Bookworm: Two great books about dogs

'Freedom' is not an anti-freedom book

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Correspondent
"A Dog's Courage" by W. Bruce Cameron and "Dogwinks" by SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt.

"A Dog's Courage"

  • By W. Bruce Cameron
  • c. 2021, Forge Books
  • $26.99, $36.50; Canada 288 pages

"Dogwinks"

  • By SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt
  • c. 2020, Howard Books Atria
  • $19.99, $26.99 Canada; 285 pages

Your pooch is a first-class mess maker. But what are you gonna do? A clean house won't love you, play ball, snuggle on the sofa, or take you for a walk. You can't teach a clean house cool new tricks and it can't teach you, either. So, this summer, ignore the mess, and grab one of these great books about dogs ...

If you've ever loved a pup who had an unknown past, you know how much she appreciates her new home. When Bella becomes lost in the wilderness and is rescued and adopted by Lucas and Olivia, she's very relieved and happy. But in "A Dog's Courage" by W. Bruce Cameron, a dog like Bella never forgets her past.

A dog named Rin.

Even so, she surely enjoyed her new people though she sometimes couldn't understand the words they were using. Camping with them was different than being in the wild alone, but Bella was getting used to that, too. And then one weekend, while on such a trip, the brush near their campsite exploded in flames, there was so much confusion, and Bella was separated from her people, as she was once before.

Desperately wanting to return to Lucas and Olivia, Bella begins to search for them when she finds a friend from her past, who leaves Bella with a responsibility. This gives her two options: stay and accept this new burden; or find the people she's come to love.

Before we get to the second book here, there's something you need to know first.

"Godwinks" are what author SQuire Rushnell and Louise DuArt calls those positive nudges and maybe-not-so-coincidental little "messages" of encouragement that we humans sometimes get from beyond. With that in mind, Rushnell asks if it's possible that God uses dogs to send those messages; in his new book, "Dogwinks," he offers stories to convince you...

When Ruby, half of an awesome K-9 team, finds a little boy, her save is a Godwink to her handler, the boy, and the child's family. As Liz says goodbye to her beloved Ginger, the dog she's had for much of her life, there's a knock on the door and she's handed a Godwink that comforts her. A dog lost becomes a dog found at the worst of times, a Godwink to the children in his family when they need it most. Another lost dog, a wee Westie, makes his way thirty blocks in downtown New York City, a miracle inside "a bilingual dogwink!"

You know how you sometimes feel pressed for time during the summer, and a book seems like a big commitment? "Dogwinks" is what you need, then: each of the stories inside this book are short; most are a few pages long and quick to read. Best of all, they're uplifting, inspirational, and appropriate for dog lovers ages 12-to-adult.

If these books don't seem like a good fit for you, then ask your favorite librarian or bookseller. They'll have suggestions for you because, when it comes to books about dogs, there's a mess of good ones out there.

More:Bookworm: There’s still work to do, so find ‘The Secret History of Home Economics’

"Freedom" author Sebastian Junger.

"Freedom"

  • By Sebastian Junger
  • c. 2021, Simon & Schuster
  • $25.99, higher in Canada; 147 pages

Your front door opens to the world. It's the threshold of a journey, one of a few feet or a few years, a trip that you'll never take exactly the same again. Open the door and see what's out there. Open it because you can and step out. You have the freedom to go anywhere – or, as author Sebastian Junger asks in his new book, "Freedom" – do you?

"Freedom" by Sebastian Junger.

They set out on the East Coast, four men (or sometimes three or once, just two), walking. Most of the time, they walked along and next to railroad tracks, though Sebastian Junger admits that doing so was illegal. Taking the tracks, however, guaranteed an easy walk and nearby woods offered safety from troublemakers and anonymity from nearby homes.

When walking with a loaded backpack, he says, you get into a "cadence" in which the effort eventually begins to feel euphoric more than burdensome, a feeling that's even better when you're in sync with your companions. The backpacks contained a few basic food staples, a few necessary supplies, and firestarters. Between them, they had a machete. They would take no rides or handouts – nothing but "water and good advice."

They "kept an eye on the weather" and pitched blankets wherever they wanted to sleep. It was a walk free of belongings, free of time constraints, and the path was "probably the least monitored in the country." But were they really free?

Freedom, says Junger, is "first and foremost ... the absence of threat," but that can be "a mirage." You might, for example, consider Indigenous Americans as enviously free but that freedom came with the price of constant moving to avoid White people and their armies. Early settlers might have fled oppression in Europe but freedom was not entirely free: they sometimes needed to lean on others for help but the more help they had, the less freedom they enjoyed. That's true even today: the wealthier you are, the more you depend on others to allow you the freedom to "work all day to make payments on a car every month ... "

If "Freedom" was just about author Sebastian Junger's east-to-west trip, mostly here through Pennsylvania, it would be an excellent read. You'd finish it, happy to have been included in the adventure from the safety of your chair. But you'd miss so much ...

On this meditational walk, Junger muses about freedom in a way that feels like a lot of off-topic rambling, writing about history and society, of course, but also about religion, biology, ecology, safety, kindnesses, and old railroad tales, boxing, Native American habits, and government. This can seem like a long trip in a crowded car but then it ultimately (and rather deftly) circles back to the main topic; once you see it, it's delightful.

Junger observes, and reports, watches and appreciates, and his thoughts on his title subject will make you truly consider your own definition of this basic right. "Freedom" is not an anti-freedom book; it underscores, and you shouldn't want to wait to open it.

More:Bookworm: ‘This Summer’ is just right for your next long weekend

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.