Last year I followed up the Christmas holiday with a post on belated gifts––books, to be exact. This year I’ll do the same, with another round of crowd-pleasing (or not) mostly animal-themed reads for the new year. To mix things up I’ll include some of my favorite DVDs too.

As always, it’s your job to share your personal favorites in the comments below. And don’t worry if they’re a repeat of last year’s. (A couple of mine are repeats, too, but I just can’t help recommending some things as many times as I can.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ll start things off with this one, my favorite book of the year. Too bad it’s not an animal read. Not in the slightest. This Nazi wartime, coming of age novel is told from Death’s point of view. And somehow it’s meant to be a “young adult” book. For some reason I can’t get anyone I know to read it, despite my adoration of its evocative language and universal themes. (Maybe it’s my delivery.)

Best in Show (DVD)

An oldie but goodie I revisited recently. Hands down the best mockumentary ever made. In the category of so-funny-because-it’s-so-true kind of co

medy, its unabashed depiction of dog show people in all their wacky glory is irresistible. And Parker Posey is pitch-perfect as the neurotic Weim-mommy. If it’s not in your DVD collection you need to get it...now.

Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

Why this book? Because Homer was mine before I found him a home. Because I wrote the foreword. And because so many cat people I know have adored it.

Food, Inc.

This is the best DVD of the year for animal people. All kinds of people, really. Cinematically speaking, it’s got creative touches you’d never expect. It’s got a message that’s hard not to take seriously. And it’s offered up in a way that makes it easy for anyone to grasp, including kids, for whom I consider this movie indispensable. If it’s a tad boring for them, just add home-made chocolate-covered popcorn and hot chocolate with marshmallows. (Who can resist?)

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

OK, so it came out in 2008 but I’m still pitching this book in 2009. Not as dog-earable as his Omnivore’s Dilemma but worthy, nonetheless.

Complications by Dr. Atul Gawande

Here’s another book few seem to take me up on. It’s all about how human docs learn and come to make mistakes––and how they handle it. Though it’s appealed most to the medical providers I’ve recommended it to (human and animal, alike), I’d think anyone with half a brain and an interest in healthcare would absolutely eat up this relatively short read.

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley

I'm no vegetarian. Nevertheless, I tend to cook and eat like a vegetarian. This book might have been written in 2000 but I just discovered it this year. It's the kind of cookbook you can open up to any page and have your mouth water. I read it in bed...like a novel (which is how most cookbooks are best consumed, I think). 

The LIfe of Pi by Yann Martel

Also not a newie but it's perhaps the best non-animal animal book I've ever read. Except for Animal Farm, of course––and Watership Down, too. It starts off at a simmer but rumbles into a rollicking boil after fifty or so pages. A tiger in a lifeboat? Who can resist the lure of that visual?

I’ll think up a few more over the next 24 or so hours. In the meantime, offer up your picks below...