Maybe you waited too long to shop, or maybe you waited until the after-holiday sales to kick in to buy gifts for your friends —  you can always say it’s a gift for the New Year, right? Well, thankfully, there IS an antidote to too late Christmas gifts for pet lovers.

In the Khuly household it’s called Amazon. Because in my house, the written word trumps all.

I’m also big on the pleasure of gifts received after the fact, and since a large percentage of this girl’s gifts will be late this year, I thought I’d offer a quick run-down of some of my favorite animal-related books of the year for those of you still out prowling for the perfect gift.

Don’t worry; Jon Katz is off the menu this year. This season I’m leaning towards the animal classics and the slightly off-kilter. Here's a rundown of some faves:

  • The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt
  • Lassie Come Home, by Eric Knight
  • Beautiful Joe, by Margaret Marshall Saunders
  • Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell:
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
  • The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
  • National Velvet, by Enid Bagnold
  • The Black Stallion, by Walt Farley
  • My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara
  • Gobbolino, the Witch's Cat, by Ursula Moray Williams
  • Big Red, by Jim Kjelgaard
  • Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian and Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West, by Marguerite Henry
  • Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
  • Goodbye, My Lady, by James H. Street
  • Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson
  • My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
  • Rascal, by Sterling North

What a great list! Kudos to Christie Keith of Your Whole Pet at the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's a link to her whole article on SFGate for a detailed explanation of why each is worthy.

And here is a list of my more adult-oriented personal favorites (though one is technically a kid's book):

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (2006)

OK so I’m a little slow. Some of you recommended this last year (or was it the year before?) and I only recently got to it. Totally worth it. Works for every kind of animal person — pet lovers, vet watchers and welfarists alike. The main character’s a crotchety retired vet whose early circus days are recalled with incredible lucidity and twisted nostalgia.

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer (2002)

This one’s for teens — supposedly. Here’s where I confess that I have a thing for interesting children’s literature and sci-fi. This one’s not about animals, per se, though it’s about an alternative reality where humans are animalized and harvested for agriculture. The main character is a clone who struggles with his identity as a human/animal born of a cow. Creepy and lurid but an incredibly thought-provoking take on human identity and speciest thinking.

Killing Mister Watson, by Peter Matthiessen (1990)

Though he won the national Book Award for The Snow Leopard, and has written numerous other environmentally-themed non-fiction works, Killing Mister Watson is his seminal tome, as far as I’m concerned. A fictionalized account of life in pioneer Southwest Florida, it juxtaposes one man’s human death toll with the obliteration of the area’s natural habitat. At first you sort of wonder whether you can really get into this kind of a book, but usually by then it’s too late … you’re glued to its pages.

OK so they’re not as animal-y as Christie’s but they’re all I’ve got (and they won't make you cry). Luckily, I know you’ve got more to recommend, so please share. Just please, for the love of God, don’t recommend Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. I’m still in therapy trying to recover from that one.

A belated Merry Christmas to you!

Dr. Patty Khuly