We live side-by-side with them, we name them, we confide in them, and sometimes we even snuggle with them. Our closest animal friends give us companionship and love with abandon, and are in most cases considered honorary family members. "Xenofiction" is the technical term used to categorize any story that is relayed from a non-human point of view. Many of the earliest examples of this, like Animal Farm and Watership Down, use creature stand-ins to expose or satirize human weakness and cruelty. Recently we are seeing a drove of new books also featuring animal narrators—this time as astute observers that display the curiosity, wonder and respect we hold for our creature companions.
For this month's blog, I am including a sample of contemporary books that employ animals as their primary storyteller. Cats and dogs are represented, of course, but I tried to include other (more unexpected) critters as well.
|The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
"An instant international bestseller, The Travelling Cat Chronicles has charmed readers around the world. With simple yet descriptive prose, this novel gives voice to Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as they take to the road..."
|Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
"Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education."
|A Dog's Courage by W. Bruce Cameron
"A Dog's Courage is a moving tale of loyalty and the constant heart of one devoted dog—brought vividly to life with a keen understanding of what makes all dogs so special."
|The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy
"In The White Bone, a novel imagined entirely from the perspective of African elephants, Barbara Gowdy creates a world whole and separate that yet illuminates our own."
|Timothy, or, Notes of an Abject Reptile by Verlyn Klinkenborg
"This is the story of a tortoise whose real life was observed by the eighteenth-century English curate Gilbert White. Klinkenborg gives the tortoise an unforgettable voice and powers of observation as keen as those of any bipedal naturalist."
|The Council of Animals by Nick McDonell
"The few remaining humans are huddled in impoverished villages. The animals, meanwhile, have convened a gathering, each group sending a representative to debate and vote on whether to help the last human stragglers . . . or to kill and eat them."
|The Bees by Laline Paull
"The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death. Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window."
|The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
"...--a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope--a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it."
|Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
"A witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd. Funny, fresh, and endearing, it introduces a wonderful breed of detectives to American readers."
|Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
"For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces a widow's unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus."
Summaries sourced from publishers' marketing materials
September's Featured Reviews
Hop on the Holds List
1. Fairy Tale - Stephen King
2. The Bullet That Missed - Richard Osman
3. Captive - Iris Johansen
4. Exiles - Jane Harper
5. One Step Too Far - Lisa Gardner
Right now, I am reading Hello! by Molly Shannon and Fun Home, a graphic novel by Allison Bechdel. I am listening to When Things Get Dark (Ellen Datlow, ed), an anthology comprised of stories written by current authors as an homage to Shirley Jackson.
Have you enjoyed any books with untraditional narrators? What is the strangest animal viewpoint that you have read or heard about? Please let me know your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you all a satisfying September!
Until next time: Be safe, be well and be well-read!
So, who am I, anyway? I am a resident of West Groton, with a husband, 4 teenaged children and a Samoyed puppy-all of whom are systematically destroying our house. I am currently working part time at the Groton Public Library and in a former life I was employed as a Director or PR/Marketing at a high-tech consulting firm. My BA is in Psychology, but most of my time was spent in college earning a Concentration on the Novel. That is all to say that I make no claims at being an expert of any kind and my thoughts, opinions and mistakes are solely my own. I am just a person whose passion for books has continued to grow from the moment I was first able to grip and gnaw on them, and I have been devouring them ever since.
- September 2023 — In the Mood
- August 2023 — Time Travel Tales
- July 2023 — By Land, Air and Sea
- June 2023 — Phenomenal Fathers
- May 2023 — Mysterious Massachusetts
- April 2023 — Bridging the Gap
- March 2023 — Spring for Short Stories
- February 2023 — Book Lovers
- January 2023 — The Girl Who...
- December 2022 — Fine Arts Fiction