Summertime with a dog is magical. Longer days mean more time to spend outside doing all your favorite warm weather activities. Even if you don’t have summer vacation stretching out before you, time feels slowed down. There’s no better season to lounge in the sun with your four-legged best friend and catch up on the reading that seems to escape you during the rest of the year.
Whether you prefer a tearjerker, a training guide, a hard-boiled detective story, or a quick comic read, the following summer reading list for dog lovers will have something to hold your interest—and maybe even your dog’s. Grab some sunscreen and a fresh bowl of water, and hit the beach (or just your backyard) with these summer reads for dog lovers.
Non-fiction dog books: Dogs IRL
Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck (1962)
In this classic road trip story, novelist John Steinbeck and his standard poodle, Charley, explore America’s highways and byways in a custom RV. The book was written over 50 years ago, but John and Charley’s journey is timeless, and will make you want to pack up the car and hit the road with your own canine co-pilot riding shotgun.
The Dogs Who Found Me, Ken Foster (2007)
Dog people know that life can be separated into two distinct eras: Before Dog and After Dog. In The Dogs Who Found Me, Ken Foster explores his own A.D. era, which started when he adopted a goofy pit bull/mastiff mix named Brando, and continues in his ongoing dog advocacy and rescue work (http://sulafoundation.org/). This touching, funny, and ultimately inspiring memoir is a must-read for dog rescue volunteers and anyone with an adopted mutt of their own.
Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh (2013)
Allie Brosh captures the triumphant highs and hilarious lows of life with two neurotic dogs, among other things, in her illustrated comic memoir. Her stories about “the helper dog” and “the simple dog” will have you laughing like mad before turning to hug your own dogs and tell them you love them just the way they are. For a preview, see Brosh’s blog post from a few years back about moving from Montana to Oregon with her memorable mutts:
The Other End of the Leash, Patricia B. McConnell (2003)
Summer is a great time to brush up on obedience training, and Dr. McConnell’s bestselling dog behavior book is a must-have guide, combining animal behavior science and hands-on training tips to help readers better understand and communicate with their dogs. Think of it as fun, rewarding summer school for you and your dog!
More dreamy dog books—Fabulous fiction edition
Sight Hound, Pam Houston (2006)
Sight Hound is an engrossing novel told by several narrators, including two unforgettable Irish Wolfhounds and the woman who loves them. Their story captures the beautiful, bittersweet human experience of loving an animal whose lifespan is shorter than our own. Read it on the back porch on a summer afternoon with your dog napping beneath your chair, and be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby. Read an excerpt here.
The New Yorkers, Cathleen Schine (2008)
In this breezy novel tailor-written for dog people, you’ll spend an eventful year with the human and doggy denizens of one block in New York City, and laugh at the entanglements, leash-based and otherwise, that bring them together. The New Yorkers is the perfect summer read for dog lovers who want to experience four seasons in the city without ever leaving the beach.
Dog On It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn (2009)
Chet the Jet is a hard-boiled detective out to crack the case, and he happens to be a dog. The Chet and Bernie mysteries are classically styled mystery novels that will appeal to fans of noir, crime fiction, and of course literary dogs. Start with the first book in the series, and if you’re hooked, lucky you: there are six more Chet and Bernie mysteries to carry you well beyond the dog days of summer.
Bite-sized dog lit: Short reads
Dog Is My Co-Pilot, Bark Editors (2004)
With over forty short pieces from authors as diverse as comedian Margaret Cho, novelist Ann Patchett, and dog training legend Jon Katz, this collection of essays and short stories is perfectly suited to your short-attention-span summer brain. Finish one section, take a break for a rousing round of fetch, then turn to a new and engaging page.
Good Dog, Graham Chaffee (2013)
In this sparse, elegant graphic novel, alternative comics and tattoo artist Graham Chaffee enters the mind of Ivan, a good dog in search of a home, and follows him through his encounters with humans, chickens, and a motley crew of canine acquaintances. Perfect for a lazy afternoon at the lake. Do you still have your tissues handy? Read the first 12 pages online here.
A Box of Puppies, Lena Dunham (2013)
If you don’t have time for an entire book, Dunham’s marvelous essay about her lifelong quest to be a dog person is currently free to read on The New Yorker’s website. Read it standing at the kitchen counter while your dog runs figure eights around your legs, then get out there and enjoy the sunshine together.