Bark’s Picks for the Best Books of 2017

By Claudia Kawczynska, December 2017, Updated June 2021

As we wrap up 2017, we would like to recommend six books that stand-out and grabbed our attention this year. First up is Amy Sutherland’s insightful and engaging Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes (Harper).

As an astute and skilled journalist who has volunteered hundreds of hours at local shelters, Sutherland had a front-row seat on the subject of how shelter life affects both the dogs and the people working to find their “clients” new homes. Her tour of shelters throughout the U.S. also provided her with invaluable lessons about best ideas and strategies. This is a thoroughly engrossing and, yes, entertaining read.

Laura Schenone’s The Dogs of Avalon: The Race to Save Animals in Peril (W.W. Norton & Company) takes the theme of rescue across the “pond” over to Ireland and other European countries. She investigates how a small group of humane activists helped to change public perception about the often stigmatized Greyhounds. Theirs is truly a David and Goliath tale, with the giant being all those involved with the popular dog racing industry, even including the Irish Parliament. The stories of animal welfare leaders who have been able to achieve so much powered by their love and respect for dogs is truly inspirational, as well as fascinating.

Neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, the researcher who was the first to use functional MRIs to measure canine brain activity and to probe questions like how do dogs love us, had a new book in 2017, What It’s Like to Be a Dog (Basic Books). This work brings us up-to-date on recent discoveries that have been probed by his Dog Project at Emory University that included subjects like canine self-control, understanding human language, and probing just how and when dogs are at their happiest. This book also explores the inner lives of other species, and broadens our understanding that the divide between us and other species isn’t that wide at all.


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A memoir also merits special notice: Former marine intelligence officer, Craig Grossi’s Craig & Fred: A Marine, a Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other (William Morrow) is a story of how a stray dog was rescued in a remote area in Afghanistan and how this remarkable dog won the hearts of the author and others in the troop. And better yet how that relationship is still touching his life and inspiring others.

Plus a special photography book: Really Good Dog Photography (Hoxton Mini Press) is as its title suggests … a collection of images from many of the best photographers working today. No fluff, simply great photos and a thoughtful introduction—presented in an exquisitely designed book.

Each year brings a stack of notable children's books but one title for very young readers captured our imagination—My Dog Mouse (Gecko Press) by Eva Lindström. It tells the story of a young girl taking a neighbor's elderly dog for a walk. Lindström’s illustrations are modern and cheerful, and she has a knack for evocative language (describing the dog’s ears as thin as pancakes). It is a quiet and humorous tale of friendship and longing with a gentle heartache.

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.