Beach Reading for Animal Lovers

Beach book

At long last summer has arrived, July Fourth is just around the corner, and temps are rising to unbearable levels. Time to break out the bathing suits and beach towels! And don’t forget to pack a book or two…or seven. Herewith we present a full week’s worth of vacation reading for you fans of our furry friends (including dogs, cats, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and more) to enjoy while you soak up the sun.

(Click on a book’s cover image to view editions available from Amazon.)

A Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog

by Patricia B. McConnell

  • ISBN: 978-1501150159
    Atria Books (2017)

The Education of Will by Patricia B. McConnellThis powerful, soul-searching memoir is, above all, a story about redemption. Here is a book that speaks eloquently about the benefits of opening your heart to dogs, and reclaiming your own life in the process.

The Education of Will runs on parallel tracks. On one track is her border collie, Will, who presents McConnell with a whole host of behavioral and health-related challenges. The book’s other track follows the human end of the leash. While working with Will, McConnell—an Ethnologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who has made a career of consulting with cat and dog lovers—realized that she needed to come to terms with her own fears and the ways earlier traumas had informed her own behavior.

In order to heal her fearful, reactive dog, the author came to learn that she had to heal herself as well.

“This powerful memoir twines the lives of an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary woman. Their courageous, compelling story will profoundly deepen your understanding of people and animals, fear and shame, love and listening.”
~ Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig

What I Learned about Life and Love from a Feral Colony

by Andrew Bloomfield

  • ISBN: 978-1608683987
    New World Library (2016)

The Call of the Cats by Andrew BloomfieldThis book is like Born Free in an urban back yard. When the author, an aspiring screenwriter, moved into a bungalow in Southern California, he soon discovered that he shared the property with a large colony of feral cats—untamed and uninterested in human touch.

But after a midnight attack by predators that decimated yet another litter of kittens, Bloomfield decided to intervene. He began to name and nurse, feed and house, rescue and neuter. “My love affair with this feral cat colony made me challenge my notions of love and family,” Bloomfield says. “These cats became my family. They showed me a path to meaning and fulfillment as I opened my heart to a group of ragged outsiders.”

Drawing on his time living in Asia among spiritual teachers, he takes us on the contemplative, humorous, and poignant journey of saving these cats, only to find it was they who saved him by revealing a world of meaning beyond his unrealized Hollywood dreams. His story is a journey from self-absorption to selflessness.

“With humor and wit, Call of the Cats illustrates the perils and rewards of rescuing animals that live at the margins of human society. If you have ever cared for an animal, this book will resonate with you.”
~ Marty Becker, author of Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual

by Rosamund Young

  • ISBN: 978-0525557319
    Penguin Press (2018)

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund YoungAt the author’s Kite’s Nest Farm in Worcestershire, England, the cows (as well as sheep, hens, and pigs) all roam free. They make their own choices about rearing, grazing, and housing. Left to be themselves, as the author discovers, the cows exhibit temperaments and interests as diverse as our own.

In this affectionate, heartwarming chronicle, the author distills a lifetime of organic farming wisdom, describing the surprising personalities of her cows and other animals.

The gorgeously illustrated book is the summation of a life’s work and a delightful and moving tribute to the deep richness of animal sentience and emotional experience.

“A lovely, thoughtful little book about the intelligence of cows.”
~ James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd’s Life

The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood

by Sy Montgomery

  • ISBN: 978-0345496096
    Ballantine Books (2007)

The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery“Christopher Hogwood came home on my lap in a shoebox. He was a creature who would prove in many ways to be more human than I am.…”

The Good Good Pig celebrates Christopher Hogwood in all his glory, from his inauspicious infancy to hog heaven in rural New Hampshire, where his boundless zest for life and his large, loving heart made him absolute monarch over a (mostly) peaceable kingdom. A naturalist who spent months at a time living on her own among wild creatures in remote jungles, Sy Montgomery had always felt more comfortable with animals than with people. So she gladly opened her heart to a sick piglet that had been crowded away from nourishing meals by his stronger siblings.

Yet she had no inkling that this piglet, later named Christopher Hogwood, would not only survive but flourish—and she soon found herself engaged with her small-town community in ways she had never dreamed possible. Unexpectedly, Christopher provided this peripatetic traveler with something she had sought all her life: an anchor to family and home.

In this book the author reveals what she and others learned from this generous soul who just so happened to be a pig: lessons about self-acceptance, the meaning of family, the value of community, and the pleasures of the sweet green Earth.

“This is a book not so much about a barnyard animal as about relationships, in all their messy, joyous, and heartbreaking complexity.”
~ John Grogan, author of Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog

Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape

by James Rebanks

  • ISBN: 978-1250060242
    Flatiron Books (2015)

The Shepherd's Life by James RebanksIt is not easy to imagine an account of a life more observant and precisely detailed than James Rebanks’s diary of his years as a sheep farmer in England’s Lake District. The Shepherd’s Life is the story of a deep-rooted attachment to place, a series of messages from an ancient landscape that describe a way of life that is little noticed and yet has profoundly shaped the landscape over time. In evocative and lucid prose, James Rebanks takes us through a shepherd’s year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost. It is a story of working lives, the people around him, his childhood, his parents and grandparents, a people who exist and endure even as the culture changes around them.

What it all amounts to is the closest possible look into a way of life that most of us only glimpse as we whisk through the countryside. Many memoirs are of people working desperately hard to leave a place. This is the story of someone trying desperately hard to stay.

“Mr. Rebanks writes with loving eloquence about a kind of deep-rooted life that is all but lost in the developed world.”
~ Geraldine Brooks

A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese

by Brad Kessler

  • ISBN: 978-1416561002
    Scribner (2010)

Goat Song by Brad KesslerKessler’s account of tending a small herd of milking goats in Vermont captures both the lush, poetic paradise of rural life and the raw, unrelenting drama of dairying. Goat Song is the story of a year in the life of a couple who abandoned their one-bedroom apartment in New York City to live on 75 acres in Vermont and raise Nubian goats. In poetic, reverent detail, the author explores our ancient relationship to the land and our gradual alienation from the animals that feed us. As Kessler begins to live the life of a herder, he encounters the pastoral roots of so many aspects of Western culture—how our diet, our alphabet, our religions, poetry, and economy all grew out of a pastoralist setting, a life lived among hoofed animals.

Goat Song offers a meditation on the pastoral life that will make an urbanite regret having missed the experience.”
~ The Wall Street Journal

by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris

  • ISBN: 978-0241253588
    Hamish Hamilton (2017)

Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie MorrisFrom Acorn to Weasel, here is a gorgeous, hand-illustrated “spell book” celebrating the magic and wonder of nature, combining meticulous wordcraft with exquisite illustrations intended to restore language describing the natural world to the fading lexicon of children.

Some linguists have suggested that humans truly understand the world only insofar as they possess the words to describe it. Mention to a young person today terms like party line or carbon paper, and chances are you will be met with a blank stare. They cannot imagine what such terms might mean or the kind of planet on which they existed. So too with the natural world that we share with animals and plants.

As people move en masse out of the countryside and closer to cities, they become more urbanized and technically sophisticated; yet at the same time, they begin to lose their verbal connection to Nature itself, the very source of life. All over the country, precious words are vanishing from children’s lives—words like dandelion, otter, bramble, and lark. Such words represent the natural world of childhood, a rich landscape of discovery and imagination that is sadly fading from children’s minds.

The Lost Words stands against the disappearance of wild childhood. It is a joyful celebration of the poetry of nature words. With acrostic spell-poems and hand-painted illustrations, this enchanting book captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages.

Once upon a time, words began to
vanish from the language of children.
They disappeared so quietly that at first
almost no one noticed—until one
day, they were gone.
. . .
But there is an old kind of magic for
finding what is missing, and for
summoning what has vanished. If the
right spells are spoken, the lost
words might return…

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