"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Friday, August 13, 2010

James Herriott Books

During college I got the fabulous opportunity to study for 4 months in Wales, and also got to briefly visit parts of Ireland and England.  I loved every minute of it!  Wales is a pretty quite area of the world, unless a Rugby match is on, and mostly it is a place of rolling green hills, castle ruins, and a whole lot of sheep.  While I was there, the landscape and people I met often reminded me of stories by James Herriott.  His books are considered fiction, although they are loosely based on his life as a veterinary surgeon in England.  He wrote numerous short stories, the best of which are contained in these books:

All Creatures Great and Small
All Things Bright and Beautiful
All Things Wise and Wonderful
The Lord God Made Them All
Every Living Thing

Herriott, whose actual name is James Alfred Wight, tells stories about the people and farmers and animals of the Yorkshire countryside, with laughter, thoughtfulness, at times sadness, and often with a good eye for the absurd.  The way he describes the life of a vet will give you a new appreciation for the job, but he also covers his brief stint in the military, as well as his family life.  He gives forthright details about the illnesses and procedures, covering a period of time when new advances in veterinary medicine were slowly starting to be implemented.  Yet Herriot constantly keeps his focus on the humanity of both the animals and their people, without getting overly sentimental.  There are characters in every book that you will never forget, some good and some bad, but mostly ones that will just make you laugh.  Herriott pokes fun at himself as much as any other.

These are not books just for animal lovers.  I myself am not much of an animal-lover.  We have a cat, which truthfully I wish we didn't.  I will never get a dog, at least not of my own volition.  I liked the cows and goats and chickens that my parents raised us with just fine, but didn't particularly mind when butchering time came around either.  I love these books because it goes beyond the animals, to observe and comment on how people interact with the natural world around them.

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