As I was posting today's review ("The Zoo on the Road to Nablus"), I was feeling a bit defensive. I couldn't help asking myself: Am I subjecting Monitor readers to too many books about animals?
I am an animal lover, pure and simple, so for me personally, the answer is no. The other answer I could give would be to point to reader response – which seems to indicate that many if not most of our readers share my enthusiasm for good stories about animals. When these books are good, they are often very good – well written and able to teach us much about ourselves as well as to help us better understand the members of the animal kingdom.
However, to further reassure myself, I thought I'd try a little numerical analysis. So I calculated. I've been the Monitor's Book editor for almost 3 years now. In that time, I have written full reviews of 100-plus different books. Of those, only nine have been books mainly focused on animals. So, no, I haven't gone over the top.
But as I counted, what was more interesting to me than the numbers was the variety of content. The "protagonists" of those nine books have included an elephant ("Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World" by Paul Chambers, a chimpanzee ("Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human" by Elizabeth Hess), a donkey ("The Wisdom of Donkeys" by Andy Merrifield), stray dogs ("Street Dogs" by Traer Scott), tigers ("Tigers in Red Weather" by Ruth Padel), a pig ("The Good Good Pig" by Sy Montgomery), reindeer ("The Reindeer People" by Piers Vitebsky), and – of course – a book about a dog named Marley.
If you, like me, love a good animal story, you might want to check out yesterday's NPR piece in which Seattle librarian par excellence Nancy Pearl recommends good dog books. Or, if you want to find some friends with whom to enjoy these books, you could check out the Shelfari animal lovers home page (it appears their group presently has 33 members).
Or you could remember to check back here next week (after you've finished reading "The Zoo on the Road to Nablus," of course) when I will be reviewing "Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain" by Martha Sherrill. I'm only 2/3 of the way through as of today, but I'm enjoying it greatly. It's really more a story about a man than about his dogs, but it is the story of how his love for dogs shaped his life.
Now that's a topic on which I might write my own book someday.