Last year we shared with you some of the best books about animals. It was one of our favorite posts from the year, so we decided to revisit it again.
Monthly, the New York Times unveils its bestsellers lists, including one just for books about animals. This year we discovered that yet again only four titles made the No. 1 monthly spot; one of which seemed to dominate most of 2015 as well. There’s the now beloved tale of how a hawk helped a grief-stricken woman heal, a look at how a group tried to rescue horses raised for Hitler at the end of World War II, another about a man saving a horse from the slaughterhouse and how the duo rose to the top of show jumping fame, and how the host of Fox's The Five connects life’s adventures to the fondest memories of her dog.
Here are the top four books of 2016.
“H is for Hawk,” by Helen Macdonald, tells the story of Macdonald’s experience raising a predatory bird while coming to terms with the death of her beloved father. Macdonald, a professional falconer, has assisted with raptor conservation projects across Eurasia. She’s no novice when it comes to birds of prey, and has decided to undergo the difficult task of raising and training a notoriously difficult breed of raptor. It’s her way of cutting through the fog grief has blinded her with. Her goshawk Mabel’s temperament mirrors her own as she navigates her grief, and vice versa: “I’d turned myself into a hawk—taken all the traits of goshawks in the books and made them my own. I was nervous, highly strung, paranoid, prone to fits of terror and rage; I ate greedily or didn’t eat at all; I fled from society, hid from everything; found myself drifting into strange states where I wasn’t certain who or what I was.” Only when Macdonald ventures outdoors to train Mabel does she step away from the home that chokes her in her mourning. After a few escape attempts and some trial and error, Mabel learns how to fly back to Macdonald’s fist when she hears a whistle shriek. Eventually, the two bond and learn from one another the tools they need to survive in a harsh world. “H is for Hawk” is also a winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book Award, and on The New York Times’ Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year list.
New York Times bestseller in January 2016 - June 2016, August 2016
*taken from Best-Selling Animal Themed Books from 2015
“The Eighty-Dollar Champion” by Elizabeth Letts was originally released in 2012, but gained a bump in readership with Lett’s recent release, “The Perfect Horse.” In this 20th century paperback we’re introduced to Dutch immigrant Harry de Leyer, who saves a horse he later names Snowman from the slaughterhouse in the 1950s. He paid $80 for a horse that would go on to be a successful competitor in show jumping; something that was much-needed in the downtrodden Cold War-era America. This historical narration follows the days when Harry taught Snowman how to jump on his Long Island farm and how to outperform against some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive.
New York Times bestseller in July 2016
“The Perfect Horse” by Elizabeth Letts (yes, the same author!), follows the journey of a small troop of World War II American soldiers who risk their safety to set free beautiful white horses behind enemy lines in Germany. When the soldiers capture a spy, they discover his briefcase is empty of everything except for photos of the astonishing beasts. Why horses? Well, Hitler decided he was going to breed his own perfect military machine; a master equine race, if you will. But with the starving Russian army primed to take over the secret farm and slaughter the horses for food, the American platoon sets out on an unlikely mission. Along the way we’re introduced to a riding school director and Olympic medalist, the horse breeder assigned to engineer Hitler’s new equine outfit, and a senator’s son who tries to secure the farm’s surrender. Animal lovers and history buffs alike won’t be able to put this historical retelling down.
New York Times bestseller in September - November 2016
“Let Me Tell You About Jasper: How My Best Friend Became America's Dog” by Dana Perino is the second book “The Five” co-host has written. Dana discusses how dogs can connect families, and how her own dog, a lovable golden-chocolate Vizsla named Jasper, can make even the most bitter partisan enjoy a laugh or two across party lines. To help bring Dana’s anecdotes to life you’ll find Jasper crazily photoshopped into silly situations, including the duo photoshopped in front of scores of paparozzi, and another of him searching for fish as the precipice of a rock formation in New York City’s Central Park. If you’re looking for a feel-good book, give “Let Me Tell You About Jasper” a read.
New York Times bestseller in December 2016