20. The Lost City of Z– David Grann
Really fantastic piece of creative nonfiction. I’ve had an inclination away from creative nonfiction in which the author is highly present for a while, but I’m cured with this book. The author undertakes an adventure that he well knows has killed many before him; half the story is about obsession, and how few of us are immune. I would not have followed in the footsteps David Grann did, but I can certainly relate to the obsession part.
21. The Double Comfort Safari Club– Alexander McCall Smith
The latest in the series. You know, I hardly ever read series books. I have no idea how this one made it over the transom with me and no other series has. It has to be the charm. These books are mysteries, but not in any traditional way. The stories meander so much, something I hardly allow in other books. But there’s something in this series that charms me into forgiving things I don’t normally forgive. I do think these books are really funny, subtly so. Funny is hard to come by, so maybe that’s it.
22. Sight Hound– Pam Houston
Speaking of funny. No, not really. But I saw Pam Houston do a panel at AWP Denver a few weeks ago, and she was seriously funny. Funny and real and interesting, even as she talked about writing bitchy characters. (Yep, that’s what the title of the panel was. It got a full room.) This book, though: not funny. Really good and heartfelt and part of my literature review for my PhD in Canine Literature. (Not really, but I like dogs. Are you new here?)
The problem with liking dogs and reading “dog lit” is that, when a dog enters the narrative, it is freaking doomed. It’s like in the movie Galaxy Quest, where the minor character realizes that he’s the one most likely to die when he and the stars of the film land on the alien planet. When an author inserts a lovable pet, dude, that pet is not long for this world.
What does it say about me that, even though I know this, I read these books anyway?
In the best dog lit books, the pet dying is the point, not a plot device. In both this book and in the other good example I’ve read — The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein — the dog is on his way out and is a narrator in the story so that he can tell you what he’s got planned for his curtain call. A dog narrator. Yeah, I never thought I would like that, either. But the pet narration in Houston’s book is some of the best. And some of it, against the odds, is funny.
I’m a mess when it comes to books like this, now that I have my good-girl Ursa. She has ruined me completely. This was particularly bad timing, though, because I am in the midst of thinking good thoughts for my friend and her dog, Hitch. Hitch is having some health problems right now. Ursa and I just want him to get better. Get well soon, Hitch!