I don't know if this problem is simply indicative of current trends in the book industry or reflective of our society as a whole, but the over-abundance of dog-related nonfiction titles clogging up the stacks of the nation's bookstores has reached a level of insanity that I am, frankly, uncomfortable with.
This is in no way a criticism of the buying habits of the book buyers in our nation's bookstores, of course, since I am to be counted among their number. Who's fault could it be if half of every publisher's catalogue is dog books? Nor can I really blame those readers who genuinely want to read tales of inspiring canines. Who am I to judge, right? Currently, the following titles are available as new hardcover books & are all displayed on just one of the non-fiction tables at Warwick's. None of these are available in the actual Dog section at the store, mind you - all are mixed into General Nonfiction. You tell me if this is too many dog books:
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- The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving: How Dogs Have Captured Our Hearts for Thousands of Years by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
- Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors Into a Family by Glenn Plaskin
- Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family - and a Whole Town - About Hope and Happy Endings by Janet Elder
- Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou by Steve Duno
- One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan by Pen Farthing
- A Small Furry Prayer by Steven Kotler
- Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson
- The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant
- Life with Maxie by Diane Rehm
- Fixing Freddie: A True Story About a Boy, a Mom, and a Very, Very Bad Beagle by Paula Munier
- Cesar's Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog by Cesar Millan (Cesar is a renowned dog trainer, but since it's new, I had to put it on the list.)
- Through a Dog's Eyes: Understanding Our Dogs By Understanding How They See the World by Jennifer Arnold
- The Divine Life of Animals: One Man's Quest to Discover Whether the Souls of Animals Live On by Ptolemy Tompkins
- Rose in a Storm (A Novel) by Jon Katz
Almost all of these books seem to be attempts at tugging at our heartstrings: Don't you want to see how dogs see the world? Don't you want to know if your dog's going to heaven with you? See how this dog changed the lives of __ number of people/families/towns/cities/libraries? Look at this dog who loves this family even though he used to fight in dog fights! Save the dogs of Iraq/Afghanistan/New Jersey!
I also can't help but get exasperated at the lengthy subtitles, all of which bear a similar message: "This particular dog - our dog - is the most incredible, life-changing dog, EVER!!" C'mon, if I lacked any soul, I could write an inspiring story focused on one of my dogs too - but it doesn't mean that I should.
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The counter-argument is bound to be that publishers only print what there is a demand for, so if you see a preponderance of dog-related titles, it's really because "they" are giving "you" what "you" want. I realize that there is a certain demand for titles like these, but I think that there are far, far too many being produced - if I can count over a dozen in a 5-foot radius on a single table, then there are far too many out there. It is sort of a "chicken or the egg" argument - would we want so many dog books if there weren't so many being produced? Or are the publishers actually reacting to our national dog-love? Is it all just manufactured demand? Personally, although I love dogs, I don't necessarily want to read 10 inspiring non-fiction books about them.
If James Patterson writes a dog book, I will be forced to quit the book industry forever.
I guess what bugs me the most is that all of these books are getting published and thousands of other, worthy titles are rejected by publishers and end up never seeing the light of day. Considering that somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 titles get published in the States annually (according to UNESCO) it seems proportionally out of whack that I can count so many new, inspiring dog titles for a single season.
But hey, this is just the opinion of one, single dog-loving bookseller who just can't take it anymore. Feel free to sic the dogs on me - I can take it.