A report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released in May 2013 provides a revealing portrait of the American family—and if you’re just picturing a nuclear family foursome or a single parent and child, think again. Make sure you add a pet to the snapshot. Covering the years 2007–2011, the findings show that almost three-quarters of U.S. households own pets, for a total of some 218 million furry (for the most part) friends. In all, Americans spent some $61.4 billion on them in 2011, with each household averaging more than $500. That’s more than each spends on candy, bread, cereal, or—funnily enough—reading material. But that hasn’t stopped publishers from building a booming business of pet and animal books.
Over the last couple of decades, pets, especially dogs, have become family members,” says Susan Canavan, executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “As that connection has grown, so has this category. It’s very crowded and the writing quality is exceptionally important.” Canavan says that, despite the evolution of that relationship, publishers are still trying to find a dog-training book that can unseat the classic bestseller The Art of Raising a Puppy and associated titles by the Monks of New Skete. (The Monks of New Skete have lived as a community in Cambridge, N.Y., for more than 30 years. Two of their books, The Art of Raising a Puppy and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, both published by Little, Brown, have together sold nearly three-quarters of a million copies.)
HMH believes it may have just such a competitor in January’s Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, edited by prominent veterinarians Debra Horwitz and John Ciribassi, with popular pet columnist and radio host Steve Dale.
“This is the best of the best,” says Canavan, “a book that amasses the collected wisdom of top experts and the latest science.” Pointing out that behavioral issues are the #1 reason dogs end up in shelters, she hopes the lessons can help people avoid that outcome and assist those who adopt rescues with behavior problems.
A Dog’s Life
Dogs have the edge over cats, at least in terms of ownership. The American Humane Society estimates that 37%–46% of households own dogs, as opposed to 30%–39% owning cats, with dog ownership holding steady and cat ownership decreasing in recent years. While the numbers aren’t that far apart, it seems that dogs reign supreme as far as publishers are concerned. (Many more dog-related titles were submitted for this feature than cat books.)
Dog-centric titles range from those on specific topics like nutrition, with Home Cooking for Your Dog: 75 Holistic Recipes for a Healthier Dog by Christine M. Filardi (STC, Sept.) to such all-encompassing titles as DK’s hefty The Dog Encyclopedia: The Definitive Visual Guide (July). Inventor of the widely used HALTI headcollar, Roger Mugford, offers a useful training guide, The Perfect Dog: Raise and Train Your Dog the Mugford Way (Hamlyn, Oct.). Coming from St. Martin’s in November is Beautiful Old Dogs: A Loving Tribute to Our Senior Best Friends, edited by David Tabatsky with photos by Garry Gross, providing touching anecdotes by such notables as Anna Quindlen, Dean Koontz, and Marlo Thomas.
More personal takes remain popular, too, with several high-profile memoirs on the way. Sharron Kahn Luttrell’s Weekends with Daisy (Gallery Books, Sept.), which tells how the author helped raise a yellow Lab puppy to be a service dog, presents an interesting twist. Grieving a lost pet, Luttrell entered a weekend puppy-hosting program, returning Daisy to prison and an inmate she came to know named Keith during the week. Describing Weekends as “emotional and uplifting,” Gallery Group president Louise Burke says, “We acquired Sharon’s title along with CBS Films, anticipating that the film will help give the book a long life.”
Due from Ballantine in November is the latest memoir from bestselling canine chronicler Jon Katz, The Second Chance Dog, which describes a post-divorce relationship with artist Maria Wulf, whose Rottweiler-shepherd mix Frieda presented a problem when she wouldn’t accept him. Random House associate publicist Lindsey Kennedy bills the title as “bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘happily ever after.’ ”
Skyhorse might well have two potential hits on its hands with Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself: A Man and His Dog’s Struggle to Find Salvation by former U.S. Marine Zachary Anderegg (Nov.) and Kay Pfaltz’s Flash’s Song: How One Small Dog Turned into One Big Miracle, which tells of amazing canine courage and remission against all odds. Says Skyhorse associate publisher Bill Wolfsthal, “Though memoirs are not uncommon, when they are as well written as these two books, each has a chance to be the next great pet-lovers bestseller.”
In October, Gotham Books issues a paperback reprint of its enticingly titled Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls… One Flying Disc at a Time by Jim Gorant.
Perhaps the most interesting mini-trend puts the spotlight on service dogs, particularly those who assist with law enforcement or military operations. St. Martin’s offers Navy Seal Dogs by Michael Ritland (Oct.), a special retelling for young readers of his bestselling Trident K9 Warriors, about how he discovered his passion and became the trainer of the nation’s elite military working dogs. In July, Lindholm Press released Trust Your Dog: Police, Firefighters, and Military Officers Talk About Their K-9 Partners is by Joan Plummer Russell.
Canines et al.
Naturally, unique takes—on dogs and other members of the animal kingdom—are of perennial interest.
Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John W. Pilley, with Hilary Hinzmann (HMH, Oct.), is the account of a retired psychologist who decides to bust records and teach his new border collie—a gift from his wife on his 76th birthday—a giant vocabulary.
“For those already well acquainted with their own intelligent canines, Chaser offers satisfying confirmation of a dog’s expansive capabilities,” says HMH senior editor Courtney Young. “Others will hopefully find useful guidance in John’s story for unlocking their dogs’ true potential.”
Those jonesing for a larger compendium of inspiring pooch tales can check out Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (National Geographic, Oct.), a photo-laden assemblage rife with such captivating names as Izzy, Picasso, Bear, Wang Cai, Dingo, Cheyenne, et al., and Ordinary Dogs, Extraordinary Friendships: Stories of Loyalty, Courage, and Compassion by Pam Flowers (Alaska Northwest Books, Aug.).
Two unique collections demonstrate surprising cross-species animal examples. Coming in October from Workman is Unlikely Loves: 43 Heartwarming True Stories from the Animal Kingdom, Jennifer S. Holland’s follow-up to Unlikely Friendships, which spent an impressive 46 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. And Lisa Rogak’s One Big Happy Family: Heartwarming Stories of Animals Caring for One Another (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, Nov.) celebrates the intimacy and emotional connections of parenthood with such examples as “The Hen and Her Ducklings,” “The Golden Retriever and Her Bunnies,” et al.
Cats Get Some Love, Too
Though dogs are dominating the shelves, there are still a few noteworthy tomes for cat fanciers this year. Released by Thomas Dunne in July, A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen has been a runaway bestseller with more than a million copies sold in 27 countries. According to Thomas Dunne senior editor Marcia Markland, “The fan response to this book has been absolutely overwhelming. Fans stand in line for hours in England to meet James and Bob and to have their book paw-stamped by Bob the Cat.” She notes that James and Bob have a legion of twitter followers (@StreetCatBob) and a popular blog (www.streetcatbob.blogspot.com). The book is getting some traction in the U.S.; Nielsen reports about 12,000 copies sold in two months.
Gotham hopes fans of online cat sensation Bub (sometimes capitalized as BUB) will similarly embrace Lil BUB’s Lil Book: The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet by Lil BUB (Sept.). Rescued as a tiny kitten by Mike Bridavsky in rural Indiana, it soon became apparent to her new owner that Bub is no ordinary cat—genetic mutations make her a “perma-kitten,” appearing not to age. Quickly she became one of the Internet’s most famous felines. According to Gotham assistant editor Sophia Muthuraj, “Ultimately what makes this book so unique, and unlike any other blog-to-book concept in the market, is that it shares a very real message that being different is great and should be celebrated.” She adds that Bridavsky (and Bub) have chosen to donate their proceeds from the book to various animal charities to support responsible pet ownership.
Barron’s Educational Series is taking a different tack with its cat-themed title. The latest in a coffee-table gift book series that has proven successful with 2011’s The Majesty of the Horse and 2012’s The Spirit of the Dog, will be The Elegance of the Cat: An Illustrated History by art historian and animal expert Tamsin Pickeral. The lavishly illustrated guides feature myriad color photos and illustrations and speak to each animal’s unique relationship with humans.
Paws for Laughter
With adorable pet videos and photos constantly going viral—not to mention the still-going-strong LOLCat phenomenon—it would be logical to assume that humorous offerings in the pets-and-animals category might be suffering as a result. But books reflecting the funny side of the animal kingdom remain a fixture on publishers’ lists.
Running Press offers two such titles. Dogs with Old Man Faces: Portraits of Crotchety Canines (Sept.) by Tom Cohen features portraits of dogs “with mugs weathered by experience and wisdom” alongside witty captions. In a recognizable spoof, Angie Bailey’s whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds mashes up kitties and Craigslist for a hilarious parody from the cat’s-eye view (“Help me crash dog show?”).
Running Press marketing coordinator Geri DiTella sees the effects of such humor as being more significant than they might seem at first glance. “With more humor to enhance our love for our four-legged friends, perhaps we can inspire people to be more kind emotionally and physically to them,” says DiTella. “There’s too much neglect and abuse toward animals now, which has led to documented neglect and abuse of people.”
Crown’s Three Rivers Press has high hopes for a pair of funny bone–targeted books as well. Animals Talking in All Caps: It’s Just What It Sounds Like by Justin Valmoissoi (Aug.), described as “LOLCats meets The Far Side,” is based on the incredibly popular blog of the same name. And just about anyone who likes dog pictures on the Internet will be familiar with the “dogshaming” phenomenon photos where signs and captions detail bad behavior—without losing the cute factor. Pascale Lemire, the author of bestselling Bad Dog (more than 250,000 copies sold) and I Can Has Cheezburger (more than 159,000 sold), now brings us Dog Shaming (Sept.), a book inspired by the Web site.
A more traditional take on feline humor can be found in Random House’s The Big New Yorker Book of Cats (Oct.), an eminently giftable anthology that assembles articles, humor pieces, poems, fiction, cartoons, illustrations, and covers of the magazine that focus on the feline, and includes work by Elizabeth Bishop, T.C. Boyle, Roald Dahl, Jules Feiffer, M.F.K. Fisher, Calvin Trillin, John Updike, and many more.
Wolfsthal at Skyhorse points to a pair of September releases—E.M. Bard’s Test Your Cat’s IQ and Rachel Federman’s Dog’s IQ—as examples of the types of books that have worked well in this category. “We’ve done well with humor and gift books for pet owners,” he says, as “perfect for every dog and cat owner who thinks his or her pet is the smartest on Earth—and that’s every single one of them.”
But it’s not all about cats and dogs. Blue Rider Press explores the brief but darkly humorous life of a hamster in Miriam and Ezra Elia’s The Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990–1990 (Sept.). Framed as an existential diary and illustrated by Miriam, an acclaimed artist, the publisher hopes this will be a popular gift during the holidays.
And, speaking of the year-end holidays, one of the most unusual novelty animal books this season is Guinea Pig Nativity (Bloomsbury, Sept.), the classic story with guinea pigs photographed in the starring roles. The book came about because a Bloomsbury U.K. editor was inspired by her mother’s portrait of a pet guinea pig in a Santa hat.
Out on a Limb
Well-known author and bear expert Benjamin Kilham’s forthcoming Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition (Chelsea Green, Nov.) offers a fascinating account of his 20 years researching and living with black bears in the wild. Kilham has been featured in several televised documentaries, as well as on NPR, Today, Good Morning America, and Letterman.
Chelsea Green senior editor Joni Pradad compares Kilham’s work to that of Jane Goodall and thinks readers will be especially drawn to the story of his 17-year relationship with Squirty, a female bear brought to him as an orphan. “I am drawn to books that explore the animal mind, and this book does that powerfully,” says Pradad, who got to see bear cubs in the den while working with the author. “Ben’s dyslexia, an obstacle in his academic life, turned out to be a major gift when observing animals, allowing him to see patterns in behavior that previously went unnoticed.”
Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed
Prominent researcher and author Marc Bekoff returns in November with Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation (New World Library). Following in the footsteps of his previous work, The Emotional Lives of Animals, this latest collects some of his most popular blog posts for Psychology Today and explores the newest research on the cognitive and emotional capacity of animals, including bees, fish, and lizards. “Whether the latest science shows that animals suffer from PTSD, or that chickens display empathy, Marc is on top of it, writing with verve and scientific rigor,” says Jason Gardner, New World Library senior editor. After looking at the number and popularity of Bekoff’s posts for the magazine, Gardner says the publisher knew a collection could “make an amazing overview of what’s going on with anthrozoology, the study of human-animal interaction, and ethology, the study of animal behavior.”
While nonfiction dominates the pets-and-animals category, fiction also takes an occasional walk on the wild side.
One of the longest-running and most popular examples is Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series, “cowritten” by and featuring beloved cat sleuth Sneaky Pie Brown. With more than 4.8 million copies in print and regular appearances on the bestseller list, publisher Bantam believes that Brown’s 21st installment, The Litter of the Law (Oct.), will continue the successful tradition. Says Bantam senior editor Dana Isaacson, “Many people, and readers in particular, prefer the company of cats and dogs to other people, so it makes perfect sense that Rita Mae’s wonderful Sneaky Pie novels continue to sell year in and year out—they’re timeless.”
Minotaur Thomas Dunne imprint offers two successful mystery series featuring animals. Author Blaize Clement’s titles feature a Florida pet sitter named Dixie Hemingway. The eighth title in the series, The Cat Sitter’s Cradle, written with son John Clement, was released in July. The publisher says its catnip bookmarks that promote the series are popular with fans. The imprint also includes Donna Andrews’s Meg Lanslow series, which includes such punny titles as Some Like It Hawk and Hen of the Baskervilles. Coming in October: Duck the Halls.
Numerous animal-loving readers have already fallen for W. Bruce Cameron’s novels—A Dog’s Purpose, which spent nearly a year on the New York Times bestseller list (a movie version is on the way from Dreamworks), and its sequel, A Dog’s Journey. Cameron returns in October with The Dogs of Christmas (Forge), the heartwarming tale of how an abandoned dog next door brings the potential for new love into the life of protagonist Josh Michaels.
And Kensington notes the success of its author Kristin von Krisler’s well-reviewed nonfiction works The Compassion of Animals and Beauty in the Beast. In January, her first foray into fiction will be released by the publisher. An Unexpected Grace features a 35-year-old artist who is the victim of a shooting and begins to heal by taking care of Grace, an abused golden retriever.
“Having won a wide audience through her bestselling nonfiction books about animals, Kristin now makes a fluid transition into fiction with this engrossing story of an injured woman and a damaged golden retriever who find love and healing together,” says Kensington editor-in-chief Michaela Hamilton.