When, in 2005, that big yellow lab Marley scudded clumsily into people’s hearts—and onto the best-seller lists via John Grogan’s Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog—lots of authors suddenly saw dollar signs. Anna Quindlen pieced together a slim tearjerker about her black lab. There was Mark Doty’s Dog Years, a memoir of different dogs in his life, and Douglas Harlan’s I, Clovis: Memoir of A Good Dog. Scottish novelist Thomas Healy wrote I Have Heard You Calling in the Night (we called it “everything Marley & Me is not: smart, acerbic, laconic, with nary an ounce of treacle dripping through the muscular prose”). Books on dog behavior (Cesar Millan anyone?), dog potty training, dog fashion…you name it, and it got published.
This fall, hoping to capitalize once again on his pet’s fame, Marley’s owner John Grogan has a book out (though since Marley, um, went to the great fields in the sky at the end of Marley & Me, this time out Grogan was forced to write a pallid biography). And now Dean Koontz, of psychological thriller fame, is writing A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog. In this memoir, due out next summer from Hyperion, Koontz will tell the story of Trixie, his cherished golden retriever. (Trixie, you may recall, coauthored several books with her owner.)
Nonfiction about pets is, of course, nothing new (anyone else out there ever read John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley or J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip)? Maybe I’m just jealous that I didn’t manage to write best-sellers about my two fat, much-cossetted dachshunds, but I’ll take pet fiction any day: Stephen King’s Cujo. Jack London’s White Fang. Even Old Yeller, which I read in fifth grade and then sobbed over for about two weeks straight. Anyone else? Got a dog book you love—fiction or nonfiction?