There’s nothing like a book that features a dog as one of its central characters that will tug at your heart strings more.


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Despite their often sad endings, fictional books about dogs remain popular choices among readers. 

That’s because, much like in life, the grief we endure at the end is overshadowed by the immense amount of joy and love we get in the meantime.


Dogs have a way of shining a light on our humanity. Whether it’s rescuing a dog that had been previously mistreated or watching it become fiercely protective of the new baby you brought home or laughing at the hijinks your cuddly companion gets up to, canines are able to tap into a side of us that we rarely experience elsewhere in our lives.


Through reading, we can vicariously experience these intensely human moments that somehow only dogs know how to bring about. They access a secret part of our brain that very few, if any, humans are able to reach.


No matter what, whenever you read a book about a dog, you know you’re going to feel…something. And that’s precisely why we seek them out.


There have been no shortage of dog books over the years, but these are 10 books that have staying power. Some have delighted readers for many decades while others are quickly becoming modern-day classics.


And while not all of them have sad endings, you may want to keep a tissue box nearby just in case.


Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Where the Red Fern Grows

A classic tale that’s often encountered in elementary school reading circles, it’s a coming-of-age tale that appeals to adults as well.


Follow along with the inseparable trio of young Billy and his 2 coon dogs, Big Dan and Little Ann, as they traverse the Ozark mountains going on adventures big and small.


I distinctly remember this book as being the first book that emotionally gripped me as a young reader in the 3rd grade, so compelling is the story and the bonds experienced between the main character and his two canine companions.

2) Marley and Me

The subtitle says it all for this book, “Life and love with the world’s worst dog”.

If you took every adorable, funny, and cringeworthy dog video you saw on the internet and mashed it all together, you’d get this book.


Better yet, it’s a true story written by a professional journalist who’s able to describe the whimsies and mayhem of Marley with the due justice he deserves.


Like most books, the movie doesn’t do it justice, so be sure to pick this one up if you’re looking for a good belly laugh.

3) A Dog’s Purpose

In this charming book, humans aren’t the only ones having an existential crisis wondering what their purpose in life is.


After multiple reincarnations born as different puppies as a different breed to completely different owners (not all of them loving and good), Bailey begins to wonder what his true calling in life is meant to be.


Told from Bailey’s perspective, you get a dog’s eye view of human relationships, life, and love, with each new incarnation teaching Bailey a fresh lesson to learn.


As Bailey discovers and as only a dog can teach us, sometimes life’s most powerful lessons are its most simple ones.

4) A Friend Like Henry

Another true life dog story, this one focuses on an autistic boy, Dale, and the dog who helps breakthrough the walls of autism to help Dale heal.


Dale suffered from a severe form of autism and, being prone to violence, it took the love and patience of a Golden Retriever named Henry to allow Dale to gradually learn to live a normal life and conquer his autism.


You’ll gain new insight and understanding into this devastating disorder and the hopelessness it can often engender in the families dealing with it.


Henry was the ray of hope that they had been praying for and provided a chisel to the often impenetrable wall of autism that many families are never able to bust down.

5) The Dog Who Danced

Justine Meade, a 43 yr old woman, is no stranger to loss. She lost her mother, her home, and is estranged from both her father and her son, whom she loves dearly.


The only consistent and stabilizing force in her life is her dog, a Sheltie named Mack. In yet another cruel twist of events, she even manages to lose Mack after he’s dog-napped.


Mack eventually ends up with a couple named Ed and Alice who are still dealing with the loss of their only daughter.


With both owners dealing with huge losses in their lives, is Mack the one thing that can unite them and make their lives whole again?


This book will dance into your heart as surely as Mack danced in and out of the lives of Justine, Ed, and Alice.

6) White Fang/Call of the Wild

Ok, you get a twofer on this one! These books, both written by Jack London, go together hand-in-hand as their plot lines mirror each other.


The Call of the Wild is the story of a dog that is kidnapped from his California home and taken to the wild frontier of Alaska where he’s forced to become a sled dog.


White Fang tells the tale of a canine that’s 3/4 wolf and 1/4 dog that’s taken from his environment in the harsh northern wilderness and becomes domesticated by a California man.


Jack London is a masterful storyteller as he weaves separate but parallel tales of two dogs’ tales of survival as seen from their perspective.

7) The Incredible Journey

Separated from their family, three domesticated house pets undertake an arduous odyssey through the rough Canadian landscape to be reunited with the family they love.


Separately, these two dogs and one Siamese cat would have perished, but together they’re able to endure what becomes quite an incredible journey to get back home to their beloved family.


This, too, was made into a fun, family-friendly movie back in the 90s. It is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow their harrowing escapades in a test of survival.

8) Old Yeller

No book list about dogs would be complete without this classic tale.


Old Yeller is about a yellow lab that shows up on the Texas farm of a young teenage boy anxious to prove his manhood in the absence of his father.


At first the boy sees the dog as a nuisance, albeit a clever one. Then he realizes he might be able to use this clever dog to his advantage to help take care of the farm while his pa is away.


Old Yeller quickly becomes an integral part of the family and a great protector. But this young man is about to learn an important life lesson about love and loss on his journey to manhood.

9) The Art of Racing in the Rain

This is another contemporary story of life, love, and loyalty as told from the dog’s perspective.


Enzo, the main character (a dog), belongs to a family whose owner is an up-and-coming race car driver. There are many race car metaphors woven throughout this tale as Enzo derives many of his life lessons from watching the victories and defeats of his fast-living owner.


The story is a look back as Enzo lies on death’s door and reviews everything he’s learned about life by studiously watching television and paying close attention to his owner’s words and deeds.


Now a major Hollywood movie, this heart-wrenching but ultimately uplifting story of family, loyalty, and hope will leave its imprint on people’s hearts for generations to come.

What Would You Add?

Thus concludes my list for top books about dogs. What do you think? Are there any books you would add? Any books you would cut from the list?


Drop us a line and let us know!

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