Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cats Dogs, and Other Strangers at My Door: A Roundup

Being that I have befriended five cats on my recent trip to Massachusetts, I thought it seemed appropriate to round up the man, many, many dog and cat books that we seem to be featuring at Boswell this holiday season. Some are highlighted in our holiday newsletter, others were featured on our new release display, and still others have a presence on our impulse

The biggest of the bunch, at least in terms of trim size, is Kittenhood: Life-Size Portraits of Kittens in Their First 12 Weeks (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), by Sarah Beth Ernhart. It came in very early, well before our gift tables came up, and I think it wound up face out in the section for a bit, leaving little room for anything else. The photography is very nice, with that large trim size making our feline friends look almost life size. I think the blank white pages are for effect. There are 25 breeds represented, including Mabel the sphynx, which I think is hairless. I really didn't know there were so many breeds out there!

Featured in our holiday gift guide is The Big New Yorker Book of Cats (Random House) and it is also Boswell Best through December. This collection of short stories, essays, cartoons, and magazine cover reproductions features work from E.B. White, Jamaica Kincaid, Haruki Murakami, Roald Dahl, and more. The New Yorker reprinted Anthony Lane's introduction in celebration of National Cat Day, which I don't have to tell you is October 29. Every so often, someone suggests the store get a cat (Left Bank Books has one in St. Louis, as does the slightly differently named Boswell's Books in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. The store is named after the cat, not the writer!

When it comes to the impulse table nowadays, it seems that every other book started as a blog. I guess publishers see that as sort of test marketing the title. Henri, Le Chat Noir: The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat (Ten Speed), by William Braden, is no exception. Apparently Henri perfectly captures feline malaise, saying, among other things "Sir Isaac Newton wrote, 'Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.' So, no, you should not consider getting a dog."  Did Henri's film really win the People's Choice award at the Internet Cat Film Festival?

I certainly don't need to mention the world-famous Grumpy Cat (Chronicle), because that Grumps is nothing short of movie-star famous. You sort of get the rhythm from these things, so the book, which is subtitled "Disgruntled Tips and Activities Designed to Put a Frown on Your Face" is filled with Grumpy reading lists, puzzles, and lots of advice, such as "Time heals all wounds. I broke your watch." Interestingly enough, Grumpy Cat has no human author--instead it's a product of Grumpy Cat Ltd.

You may remember Michael Showalter from The State or Michael and Michael Have Issues, two cable series from days past. His comedy partner, Michael Ian Black, is now game show hosting, and I just read that Showalter is a writer on the ABC series, Super Fun Night. But enough web searching (oh, just one more, he had a memoir two years ago called Mr. Funny Pants) as we are here to talk about cat books, and Showalter has one called Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too (Abrams). The design looks modeled a bit on Stuff White People Like, but the book is as much a guide as it is snarky fun. OK, its mostly snark but a portion of the author proceeds is being donated to The Humane Society of New York.

Time to stop purring and start barking. Carli Davidson's Shake (HarperDesign) is pint-sized photography book capturing dogs in their most candid moments of mid-shake, to quote the publisher. I believe there are internet-distributed videos that have had a lot of play. It's interesting that the stop-motion images capture the most fascinating facial expressions in the dogs. The Huffington Post wrote " a wet shaking dog may be a common sight for pet lovers, but few have ever seen wet dogs captured like this" and The New York Times called Shake "a hilarious portrayal of flying fur, flopping jowls, and bulging eyes." This is also featured in our holiday gift guide.

Veering inspirational is Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs, by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (National Geographic). Ascher Walsh is a freelance writer who volunteers at a shelter in Manhattan and has an organization to raise funds for the care of rescue dogs. Chancer is a golden retreiver who became companion to a boy with featal alcohol syndrome. Dutchess is a sled dog who trained for the Iditeraod.  And Schoep (named after the ice cream) is a mixed-breed shelter dog who helped pull his master out of depression.

Interestingly enough, I haven't seen so many animal narratives this Christmas, though I did note that Jason brought in the 7000th edition of The Cat Who Came for Christmas (Back Bay). There is Sharron Kahn Luttrell's Weekends with Daisy (Gallery), about a woman who does weekend care for a dog who is trained by a convict during the week. I'll bet you didn't know that many service dogs are trained in prisons. Well it turns out they've already sold movie rights to this book (actually done before book rights were sold), which they are comparing a bit to The Blind Side.

And finally for those who vote "other" in the pet elections, there is The Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990 (Blue Rider), translated from the original Hamster by Miriam and Ezra Elia. The diary was found by Dr. M.E. Rodenstein, specialist on Hamster Linguistics and Philosophy, at a North London garage sale.  Dr. R. calls this a profound meditation on the nature of captivity and the soul, interlaced with stark reflections on the grinding banalities of everyday being.

As long as we are talking about cats and dogs, don't forget about the Wisconsin Humane Society. Whether you are adopting a pet, looking to volunter, or just looking to donate needed funds, start by checking out their website.

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