Book Review: A Dog’s Purpose (Cameron)

June 22, 2010

*ARC Alert*

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron will be released on July 6th, 2010 by Forge Books (Hardcover, $22.99, 320 pages).

Ever since around the time Marley & Me came out, the “dog book” has been a strong genre. Mostly they’re memoirs, but the occasional novel, like this one, fit into the group by following the formula, which parallels actual dog ownership– laughter and love, ended by heartbreak. A Dog’s Purpose takes this journey across multiple lifetimes with the dog who is first Toby, then reincarnated as Bailey (the name I’ll use for this review), Ellie and Buddy. Each time he finds purpose and meaning by linking his life to humans, and each time he dies thinking that his journey has ended and his duty fulfilled, only to discover himself born again in search of an even higher calling.

The best, most pervasive part of this book was how absolutely dog the narration was. Of course, we can’t know what goes on inside our furry friends’ heads for sure, but as of the first chapter of this book, I imagine it to be exactly as Cameron paints it. (I’ve found that it benefits my puppy as well– instead of being angry when she gets into the garbage, I laugh at her imagined confusion in response to my reprimand. “The girl is obviously confused. How can it be a bad dog idea to eat out of the can? Does she know that there’s chicken in the can?”) Bailey is full of such doggy wit and wisdom in all of his incarnations. In fact, the only thing that matches his humour is his heart– just like any good dog.

As necessitated by the “dog book” genre, I cried a few times in the middle and definitely at the end. However, mostly I laughed, and laughed often and out loud. When I was finished I handed it off to my mother, who enjoys such books, and she had pretty much the same reaction. I would recommend this to anyone who loves dogs, or humour, or stories about life, or humourous stories about dogs’ lives. I think Kirkus Reviews put it best when they described it as “Marley & Me combined with Tuesdays With Morrie“. Truly, a touching tale.


Book Review: The Animal Review (Lentz, Nash)

May 5, 2010

*ARC alert*

Throughout history, humans have been studying their fellow animals and judging them in various ways- these are good to eat, we kill those, this one makes a good pet. But Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash, operators of the Animal Review blog, had another question- are these animals even any good?

The answers are in in this 144-page gem that serves as a report card for some of Earth’s most beloved and reviled species. It mixes hilarity with fact to provide a learning experience you’ll never forget- personally, I think that their analogy between sea cucumbers and people will remain burned into my brain until the day I day. This book will make you reexamine your opinions on every animal it lists- yes, pandas are going extinct, but have you ever considered that they might deserve it? And are hippos, which make adorable stuffed animals, really the serial kilers of the animal kingdom?

The Animal Review is especially perfect for reluctant readers who might need a little help in biology, or anyone who is bored on a rainy day. It’s a brief read packed with laughs that also manages to educate- and a surprising number of the jokes turn out to be scientifically accurate. If you’re still not sure, check out the blog link above for a free taste of what these two biology wizards can do.