Time for something light and airy after all that [self-] righteous energy lost to the ether of this blog’s “post entry” button:

Today we’ll talk books, I think. Now that I’m a “top-ten pet health blogger,” deemed so by Fox News Online last July (hooray for me!) I get lots of offers for free pet books from their publishers. For the record, this is the only financial remuneration a top-ten pet health blogger gets for her multiple hours of daily effort.

So does that mean I have to declare them on my income tax forms? Ummm… Not if I can write about them, right? Thank goodness for tax law loopholes to benefit the underpaid! (I don’t know what I would do if I had to pay taxes on $200 in pet books.)

OK, that’s enough snarkiness for one day. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of pet books.

So you know, I’ll confess that this is not my favorite genre of literature. I do, however, like to read an awful lot. It’s my favorite bedtime, treadmill and miscellaneous waiting room pastime and it works well to keep my brain active.

Problem is, most pet books are alternately sweet, sad and less than expertly crafted. In short, I feel like I’m being jerked around by bad literature when I read most of it. To challenge my suspicions that I might be better served by reading the Wall Street Journal over most of this stuff, I re-read the James Herriot books over the summer.

Now, Herriot’s good stuff. No, it’s not great literature, either, but you don’t have to be Shakespeare or Dickens to rock someone’s world, do you? And that’s what continues to fuel the pet genre, though the more modern “Chicken Soup” versions of pet books pale in comparison to Dr. Jim’s fine example (don’t kill me, Marty, you doubtless agree with me).

In well-deserved deference to Dr. Marty Becker and Gina (Spadafori) of PetConnection, it’s clear that most of us tend to be drawn in by some of the more informative versions of the modern pet-lit genre. It’s brisk reading, grabs your attention with bright writing, helps you identify with your pets’ brains more than you otherwise would have and always tells you something you didn’t know (a lot of things in the case of the well-matched Becker/Spadafori team).

Yet reading snobs like me (again, I confess) still have a hard time jumping from Animal Farm to Marley and Me and feeling like we’re getting our money’s worth (an eight-buck differential at my local Barnes and Noble—one guess which costs more). Luckily, you can also get a two-book tome of Herriot’s greats for $3.99 if you scour the bargain books (as I did this summer).

Still, some of the books I received this year were worthy of your attention: Pet Food Nation by Joan Weiskopf was timely, Nathan Winograd’s Redemption I’m enthralled by but haven’t finished (and that’s another post entirely), and Dogs: A Natural History by Jake Page was a surprisingly engaging soft-science read.

Now back to my key point: There’s something about pet-lit that seems necessary. Not just the informative, well written, worth-every-penny sort, but even the smarmiest tear-jerkers (the ones I’m most likely to pan in any review). And no, not just because the genre continues to spawn generations of vets and spurn pet owners to action on behalf of their loved ones, but also because reading about animals is a balm in itself (OK, maybe not Animal Farm).

On that note, I think I’ll conclude this post by offering up my top-ten favorite pet/animal books of all time. Sure, none of my recent publisher sends make the list, but who knows? Maybe next year…

In no particular order:

1-White Fang by Jack London

2-The All Creatures… four-part series by James Herriot

3-The Call of the Wild by Jack London

4-The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

5-The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

6-The Merck Veterinary Manual

7-The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete

8-The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

9-Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

10-Watership Down by Richard Adams

And now it’s your turn: Which are your favorite pet/animal reads of all time? Got any newbies you’d like to enlighten us to? Comment away…