By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)
What gift should one get for the book-lover who is also a cat-lover? Below are our five suggestions, all of which are great books – memoirs, novels, poetry books – which feature cats in some substantial way. What book would you suggest as the ideal gift for a cat-lover or cat-owner? Are there any must-reads we’ve left off our list?
Emily Fragos (editor), The Great Cat: Poems About Cats (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets).
This collection of classic cat poems has something to delight every cat-owner, from eighteenth-century ‘mad’ poet Christopher Smart’s wonderful poem about his cat Jeoffry, W. B. Yeats’s poem about Minnaloushe, and Emily Dickinson’s gloriously eccentric but accurate description of a cat. The ideal gift for the cat-lover who is also a poetry fan.
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (Vintage Classics).
One of the great Russian novels of the twentieth century, The Master and Margarita was written between 1928 and 1940 but not published until 1967. It focuses on a mysterious magician (who is really the Devil in disguise) who arrives in 1930s Moscow with an entourage including Behemoth, a large demonic black cat, as big as a hog, who has the ability to speak.
Behemoth makes the novel: he likes playing chess, drinking vodka, and shooting his mouth off in a witheringly sarcastic way. Although he doesn’t exactly do much to counter the superstition surrounding black cats, he’s a bit of a joker, and provides some brilliant comic relief in Bulgakov’s novel.
Tad Williams, Tailchaser’s Song.
This is our ‘fantasy’ recommendation on this list: Williams is best known for such epic fantasy series as the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series and the Otherland quartet of SF novels, but this shorter book by him is, for our money, the cat-lover’s answer to Watership Down.
The book that launched Williams’s career, Tailchaser’s Song focuses on a young ginger tom named Tailchaser, who sets off on an adventure to find his friend Hushpad when she disappears.
T. S. Eliot longed to reach a mass audience with his writing for the theatre, and although some of his plays enjoyed considerable success, his most popular work on the stage has been Cats, the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical inspired by this book of wonderful nonsense verse by the Nobel Laureate.
It’s strange to think that the poet who wrote The Waste Land could also write such popular comic verses about our feline friends, but then Eliot’s work is often serio-comic (especially his early poetry), and cats and catlike images are everywhere in his poetry (consider the feline movement of the yellow fog in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‘, for instance).
This volume of delightful cat poems contains the adventures of Macavity the Mystery-Cat, Bombalurina, Bustopher Jones, and many other delightfully memorable moggies. The edition linked to above features Edward Gorey’s excellent illustrations.
This book only came out in May 2016, but it’s already been widely praised on various book review sites and one can see why. It’s a touching tale about two lovely cats (posing for the cover photo, above right) who became local celebrities when they went to work as mousers in a small-town library in America.
A heartwarming memoir about two adorable moggies that every cat-lover is surely bound to love. Fans of James Bowen’s heartwarming A Street Cat Named Bob: How one man and his cat found hope on the streets, about how a London busker and a ginger tom named ‘Bob’ found and saved each other, will appreciate this purrfect little book.
If you enjoyed this selection of some of the best books for cat-lovers, you might also enjoy these must-read books about … books.