

Animal Magnetism is an autobiographical look at the many animals she has been lucky enough to encounter, care for and love over the years. From a fun-loving parrot named Franklin to a horse named Suzi Q who would teach her the value of hard work, Rita Mae shares with the readers her affection and devotion to these wonderful critters. Of course, she devotes amble discussion to her four-legged co-author, Sneaky Pie.

Anyone who wonders why a person might be so devoted to their pets should read this book. The love and kindness of the animals flows through its pages making it nearly impossible to avoid falling for these adorable creatures. It is a great book to read while relaxing with your furry friends on a rainy afternoon.

The Dog Lived (and So Will I) - Teresa Rhyne

This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been touched by cancer in any way, whether that awful disease attacked a person or an animal that was loved or an individual directly. It is the story of a woman and her beagle, but also the story of a woman finding her human soulmate as well. Whether you are a fan of beagles or not, you are guaranteed to fall in love with Seamus, the dog at the center of this story.

On its surface, the book is simply the story of a woman whose dog is diagnosed with cancer and then later discovers that she also must face this disease. But it is also the story of building relationships and bonds -- woman to dog, dog to man, man to woman. It is about building trust, finding faith and digging deep for courage. Yes, it has future chick flick written all over it, but that does not make it any less inspirational. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be forever glad that you read this book.

As the author guides Seamus through his battle with cancer, finds love with a man after giving up hope of ever having a successful relationship, and finally comes to terms with her own battle with cancer, you will find it hard to put down this great book. It is a bit like three stories that are intertwined with all three having you on the edge of your seat cheering on Teresa, Shamus, and the man in their lives, Chris.

Life Is Good! Lessons in Joyful Living - Trixie Koontz, dog

Life Is Good was Trixie's first book but you would never know this masterpiece was the work of a rookie! Maybe having her dad, best-selling author Dean Koontz, involved was helpful. Certainly the information Trixie relays to us in the book is beneficial. With the wisdom and clarity that only a canine can possess, Trixie shares with us her words of enlightenment to make our lives overflow with joy and happiness.

She touches on the subjects that affect our lives daily such as trust, loyalty and safe driving while also covering some of lifes more important matters like peanut butter, napping and, of course, bacon. But most importantly, Trixie discusses the wisdom that comes from treating all living creatures with respect and the joy that living life this way brings. Trixie really shows us that she is more than just another adorable fur-face!

Trixie would go on to write two more books, Christmas Is Good and Bliss To You. Both continued in the style of Life Is Good and are well worth reading. All three books will lift yourheart and bring many smiles to your face. Trixie may have passed on, but her memory lives in the hearts of the thousands she touched in her "big little life".

Which of the following do you enjoy most?

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    • Breanne Ginsburg profile image

      Breanne Ginsburg 

      3 years ago

      I'd also like to add "Animals Make Us Human" to the list by Temple Grandin. Good article and topic!

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