18 Of The Best Books About Dogs For Adults That Are Sure To Tug At Your Heartstrings

When it comes to a heartwarming book that is sure to be an emotional ride as you read, books about man’s best friend are a perfect choice.

18 Of The Best Books About Dogs For Adults That Are Sure To Tug At Your Heartstrings

Though these books can range in content and genre- from slice-of-life books to fantasy, science fiction, and beyond- an emotionally rewarding feeling seems to be particularly prevalent in books about dogs, thanks to our canine companions being known for their love, loyalty, and companionship.

They aren’t known as man’s best friend for nothing, after all!

With this in mind, we will be looking at eighteen particularly noteworthy books about dogs that are well-suited for adult reading, so that if you are a pet owner or just a general dog lover then you are sure to find something that will interest you. Let’s get started.

Call Of The Wild By Jack London

The Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild follows the story of Buck, a large and powerful dog who is kidnapped from his comfortable life in California and sold into the brutal world of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Buck is forced to work as a sled dog, and he experiences cruelty and violence at the hands of various owners. However, Buck learns to adapt to the harsh realities of his new life and taps into his primitive instincts to survive.

 Along the way, he encounters various characters, both human and animal, and ultimately finds a new home with a kind and compassionate master.


  • A classic novel that is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
  • The novel explores important themes such as the struggle between civilization and nature, the instinctual nature of animals, and the power of the human-animal bond.
  • The character of Buck, the canine protagonist, is richly drawn and provides a compelling perspective on the world.
  • The novel’s vivid descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness and the harsh realities of the Klondike Gold Rush make for a captivating and immersive reading experience.
  • The book’s message of self-discovery and resilience in the face of adversity is both timeless and inspiring.


  • Some readers may find the novel’s portrayal of animal cruelty and violence to be disturbing or difficult to read.
  • The novel has been criticized for its racist and sexist undertones, particularly in its portrayal of Native American characters and its treatment of female characters.
  • The novel’s prose style can be dense and difficult to follow at times, particularly for readers who are not accustomed to the language and style of early 20th-century literature.

White Fang By Jack London

White Fang

Another novel from Call of the Wild author Jack London, White Fang follows the story of a wild wolf-dog hybrid who is born in the wilderness of the Yukon and is gradually tamed by humans.

White Fang experiences both the brutal realities of the natural world, where only the strongest and most ruthless survive, as well as the complicated and often cruel world of humans, who seek to exploit and control him.

Through his experiences, White Fang learns to adapt and survive, ultimately finding love and companionship with a kind master.


  • The exploration of White Fang’s transformation from a wild animal to a domesticated one is a nuanced and compelling examination of the power of experience to shape an individual’s character.
  • The depiction of the natural world and the struggle for survival within it is both vivid and immersive, providing a fascinating glimpse into the brutal realities of life in the wild.
  • The book’s themes of loyalty, love, and compassion make it a heartwarming and emotionally resonant read.
  • The character of Weedon Scott, White Fang’s final and most compassionate master, is a shining example of the best of humanity and provides a powerful counterpoint to the more ruthless and exploitative characters in the novel.


  • Some readers may find the novel’s focus on animal characters to be limiting, with human characters serving mostly as foils or background figures.
  • The novel has been criticized for its deterministic view of nature, in which characters are largely shaped by their environment and experiences rather than by their own agency.
  • Like Call of the Wild, White Fang has been criticized for its racist and sexist undertones, particularly in its portrayal of Native American characters and its treatment of female characters.

Marley & Me by John Grogan

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

This next book is well-known thanks to the 2008 film of the same name, with the novel being a memoir from John Grogan that tells the story of his life with his mischievous and beloved dog, a Labrador Retriever named Marley.

The book follows Marley’s life from his adoption as a puppy through his growth into a rambunctious and often destructive adult dog, to his eventual old age and decline.

The book explores the deep bond between humans and their pets and the lessons that can be learned from living with and caring for a beloved animal companion.


  • A heartwarming and humorous memoir that celebrates the special bond between humans and their pets, particularly dogs.
  • The book offers an honest portrayal of the challenges and rewards of dog ownership, including the difficulties of training, the joys of companionship, and the inevitable sadness of saying goodbye.
  • A relatable and engaging storytelling style makes it a popular and widely beloved read.
  • The book’s themes of family, love, and loyalty make it a heartwarming and emotionally resonant memoir.


  • The book’s ending, which deals with Marley’s decline and eventual death, may be difficult for some readers to read.
  • Some readers may find the book’s focus on a dog’s life to be overly sentimental or simplistic.

A Dog’s Purpose By W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans (A Dog's Purpose, 1)

This novel tells the story of a dog’s journey through multiple lives, each one with a different purpose and meaning.

The narrator of the novel is Bailey, who- in his first life- is a lovable and curious puppy that discovers the world around him with wonder and enthusiasm.

As Bailey dies and is reincarnated, he takes on new identities and experiences different lives, each with its own set of challenges and lessons.

Through his various lives, Bailey experiences life as a working dog, a companion animal, a rescue dog, and more, all while seeking his true purpose in life and developing deep bonds with various owners.

The novel’s overarching message is that every life has a purpose and that through love, compassion, and understanding, we can find our place in the world and make a meaningful difference in the lives of those around us.


  • A heartwarming and uplifting exploration of the unique bond between humans and dogs, and the many ways in which our pets can enrich and transform our lives.
  • The book’s use of a dog’s perspective offers a fresh and engaging take on the story, providing a unique and memorable reading experience.
  • An overarching message of the importance of love, compassion, and understanding resonates with readers of all ages and backgrounds.
  • The novel’s episodic structure and diverse range of settings and characters make it an engaging and immersive read.


  • Some readers may find the book’s premise of a dog’s reincarnation to be too fantastical or far-fetched.
  • The novel’s structure, with each section detailing a different life, may not appeal to readers who prefer a more traditional narrative structure.
  • The book has been criticized by some animal rights activists for promoting an anthropocentric view of animal welfare, in which animals’ sole purpose is to serve human needs and desires.

The Art Of Racing In The Rain By Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel

The Art of Racing in the Rain tells the story of a race car driver named Denny and his loyal and insightful dog, Enzo.

The novel is narrated from the perspective of Enzo, who has spent his life at the side of his owner, who dreams of making it to the top of his profession. As Enzo reflects on his life with Denny, he provides a unique perspective on the human experience.

Through Denny’s struggles to achieve his goals, Enzo offers unwavering support and insight, drawing on his deep understanding of Denny’s motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.

Along the way, Denny’s life is complicated by a bitter custody battle over his daughter, and a tragic illness that threatens to tear his family apart.

The novel’s message is that life is full of ups and downs, but with love, perseverance, and the support of our loved ones, we can overcome even the greatest challenges.


  • A unique and engaging perspective on the human experience thanks to the book being told through the eyes of the perceptive and insightful Enzo.
  • The themes of love, loss, and perseverance resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds, making it a universally relatable and moving read.
  • The novel’s characters, particularly Enzo and Denny, are well-developed and relatable, and their struggles and triumphs are compelling and emotional.
  • The book’s exploration of the world of race car driving provides a fresh and interesting backdrop for the story, adding an extra layer of depth and interest.


  • The novel’s exploration of Denny’s profession as a race car driver may not appeal to all readers, particularly those who are not interested in racing or cars.
  • The book’s exploration of some heavy themes, including illness and loss, may be difficult or triggering for some readers.

Stray Dogs By Tony Fleecs

Stray Dogs

This next book is a little different in that it is a graphic novel series, making for a great option for those looking for a unique adult story that features dogs.

Stray Dogs follows Sophie, a nervous dog who is taken to the vet to get her shots, only to wake up in a new home with a new owner and various other dogs.

As Sophie attempts to acclimatize to her new surroundings, she begins to be haunted by memories of her original owner’s death at the hands of her new master.

With the help of her new companions, Sophie sets out to investigate the truth of what happened and who her new master really is.

The series combines elements of suspense and horror and has been praised for its unique and engaging storyline, as well as its charming and relatable characters.

Whilst we are on the subject of the characters, the dogs in the series are depicted as fully-realized characters, each with their own unique personality and backstory, making them easy to relate to and root for.

Stray Dogs has been widely praised by critics and readers alike for its engrossing storyline, its charming and relatable characters, and its striking and detailed artwork, which perfectly captures the unique perspective of the dogs.


  • Striking and detailed artwork that perfectly captures the unique perspective of the dogs.
  • Exploration of compelling themes.
  • Unique and engaging storyline.
  • Fully fleshed out and realized canine characters.
  • Perfect for those looking to indulge in a new comic book series.


  • Some readers may find the horror elements of the comic book series too disturbing.

The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle By David Wroblewski

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel (P.S.)

This next novel follows Edgar Sawtelle, a young boy who is born mute and communicates with his family and the world through American Sign Language.

Edgar lives on a farm in Wisconsin with his parents, who breed and train a fictional breed of dog known as the Sawtelle dog.

The Sawtelle dogs play a central role in the story and are depicted as intelligent, loyal, and fiercely devoted to their human companions.

When Edgar’s father dies under mysterious circumstances, Edgar is convinced that his uncle, Claude, is responsible. With the help of his beloved Sawtelle dogs, Edgar sets out to uncover the truth and bring justice to his family.

Along the way, Edgar discovers the power of love and loyalty, both from his dogs and from the people around him.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a rich and nuanced novel that explores the complexities of family, identity, and communication, and features unforgettable characters and a vividly rendered setting.


  • The novel is beautifully written and has a strong sense of place and atmosphere, with vivid descriptions of the Wisconsin countryside and the dogs that populate it.
  • Complex and well-drawn characters.
  • The story is engaging and suspenseful, with a mystery at its core that keeps the reader guessing until the end.
  • The novel explores themes of love, loss, grief, and the bonds between humans and animals in a poignant and moving way.
  • A creative and unique retelling of the classic Hamlet play by William Shakespeare.


  • The novel is quite long and can be slow-moving at times, which may not appeal to all readers.
  • Some readers may find the ending unsatisfying or ambiguous.

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog And His People By Rick Bragg

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People is a memoir written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg.

The memoir is about Bragg’s beloved dog Speck and acts as both a tribute to Speck and a reflection on the relationship between humans and dogs.

Bragg tells the story of how he came to adopt Speck, a speckled stray, and how the dog became a beloved member of his family.

He describes Speck’s personality, quirks, and habits, and the deep bond that developed between them. Interspersed with stories about Speck are reflections on the role that dogs play in human life.

Bragg writes about the ways in which dogs bring joy, comfort, and companionship to their human companions, and how they help us to be more fully human.

The book also touches on broader themes, such as the meaning of family, the importance of loyalty, and the value of love and friendship.

With humor, warmth, and insight, Bragg captures the spirit of Speck and the deep connection between dogs and the people who love them.


  • The memoir is beautifully written and heartfelt, with strong emotional resonance.
  • A tribute to the special relationship between humans and dogs.
  • Bragg’s writing is humorous and engaging, with a strong sense of voice and character that draws the reader into his world.
  • Both a personal and universal memoir.


  • The book is relatively short and may leave some readers wanting more depth or detail.

What A Dog Knows By Susan Wilson

What a Dog Knows: A Novel

This next novel by Susan Wilson focuses on a woman named Ruby Heartwood who is a travelling psychic who works at festivals, carnivals, and circuses around New England.

When parked up in her Volkswagen van, a storm hits and Ruby hears a small voice saying “let me in”. This voice ends up being a small dog trying to escape the downpour, with Ruby realizing that she can read the dog’s thoughts.

Ruby discovers that she can hear the thoughts of various dogs, and she decides to set up a semi-permanent residence in the town of Harmony Falls until she can figure out what is happening and who the dog- named Hitch- actually is.

What A Dog Knows is a fun mystery novel about the connection that we as humans can have with our canine companions, and one that is sure to be a hit with dog lovers of all ages.


  • A unique and fun storyline.
  • Memorable human and dog characters, such as Hitch.
  • Genuinely thought-provoking.
  • The mystery storyline is particularly engaging.


  • Might be a bit far fetched for some readers due to Ruby’s psychic abilities that allow her to communicate with dogs.

Fifteen Dogs By Andre Alexis

Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs is a novel and apalogue that explores the question of what it means to be human through the eyes of a group of dogs.

The story begins when the gods Hermes and Apollo make a bet about whether dogs would be happier or more miserable than humans if they were given human intelligence.

The gods grant human intelligence to a group of fifteen dogs in Toronto, and the dogs begin to experience a range of emotions and thoughts that are typically associated with humans.

The dogs form packs, compete for resources, and begin to question their place in the world. As the story unfolds, the dogs’ experiences of life are varied and intense.

Some dogs become obsessed with power and dominance, while others are consumed with questions of morality and purpose.

The novel is both thought-provoking and entertaining, and it has been praised for its imaginative premise, vivid characters, and philosophical depth.

It also won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards, as well as the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.


  • Offers a unique and imaginative perspective on the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human.
  • The characters, particularly the dogs, are vividly drawn and engaging, and their individual personalities and struggles are compelling.
  • The writing is elegant and evocative, with a strong sense of voice and style that draws the reader into the world of the novel.


  • The novel can be complex and philosophical at times, which may make it difficult for some readers to follow or engage with.

Nop’s Trials By Donald McCaig

Nop's Trials: A Novel

Nop’s Trials tells the story of Nop the border collie who is separated from his owner Lewis Burkholder after being stolen by criminals who wish to sell him.

Nop has to deal with the brutality and abuse of his captors as he begins to adjust to his new life, though his loyalty to Lewis never falters.

Lewis is equally bonded to Nop, refusing to believe that he is gone, making it his mission to be reunited with his border collie companion.

 The book focuses on the bond between Nop and his owner, with both refusing to back down in their quest to find each other again.


  • Engaging and well-developed characters, both human and canine.
  • Exploration of the complex relationships between man and dog.
  • The writing is descriptive and evocative, with a strong sense of place that immerses. the reader in the natural landscapes of rural Virginia and Canada.


Where The Red Fern Grows By Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows

Where The Red Fern Grows is a classic coming-of-age novel by Wilson Rawls that tells the story of a young boy named Billy and his two beloved coonhounds, Old Dan and Little Ann.

The novel is set in the Ozark Mountains during the Great Depression and follows Billy’s adventures as he saves up his money to purchase two coonhound puppies, whom he trains to become skilled hunters.

Billy forms a deep bond with Little Ann and Old Dan, and the three of them embark on a series of hunting expeditions in the woods around his home.

Billy learns important life lessons about perseverance, loyalty, and the value of hard work throughout the story.

He also encounters various challenges, including fierce competitors in coon hunting contests and the danger of wild animals in the forest.

As the story unfolds, Billy faces a tragic loss that tests his strength and resilience but ultimately learns to appreciate the enduring power of love and the loyalty of his faithful dogs.

The novel has become a beloved classic, known for its vivid descriptions of the natural world, its memorable characters, and its poignant themes of loss and redemption.


  • A touching and emotional story that explores important themes like loyalty, perseverance, and the power of love.
  • The novel is well-written, with vivid descriptions of the natural world and engaging, well-drawn characters.
  • Insight into the deep bond that can exist between humans and their pets.
  • Suitable for a wide range of readers, from children to adults.


  • Some readers may find the depictions of hunting and animal violence to be disturbing or off-putting.
  • The novel’s setting and language may be difficult for some modern readers to fully understand or appreciate.

Because Of Winn-Dixie By Kate DiCamillo

Because of Winn-Dixie

This novel tells the story of a young girl named Opal who finds a stray dog and names him after the grocery store where she found him.

The story takes place in a small southern town where Opal has recently moved with her father. Through her friendship with Winn-Dixie, Opal begins to learn more about her new community and the people who live there.

She meets a number of quirky and interesting characters, including the town librarian, a blind woman, and a pet store worker.

As Opal and Winn-Dixie’s bond grows stronger, she begins to open up to the people around her and develop a sense of belonging in her new home.


  • A touching and uplifting story.
  • Uses accessible language.
  • Well suited for kids and adults.
  • Great character development.


  • Somewhat predictable plot.
  • One of the more child-friendly novels on this list, which might be unappealing to older readers who are looking for more complex characters and plots.

Oogy: The Dog Only A Family Could Love By Larry Levin

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love

This memoir from Larry Levin is about a dog named Oogy who Levin and his family adopted after the dog was severely injured and left for dead.

The book tells the story of Oogy’s past, in which he was used as a bait dog in illegal dogfighting, resulting in the loss of his left ear and most of his jaw.

Oogy was eventually rescued by police officers and brought to a veterinary hospital, where he was treated for his injuries. Levin and his family learned about Oogy’s story and decided to adopt him.

The book details the challenges that Oogy faced in adjusting to his new home, including issues with other pets and fear of strangers.

Despite these challenges, Oogy quickly became a beloved member of the family, and his story became an inspiration to many.

Throughout the book, Levin reflects on the lessons he learned from Oogy, including the power of resilience, the importance of forgiveness, and the value of unconditional love.

Oogy’s story ultimately highlights the strength of the human-animal bond and the transformative power of adoption.

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love is an engaging and emotional read that highlights the importance of animal welfare and second chances.

However, readers should be aware of the potential triggers and emotional intensity of the book.


  • Inspiring story.
  • Emotional depth.
  • Educational in terms of dog behavior, dog training, and socializing as well as how to help dogs overcome trauma and anxiety.


  • Can be triggering due to the horrific abuse that Oogy suffered from.

The Friend By Sigrid Nunez

The Friend: A Novel

This novel tells the story of a woman who becomes the caretaker of a Great Dane named Apollo after the dog’s owner, a dear friend and former mentor of the narrator, commits suicide.

The woman, who remains unnamed, is a writer who is struggling to come to terms with her grief over the loss of her friend, as well as her own personal and professional difficulties.

As the woman takes care of Apollo, she begins to bond with the dog and finds solace in his presence.

However, she soon realizes that taking care of a Great Dane is a significant responsibility, and she begins to encounter challenges and obstacles as she tries to navigate her new role.


  • Well-written and thought-provoking, with beautiful prose and richly drawn characters.
  • Exploration of complex themes such as grief, love, and the human-animal bond in a nuanced and sensitive way.
  • A tribute to the power of animal companionship.
  • Offers insights into the challenges faced by writers and artists and the difficulties of creating art in a world that often fails to appreciate it.


  • Some readers may find the novel slow-paced.

Mongrels By Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels: A Novel

For something a little different when it comes to a novel about dogs, Mongrels is a great choice. Mongrels is a coming-of-age novel about a boy and his family who are werewolves.

The novel follows the unnamed narrator and his aunt and uncle as they move from place to place in search of a pack to join and try to avoid human hunters who are after them.

The novel is structured around a series of interconnected stories that explore different aspects of the narrator’s life and his family’s history.

Throughout the story, the narrator and his family face a number of challenges and obstacles, including poverty, prejudice, and violence.

The narrator also struggles to fit in with human society and find his place in the world, while also dealing with the emotional and physical changes that come with his lycanthropy.


  • A fresh take on the werewolf mythos.
  • Strong narrative voice.
  • Effective blend of horror, coming-of-age, and family drama.
  • Not so much a story about dogs in the traditional sense, but a story about werewolves coming to terms with being part human and part canine.


  • The novel’s themes and subject matter may not appeal to all readers, particularly those who are not fans of horror or supernatural fiction.
  • Not a traditional dog story, which might be off-putting for some.

Old Yeller By Fred Gipson

Old Yeller

This classic novel is set in rural Texas in the 1860s and follows the story of a young boy named Travis who lives on a ranch with his family.

Travis is tasked with taking care of his family’s livestock and is given a dog named Old Yeller to help him with his duties.

As Travis spends more time with Old Yeller, he begins to form a strong bond with the dog and sees him as a faithful companion and friend.

Travis and Old Yeller work together to protect both the family and their livestock, but tragedy strikes when a rabid wolf bites Old Yeller. Travis must make a difficult decision to protect his family and put down Old Yeller.

The novel is a classic coming-of-age story that explores themes such as loyalty, love, and the responsibilities of growing up.


  • A classic and beloved novel that has touched the hearts of generations of readers with its powerful and emotional story.
  • Realistic and historically accurate depiction of life in rural Texas in the 1860s.
  • Powerful and moving emotional climax.


  • Despite being suitable for all ages, the target audience is primarily children and young adults, which may not appeal to all readers.
  • Some readers may find the novel’s ending too sad or depressing, which may affect their overall enjoyment of the story.

Lily And The Octopus By Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus

Last but not least, Lily and the Octopus tells the story of a man’s bond with his beloved dachshund, Lily, and their struggle against a metaphorical “octopus” that threatens Lily’s life.

The reader is taken on a journey through Ted’s memories, both happy and sad, of his life with Lily. We learn about Lily’s quirks, her likes and dislikes, and the joy she brings to Ted’s life.

The story also explores Ted’s relationships with his ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey, and his best friend, Trent, who supports him throughout.

The novel ends with a poignant and bittersweet conclusion that leaves the reader reflecting on the meaning of love, loss, and the power of our connections with our furry companions.


  • A strong emotional impact.
  • A unique story.
  • Despite the serious subject, the book also has moments of humor and levity, which can provide a nice balance to the emotional weight of the story.


  • While the emotional impact of the novel can be a pro for some readers, others may find the subject matter too intense or depressing, particularly if they have experienced the loss of a pet.

Best Books About Dogs Buyer’s Guide


There are all sorts of dog novels that focus on different themes, such as adventure, romance, mystery, and humor. Think about what type of story you enjoy and choose one that fits your interests.


Look up the author of the book you’re considering and read about their background and other works. This can help you get a better idea of their writing style and if it’s something you would enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Dog Books Only For People Who Love Dogs?

No, dog books can be enjoyed by anyone. While some books about dogs may be specifically targeted toward dog lovers, many dog books explore broader themes such as love, loyalty, and loss that are relatable to all readers.

Can Dog Books Be Therapeutic?

Yes, reading books about dogs can be therapeutic for some readers, particularly those who have experienced the loss of a pet.

Many dog books explore themes of love and loyalty that can be comforting and healing for readers.

Noah Burton