Posted by: billpurdue | July 6, 2009

61 Doggy Sitting

I’ve not been getting that much reading done in the last week or so and that’s partly because I’m looking after a friend’s dog for a few days. Dogs need attention, especially those that are suddenly plunged into a strange environment – and anyway he’s a very well behaved dog and I’m definitely a dog lover. This has made me think however of a few titles related to or about dogs, amongst the 1000s that are out there…

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan [Hodder £7.99 9780340977804 – film tie-in edition] is probably already well known to most of you. It has recently been made into a feature film and the book has appeared in many editions. Marley is a boisterous and accident prone Labrador who teaches its owners what really matters in life. I notice the DVD of the film is out this week, but read the book first.

Then there’s the catchily titled Why do dogs drink out of the toilet? by Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori  [Orion £6.99 9780752882499]. This is not a cheap attempt at lavatorial doggy type humour, but an explanation of why dogs do some of the things they do – why they cock their heads to one side when listening intently and whether praise or punishment is best to help dogs learn better, for example.

I had a black dogFinally there are two books by Matthew Johnstone which are really nothing to do with actual dogs: I  had a Black Dog [Robinson Publishing £6.99 978-1845295899 ] and Living with a Black Dog[Robinson £7.99 9781845297435] are both picture books about depression – “black dog” being another word for the condition. Both these books have been highly praised by sufferers and carers alike for the way they put into pictures the feelings of people with depression.

A travel writer of the old school

For those who enjoy Michael Palin’s or Bill Bryson’s travel books, this one may or may not be suitable. Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron [Vintage £8.99 9780099437222]is an account of a journey from northern China to Turkey visiting on the way many off the beaten track locations in countries such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Mr Thubron, Eton educated and born in 1939, is definitely one of the old school travel writers and none the worse for it. …and if you want photographs, forget it: Mr Thubron doesn’t like being encumbered by a camera. The author has written several travel books as well as award winning fiction.

Family dynamics

Notes from an exhibitionRachel Kelly is a gifted artist with bipolar disorder. She is married with four children (one of whom is not her husband’s child) , but her past has always been something of a mystery to the rest of her family. After she is found dead in her studio, her Quaker  husband and family try to piece together what facts they can about Rachel’s life before she married.  The eldest of the children visits his real father. Anthony, the husband, even appeals for information on the internet. Slowly the jigsaw that is Rachel’s past is pieced together with surprising results. Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale [HarperCollins £7.99 9780007254668] has been praised for the way it portrays the twisted dynamics of a family. I found it interesting but the way the narrative jumped from the present to the past and back again several times annoyed me. Patrick Gale’s latest title- The Whole Day Through [Fourth Estate £7.99 978-0007306015 – also available in hardback] was out at the end of May.

Finally, another word about Monty Halls, author of Beachcomber Cottage , tGreat Ocean Adventureshe book of the TV series. Mr Halls has also written Great Ocean Adventures [Broadcast Books £15 978-1874092544] which is the book of a Channel 5 Tv series  a couple of years ago. Monty and a small team travelled the world in search of some of the largest sea creatures on the planet. This book is the story of the making of the programme and is illustrated with “stunning” photographs.

Next time – Sandi Toksvig and life at the British Museum


  1. Directly as a result of this excellent blog, have just ordered Monty Hall’s ‘Beachcomber Cottage’ for my son’s birthday. Would never have come across it normally, but absolutely loved it. Many thanks Bill

  2. superdrupermegapuper54321…

    Very usefull info. Thanks!…

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