Dog books vs. cat books: May the cutest critter win
They say that there are dog people and there are cat people, separated by an unbridgeable divide. And judging by a recent deluge of books, that is indeed the case. Our offices has received piles of cat books and oodles of dog books, but nary a one in which dogs and cats are living together (causing mass hysteria, as Ghostbusters once had it).
There is a clear rivalry between cat books and dog books. So we’re pitting them head to furry head and deciding which should win.
1. “Tails from the Booth” vs. “Men & Cats.” On the left we have “Tails from the Booth” by Lynn Terry, with pictures of dogs posed as if in photo booths. While this title is the worst pun in the bunch, the photos are definitely adorable, with the dogs, um, horsing around like humans do in photo booths. It’s going up against “Men & Cats” by Marie-Eva Gautingt and Alice Cheygneaud, from their popular French blog. While the premise -- photos of handsome men and cats -- is certainly promising, it’s not actually men with cats. Instead, a kitten hides in a pair of jeans, and on the opposite page, a ripped model poses wearing jeans, and there’s something a little unsettling about the equivalent.
Point: Dogs. Score: Dogs 1, cats 0.
2. “Wet Dog” vs. “Shake Cats.” Big dogs, little dogs, it doesn’t matter: They all look miserable when sopping wet, as they do in “Wet Dog” by Sophie Gamand. The dog discomfort level when doused seems high -- sure they’re getting bathed, but they aren’t particularly happy about it. And cats, if they could see themselves frozen as they are in “Shake Cats” by Carli Davidson, probably wouldn’t be happy either. Cats, usually so composed, are caught mid-shake and mid-scratch, ears folded awkwardly, tongues akimbo. Davidson the author-photographer behind the bestselling “Shake Dogs” and “Shake Puppies,” captures her subjects in such split seconds that they are almost surreally transformed.
Point: Cats. Score: Dogs 1, cats 1.
3. “The Hermitage Dogs” vs. “The Hermitage Cats.” Both books, published by Unicorn Press, feature animals in artworks from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. They appear in paintings, on ancient pottery, sculpture, tapestries and a gun -- well, actually, that’s just the dogs. The dog book is more than 200 pages, but the cat book is only 80. Sorry, kitties.
Point: Dogs. Score: Dogs 2, cats 1.
4. “Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age” vs. “You Need More Sleep: Advice from Cats.” This is how we think about cats and dogs: Cats are constantly judging us, while dogs are our eternal buddies. In “You Need More Sleep,” author Francsco Marciuliano (who also put words in cats’ mouths in “I Could Pee On This”), pairs cute pictures of cats with advice like “be a closer” and “dismiss everyone equally.” Meanwhile, in “Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age,” Pete Thorne photographs dogs who’ve gotten stiff or gray or blind, and briefly tells their stories. Whether they’re 7 or 10 or 17 the dogs look sweet, adorable and noble.
Point: Dogs. Score: Dogs 3, cats 1.
5. “Beloved Dog” vs. “Charles Bukowski On Cats.”
Maira Kalman’s “Beloved Dog” includes her colorful pictures of her own dog, Pete, plus many other dogs, accompanied by short texts that explain why dogs are important in our lives. “Charles Bukowski On Cats” is a collection of cat-related poems and stories from the writer who was known as “The Dirty Old Man of American Letters.” Bukowski, pictured with some of his feline friends, penned poems such as “5 cats,” “Looking at the cat’s balls” and “I do not always hate the cat that kills the bird, only the cat that kills me.” Usually, they’re about cats but also about something more, and showcase Bukowski’s work in quite a good light.
Point: Cats. Score: Dogs 3, cats 2.
6. “Puppy Bowl: The Book” vs. “Grumpy Cat: No-It-All.” Animal Planet brings us “Puppy Bowl: The Book” to commemorate its annual Superbowl alternative. There are pictures of impeccably cute puppies on their puppy football field, helped out with word bubbles (“yaaaaawn”) or descriptors (“struttin’ his stuff”). A few cats have snuck into these pages. And then there’s “Grumpy Cat: No-It-All,” starring Grumpy cat, a girl cat whose resting face looks like a cranky old man, the Internet phenomenon and bestselling “author.” In this book, Grumpy Cat’s face is photoshopped next to nice things -- cute animals, presents, fine art -- saying “no.” On the scale of Grumpy Cat books, this is a lesser outing, and it’s hard to see any of the television show’s charm in the “Puppy Bowl” book.
Point: Tied for zero. Score: Dogs 3, cats 2.
7. “A Dog Named Jimmy” vs. “Splat the Cat: Christmas Countdown.” In “A Dog Named Jimmy,” the Instagram-famous bull terrier is accompanied by the illustrations of his owner, Brazilian artist Rafael Mantesso. Rob Scotton’s “Splat the Cat: Christmas Countdown” is a touch-and-feel holiday book for little kids -- with a Velcro tree, shiny star and furry cat tummy. As charming as Mantesso’s illustrations are, outside of their Instagram surroundings they feel a little flat, while “Splat the Cat” is all about the tactile effects.
Point: Cats. Score: Dogs 3, cats 3.
8. “The Dogist” vs. “Felines of New York.” These are both online projects that are focused on animals that are riffs on other online projects that are focused on people. “The Dogist” by Elias Weiss Friedman takes its name from the Sartorialist, a famous street fashion blog. Its content, however -- photographs with short, often moving vignettes about the subjects -- hews more closely to the very popular social media account Humans of New York. Clearly, that’s where “Felines of New York” gets its name, but author Jim Tews is a comedian, and he’s making light of the whole picture-plus-revealing-anecdote schema. Yet it’s impossible to beat the soulful dog looks that Friedman captures with his camera.
Point: Dogs. Score: Dogs 4, cats 3.
9. “Finding Home: Shelter Dogs and Their Stories” vs. “A Gift from Bob: How a Street Cat Helped One Man Learn the Meaning of Christmas.” Photographer Traer Scott is returning to familiar ground with “Finding Home: Shelter Dogs and Their Stories,” a sequel of sorts to her 2006 hit, “Shelter Dogs.” Shot in black and white, the dogs are showcased in portraiture with minimal text; their stories can be found in the back. They do not always have happy endings, but this is part of the point: Shelter dogs need homes. “A Gift from Bob” by James Bowen is all about the happy Christmas ending. In street performer Bowen’s bestselling first book, “A Street Cat Named Bob,” he told his story of adopting a street cat; in this one, the two make the best of a rough, cold Christmas, experiencing both generosity and gratitude. It’s hard not to feel as if Bowen is stretching one story too thin, while Scott is trying to create something that will move readers to help shelter animals, or maybe even adopt.
Point: Dogs. Score: Dogs 5, cats 3.
10. “Dogs As I See Them” vs. “Fat Cat Art.” Lucy Dawson’s “Dogs As I See Them” was first published in 1937. This new edition faithfully reproduces her breezy sketches and includes a forward by American writer (and dog lover) Ann Patchett. In “Fat Cat Art,” Russian artist Svetlana Ptrova photoshops her mammoth cat -- 22-pound Zarathustra -- into works of great art, in paintings by the masters, including Fragonard, Bruegel, Caravaggio and of course Da Vinci. Dawson is delightful, but look at Zarathrustra there in the Mona Lisa’s arms.
Point: Cats. Score: Dogs 5, cats 4.
11. “How Dogs Work” vs. “Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong.” In “How Dogs Work,” authors Raymond Coppinger and Mark Feinstein straightforwardly explain dogs’ behavior, based on history and physique, and investigate how and why dogs play and bark. “Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong” is, by contrast, an odd, unique project: 14 essays on cat videos, the Internet and art, inspired by the Walker Art Museum’s Internet Cat Video Festival, which was attended by 10,000 people. Even if it didn’t including intriguing writers David Carr, Maria Bustillos, Alexis Madrigal and Stephen Burt, the cats would take it based on title alone.
Point: Cats. Score: Dogs 5, cats 5.
12. “Harlow & Indiana (and Reese)” vs. “Catify to Satisfy.” In “Harlow & Indiana (and Reese),” authors Brittni and Jeff Vega photograph their Weimaraner Harlow, dachshund Indiana and new dachshund puppy, Reese. They narrate the adoption using Indiana’s point of view, portraying the three as a family all their own, taking vacations, eating birthday cake and resting with no human interference. The human is a vital component, however, of “Catify to Satisfy” -- Jackson Galaxy, in particular, the human star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat from Hell.” Galaxy explains where and which litter boxes to use for which cats, how to create cat superhighways with shelves and high stops. The dog book is contrived but cute; the cat book is useful but practical without being much fun.
Point: Tie, one point each. Score: Dogs 6, cats 6.
13. “Dogs: A Literary Anthology” vs. “Cats: A Literary Anthology.” The anthologies, both published by the British Library, include excerpts of classic authors on dogs and cats, respectively. They are exactly the same length. The dog tales are by William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, Pliny the Elder, Jack London, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Bronte, Arthur Conan Doyle and more. Cat tales come from, among others, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, D.H. Lawrence and William Blake. The literary pedigrees are matched.
Point: Tie, one point each. Score: Dogs 7, cats 7.
Cats and dogs, living together, in perfect harmony.
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