Dear Match Book,
My horse, Liebchen, is confined to her stall for six months because of an injury. You can imagine how difficult confinement is for a herd animal. I am a voracious reader who finishes at least one book per week, so I am reading to Liebchen to help pass the time.
In addition to being a horse lover I am also an attorney and a mediator, as well as a gardener. The only way I make it through Wisconsin winters is by reading. Some books I recently loved include “The Martian,” by Andy Weir, “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles, and “Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson.
What books would you recommend for a horse? If possible, the books should be relatively palatable to the reader as well.
DIANE L. MADER
Sounds like you need some books about horses! Given your interests and reading habits, you’ve likely enjoyed the classic children’s novels “Black Beauty,” by Anna Sewell, “National Velvet,” by Enid Bagnold, and “The Black Stallion,” by Walter Farley. I bet you’ve also read Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling, inspirational underdog nonfiction book “Seabiscuit,” and the animal stories of the Yorkshire veterinarian James Herriot, including “All Creatures Great and Small,” which features, among other tales, his encounters with a lame Clydesdale and a bay horse with colic (and its arrogant owner).
As a kid I read a story by Rose Labrie called “King, the Leprechaun Pony” so many times that I had portions of the short book memorized. Told in intermittent, close third-person narration from the pony’s point of view, it is based on the real-life trials of a neglected pony in southern New Hampshire, his rescue and subsequent worldwide fame. You might find that books about overcoming adversity will be a comfort during Liebchen’s convalescence.
In a different drove of equine books, on the other hand, it’s the humans who need healing. In Zoey Rita Chin’s harrowing and lyrical memoir, “Let the Tornado Come,” a skittish chestnut named Claret grounds the author after she begins to experience the debilitating aftershocks of her abusive childhood.
In “Chosen by a Horse,” another moving autobiography about second chances, Susan Richards also turns to horses — two mares, the abused Lay Me Down and the spirited Georgia, among them — for solace from hurt suffered outside the barn.
At a small-town stable in upstate New York, a Brooklyn girl named Velvet finds refuge and bonds with a horse initially named Fugly Girl in Mary Gaitskill’s “The Mare,” a novel whose short chapters, told from shifting points of view, make it ideal for reading aloud.
You might also enjoy two novels about horse trainers: “Boleto,” Alyson Hagy’s atmospheric story about a young man from Wyoming determined to turn a profit on a filly and who, in a crucial moment, tells the horse a story to regain the animal’s trust; and Molly Gloss’s “The Hearts of Horses,” set in Oregon in the early 20th century, which stars a gentle 19-year-old horse whisperer named Martha Lessen who arrives in remote Elwha County, “advertising herself as a broncobuster.”
A string of racing books will make Liebchen’s recovery pass swiftly.
Start with Kevin Chong’s “My Year of the Racehorse,” the Canadian writer’s kinetic, witty account of how, in his quest to root himself, he becomes the partial owner (“‘I could afford maybe a hoof,’ I offered. ‘Maybe a hank of mane’”) of a racehorse named Blackie.
Your literary luck will continue when you pick up the work of the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and horse enthusiast Jane Smiley. Her vibrant, often funny racetrack novel “Horse Heaven” — richly populated with both four-legged and two-legged characters — provides an immersive foray into equestrian culture.
The stakes are lower at Indian Mounds Downs, the track in West Virginia that is the setting of Jaimy Gordon’s National Book Award-winning novel, “Lord of Misrule,” which is deeply wise about animal-human relationships and written in a vernacular all its own.
I’ll leave you with one more suggestion: “The Sport of Kings,” C. E. Morgan’s commanding Kentucky epic about racism, family, obsession with bloodlines and a horse named Hellsmouth. I can’t attest to the power the dramatic novel will hold over Liebchen (“Sweetheart” in German! I had to look it up), but I bet it will be absorbing to her human companion.
Do you need book recommendations? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out Match Book’s earlier recommendations here.