1) Bird Brain by Guy Kennaway
I found this book immensely funny. Banger is almost as daft as my dear Digby and whilst poacher turned gamekeeper might be one of the oldest plots in fiction, Kennaway gives it a good dust down in this modern yarn that’s also a murder mystery with a vast cast of hilarious animal characters. One of my top reads of 2012.
2) Flush by Virginia Woolf
Woolfy I always have thought took herself far too seriously and apparently was embarrassed by the immense popularity of this, her biography of Elizabeth Barratt Browning’s eponymous spaniel. Some say it’s a criticism of the unnaturalness of city life, but I wouldn’t know about that being a country boy, but anyway, it’s a book about a dog.
3) Timbuktu by Paul Auster
Ahh, Mr Auster, one the the Great American Writers, white, middle-class, middle-aged (well, getting on a bit now), this is definitely not one of his ardent fans’ favorites though it should be noted they are particularly susceptible to literary snobbery. I rather enjoyed this witty, sad saga from Mr Bones.
4) The Last Family in England by Matt Haig
“This country’s going to the dogs!” – sounds like Bob after one too ales many down The Ship of an evening but this was another dark and quirky tale of family life from Haig. Although I have to disagree with Prince’s pact: “Remain Loyal to Your Human Masters, Serve and Protect Your Family at Any Cost”. Every tortoise for himself I say.
5) Felidae by Akif Pirrinci
And just before you think it’s all about the canine, here’s a feline! Another anthromorphological murder mystery, this remarkable literary thriller from a German (Turkish born) writer was a best-seller back in its day – and so it should have been with Francis’ unquenchable thirst for knowledge and refusal to accept the banality of death. A cat after my reptilian heart.
6) Firmin by Sam Savage
Where there’s cats there’ll be rats! In this metropolitan adventure of a low-life our hungry protagonist is forced to eat books to survive (I’d go for a nice clump of grass any day) and discovers along with the paltry nourishment he has gained knowledge! Thank goodness for my encyclopaedic shell is all I can say.
7) White Fang by Jack London
This 1906 classic is free on kindle! (Click the cover to the left). This novel set in Canada’s about a wolf that becomes a dog – domesticated fool. It’s a companion novel and a thematic mirror (whatever that means) to London’s best known novel ‘The Call of the Wild’. Some good commentary on the violence of humans though; I liked it for that.
8) The London Pigeon Wars by Patrick Neate
Another funny murder story! We are most amusing us animals, you know. Set in London not by London this one features performance poetry, Trafalgar Square’s only fried-chicken induced battle, hat selling, bank robbery for the middle classes, love (and other social ailments); as well as pigeons – lots of crazed, angry thinking pigeons.
9) The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Set in contemporary Angola (I haven’t been there, but I’d like to) the charming, witty narrator is a reptile – just like me! Living in his house is a chap called Felix who sells pasts because, as I have often noted, not many humans like theirs and are wishing they could change them. Like the mentalist Dave Palmer who took over Bestwood and tried to dry himself out and exorcise all his demons. Hah! Fat chance of that.
10) Thirty Seconds Before Midnight by Helen J Beal
Which brings me nicely onto my personal favorite also featuring a charming and witty reptile narrator – ME! My name is Herbert and I am a giant land tortoise with a heritage in the Ecuadorian Galapagos archipelago. I tell you mine and Stella’s story in this book, which I was surprised to find myself, bears a great deal of resemblance to the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice. Thirty Seconds Before Midnight will be published on December 1st 2012.