In March of 2018, Gramercy’s canine mascot, Wally, picked his first recommendation for a new monthly pick we call #WallyReads. We let him nose around, literally, and he went for Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. An unusual selection, I wondered if he got focused on the big pencil image on the book cover. (Or maybe he just followed our customers around, which is what he does, and a lot of them were picking up that book.) We thought, since there are so many books about dogs and so many people with dogs (60 million households share space with a canine friend), Wally needed to select books that related more to him.
Choices abound. While most dog books historically dealt with the pragmatics—how to choose a dog, train a dog, care for a dog—a recent essay in the New York Times revealed there are more than 70,000 dog books listed on Amazon, including many that explore a dog’s mind. Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz, who runs the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College in New York City, authored a landmark book in 2009 with the publication of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. Those crucial insights about how a dog experiences the world has, in turn, led to a plethora of literary fiction whose prominent feature is the dog’s thoughts and feelings. Like Wally’s December 2018 pick, The Friend, the winner of the National Book Award for fiction. In this novel, a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and finds herself with the task of caring for the dog left behind. The woman must battle through her own grief, alongside a huge Great Dane suffering through the unexplained disappearance of its master. Here’s a novel about the connection a dog has with its family, and the lifelong love they share, something to which all of us with canines can relate.
Let’s look at Wally’s 2019 picks, to date, and I’ll share a bit about why he/we picked them.
We all have heroes, and Wally is no different! For January, our bookstore mascot chose Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners. Gramercy booksellers knew that Wally would easily be in awe of author Wilma Melville’s dedication in creating the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and her rag tag trio of "irredeemable and unadoptable" golden retrievers-turned-heroes. Here is a book for history buffs and dog lovers.
In February, Wally picked the perfect book to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He liked How to Say I Love You in (almost) Every Language by Celeste Shelly because he has his own way of saying “I love you” in dog language: WOOF! Of course, this book also has beautiful artwork and teaches all of us how to share our affection in many different languages!
Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs was Wally’s pick for March. Now, who wouldn’t like a hilarious collection of poetry authored by dogs named Sparky, Snowy, Tucker, and Louie?Here’s one poem in the collection:
"I look for poems about rabies
Or the threat posed by dogs to babies
That focus on scabies or skin conditions
Or dogs who can't control their emissions.
But all of it done in extremely good taste!
Because a poem is a horrible thing to waste."
#WallyReads April pick was Lessons from Lucy, the newest book from Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling author Dave Barry. Dave learns how to age gracefully, taking cues from his beloved and senior dog, Lucy. Dogs teach us so much about life, and Lucy teaches Dave how to live in the present, how to let go of daily grievances, and how to feel good in your own skin. Like all our canine companions, Wally shares his wisdom daily with his devoted family.
Anyone who’s ever loved a dog will appreciate the gentle lessons in Wally’s May pick, Perfect Imperfection: Dog Portraits of Resilience and Love by award-winning photographer Alex Cearns. There’s little Vegemite with a permanent wink. Or playful Bali Pip who lost her fur. Raul takes partial paralysis in his stride. In this inspiring portrayal of difference, Cearns captures the intrinsic beauty and spirit; the sweetness, resilience, and strength of sixty perfectly imperfect dogs. They adapt to their unique bodies without complaint, they survive with determination, and they live with joy. The accompanying stories from their best friends expresses the bond between these endearing dogs and their humans.
The poet, Mary Oliver, in her book Dog Songs asks, “What would this world be like without dogs?” Her book celebrates the special bond between human and dog as understood through her own relationship to the canines that have accompanied her daily walks, warmed her home, and inspired her work. Throughout, the many dogs of Oliver’s life merge as fellow travelers and as guides, uniquely able to open our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection.
Written by Linda Kass
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. It won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program and was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, serving all of central Ohio!
Learn more about me on my personal website.