The Best Books about Dogs

Dog enjoying books

Dogs are humanity’s greatest achievement. Ever since we began domesticating them some 15,000 years ago, they have been our providers, entertainers, rescuers, colleagues, counselors, and, most importantly, our best friends. It’s no surprise that a species that’s played such a vital role in our history has also inspired some incredible stories—like these 11 great books about dogs:

The Philosopher and The Wolf, by Mark Rowlands

Rowlands’ memoir of his time raising a wolf named Brenin is a both a tearjerker and a page-turner. It’s also a captivating philosophical foray into contrasts in canine and simian intelligence, garnished with a metric ton of self-deprecating jokes. Definitely worth the read.

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

This story about a boy who trains his two Redbone Coonhounds into champion hunters is a classic for a reason. Just make sure to have a tissue handy.

The Chet and Bernie Series, by Spencer Quinn

Told from the perspective of the sleuthing dog Chet, this riveting series is a New York Times best-seller for a lot of reasons. There’s the heartwarming relationship between Chet and his human/partner Bernie Little, which will strike a chord with any dog owner. There’s the subtle humor resulting from Chet’s misunderstanding of certain words and situations. Oh yeah, and there’s adventure, action, intrigue—all that good stuff you want out of a mystery. If you haven’t read the series, start now, so you can catch up in time for the 6th installment, The Sound and The Furry (due out September 10).

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

Based on the tight-knit friendship her own pets shared, Burnford wrote this iconic tale of a Siamese cat, a bull terrier, and a Labrador Retriever traveling 250 miles through the Canadian wilderness to find their family. It inspired a 1963 film of the same name, and the 1993 movie Homeward Bound.

White Fang and The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

London’s two masterpieces are best read together, as London intended them to be thematic mirrors of each other. White Fang is about a wild wolfdog undergoing domestication, while Buck, the central character of The Call of the Wild, is a dog who embraces his destiny in the wilderness. Told from the perspective of the dogs, the books are exquisitely written, and will make any reader yearn for the pristine Arctic landscape.

Rin Tin Tin, by Susan Orlean

There are lots of books about famous historical dogs, but Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin is a great place to start. This legendary German Shepherd had a more exciting life than most humans, from his humble beginnings on a WWI battlefield to his international stardom.

The Genius of Dogs, by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

“Genius” and “dogs” are not usually words you hear together. Indeed, one of the reasons our canine companions are so endearing is because they often appear to be adorably lacking in the brains department. But dogs are incredibly socially intelligent, and can read cues no other animal can. Based on compelling new research, The Genius of Dogs will make you look at your dog in a whole new light.

Old Yeller, by Frank Gipson

The inspiration for the famous 1957 film of the same name, Old Yeller has earned a place on any dog lover’s bookshelf. Several boxes of tissues may be necessary in this case.

The Lost History of the Canine Race, by Mary Elizabeth Thurston

Dogs have played a central role in human civilization, and anthropologist/author Thurston passionately argues that it’s past time we regard them with the respect they deserve. She chronicles the history of the domesticated dog, from the mummified canines of ancient Egypt to the dog shows of Renaissance Europe. This is an extensive—and not always pretty—history of the canine/human collaborative relationship.

My Dog: The Paradox, by Matthew Inman

You may have already seen this heartfelt comic by Matthew Inman on his beloved site The Oatmeal. It’s an often profane, totally hilarious, and deeply thoughtful reflection on what the aphorism “man’s best friend” really means.

What’s your favorite book about dogs?

  • Regina Corley

    Where is The Art of Racing in the Rain?

    • Larisa Baldwin

      AWESOME book! LOVE’d it!

    • Michelle Weeks

      I was thinking the same thing! Loved that book.

    • samantha657

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  • Brettany Petty

    Emily and Einstein is a great read!!!

  • Jenna Alexander

    The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wrobleski. This book does a great job explaining the true intelligence of dogs

    • DebsSweet

      Yes! A thousand times yes! I sobbed at the ending – best book I have ever read.

  • kim johnson

    How about “A Big Little Life” by Dean Koontz? Or “A Dogs Purpose”?

    • Larisa Baldwin

      I was about to write in A Dog’s Purpose, it was fantastic! So was the sequel (or conclusion) A Dog’s Journey.

      • kim johnson

        I just purchased A Dog’s Journey today…can’t wait to read it!

        • Larisa Baldwin

          Enjoy! I thought it was a great wrap up.

    • Al Eckland

      I was thinking “Watchers” by Koontz. One of my favorites.

  • RuthAnn Singer Schmidt

    All of the above and more recently, The Art of Racing in the Rain (I am still mourning Enzo), Lost and Found (more tears), and The Dog Survived was an uplifting and hopeful journal.

  • Marie Kinnon Anderson

    Until Tuesday is one of the best books I have ever read. I love books about animals of all kinds, but this will touch your heart in ways that will stick with you forever!

  • lecriveur

    Suspect by Robert Crais. Let me say it again, SUSPECT by ROBERT CRAIS. :)

    • Al Eckland

      Thanks for the recommendation. I love his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series.

  • foxyfifty

    Two I can think of is Marley and me by John Grogan and
    Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline

    I am looking forward to the next Chet the Jet and Bernie book.

    Also, James Herriot’s dog stories.

  • Victoria Jenkins

    The Lassie books. How could you leave out Lassie?

  • DebsSweet

    There are so many more than this – I have a list on Shelfari – As noted below The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is the best.