Dean Koontz's Five Favorite Books About Dogs
Having written several novels in which dogs play leading roles and many more in which they are supporting players, having written three books from the point of view of my golden retriever, Trixie, and having written a memoir of Trixie after her death, I am rather widely known—so far as I am known at all—as a dog lover. Some even think I am dog-obsessed. Guilty. I happen to feel that if people were always as humble, dutiful, giving, and straightforward as dogs, the world would be a better place. Here, in no particular order, are five books about dogs, fiction and nonfiction, that have charmed me over the years.
City by Clifford Simak
Often science fiction is little concerned with characterization, favoring story and/or intriguing scientific speculations instead. Simak always wove complex and believable characters. In these eight tales, written in the 1940s and collected into a novel in 1952, SImak creates many strong characters, but especially an endearing robot named Jenkins and, beginning in the third of the eight, a series of wonderful dogs, who by the end of the novel have inherited a world in which humankind no longer exists and is a legend on the way to becoming a myth.
Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote
This is a wonderful, wonderful book about the love of a man for a dog and a dog for a man. It is rich with sentiment but never falls into sentimentality. I am known to have no patience for books about dogs who are protrayed as goofy screwups and agents of chaos, as these always strike me as expoitative nonsense written by clueless people who were themselves the cause of their dogs' neuroses. Mr. Kerasote understands his dog, Merle, the depth of canine intelligence and the beauty of the canine heart. He is also not afraid to write of his own feelings with a tenderness that is at once masculine and universal. Perhaps the best memoir of a dog ever written.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
From what I heard about this novel, I didn't want to like it. For one thing, reincarnation plays a role in the end game, which I was pretty sure would be hokey as hell. For another thing, I suspected the dog's voice would strike me as unbelievably wise. I was wrong. This is a fine story full of honest emotion, which dares to say two things that are rarely said in modern fiction, which is generally nihilistic or too hip to believe in anything beyond the material. Those two things are: We have souls and the world is a mysterious place. This is a moving story about love, tragedy, commitment, humility and redemption, but it embraces the idea that life has dimensions that we cannot see but that, if we are honest with ourselves, we intuit every day of our lives.
Pukka: The Pup After Merle by Ted Kerasote
Revelation: I don't know Ted Kerasote, but he did give a favorable review to my memoir of Trixie, A Big Little Life, which delighted me because I so like the two books of his I have listed here. I assure you, I can't be bought for a good review. I can't even be rented. Pukka was published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and for a beautifully produced book rich in color photography, its $18.95 price is an unbelievable bargain. The photographs in this volume are some of the most charming dog shots and most arresting nature photos I've ever seen, and by the time you've paged through it over and over (which you will do) you have come to know Pukka and to have glimpsed Kerasote's life as well. It's a window into another life that looks highly appealing, but it also captures the adventure of puppyhood and the joy in life that dogs know and can teach to us.
Dogs & Devotion by the Monks of New Skete
The monks breed and train German Shepherds and have written several best-selling books about those subjects. This excellent little book takes such qualities of a dog as playfulness, humility, fidelity, and inquisitiveness and, with a picture matched with fewer than a hundred words per topic, invites the reader to meditate on the virtues of dogs and what we can learn from them. Not heavy intellectual stuff but simple, true, touching.
Canine Companions for Independence
Canine Companions for Independence provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. Dean and Gerda Koonz have donated more than $6.5 million to this chairty over the past few years.
The service dogs, skilled companions, hearing dogs, and facility dogs change lives.
About Dean Koontz
When Dean Koontz was a senior in college, he won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition and has been writing ever since. His books are published in 36 languages; worldwide sales are nearly 450 million copies. Fifty-six of his novels have been New York Times best-sellers and thirteen have risen to #1 on the hardcover best-seller list.
The New York Times has called his writing "psychologically complex, masterly, and satisfying," and the London Times had called him "a literary juggler." The New Orleans Times-Picayune said Koontz is "at times lyrical without ever being naive or romantic. [He creates] a grotesque world, much like that of Flannery O'Conner or Waker Percy...scary, worthwhile reading."
Dean Koontz was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University), and his first job after graduation was in the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he was expected to counsel and tutor underprivileged children. The following year was filled with challenges but also tension, and Koontz was more highly motivated than ever to build a career as a writer. He wrote nights and weekends, which he continued to do after leaving the poverty program and going to work as an English teacher outside of Harrisburg. After he had been a year and a half in that position, his wife, Gerda, made him an offer he couldn't refuse: "i'll support you for five years," she said, "and if you can't make it as a writer in that time, you'll ever make it." By the end of those five years, Gerda had quit her job to run the business end of her husband's writing career. Dean and Gerda Koontz live in southern California with their golden retriever, Anna, and with the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.