The Monday Book: ZEITOUN by Dave Eggars

This is a sad book. It’s hard to read. It tells its story in pieces, and the pretty pieces make the ugly ones stand out all the more.

It’s the true story of a man named AbdulRahman Zeitoun, his wife Kathy, their kids and extended family, during and just after Hurricane Katrina. One small piece of a very big, weird, awful time. And that drill down into what happened to one little group of people makes the bigger picture that much more terrifying.

How fast does society break down, and who gets to decide what that looks like: The police, the criminals, the rich people, or the ones with guns? It was just that chaotic. And that awful.

Don’t read this story if you’re depressed, but do be aware that Eggars has a writing style that borders on poetic journalism for most of it. He jumps back and forth between family history and the days of the storm and its aftermath. I’m glad I read Zeitoun. And I kind of wish I hadn’t.

The Monday Book: A SMALL FURRY PRAYER by Steve Kotler

I got this book because my agent recommended it. (We have somewhat similar reading tastes.)

Kotler fell in love with a woman who rescued dogs, and he liked dogs, so he became a dog rescuer. And dog philosopher, because this book is chock full of ethnographic and philosophical divergences into how dogs see the world, and how humans think dogs see the world. Those were pretty interesting.

The story is less a story than journalism, because Kotler is a research journalist. If you’re looking for “this puppy was SOOOOOO cute,” this isn’t the rescue book you’re looking for. It’s got a lot of depth to its analysis of why people rescue, but even more on why dogs (and all animals) matter. When you get to the part about Kotler getting in the cage with a mountain lion, you know you’ve having fun.

I wouldn’t say this is a book only animal lovers will love. Actually, Kotler’s love for his wife, which drove him to move to New Mexico and run a household dog rescue, is the unexamined force behind all the research he does into why dogs matter. And his observations of what it takes out of her to do this work are very astute. I’d almost recommend this book as a spousal manual for those who love rescuers, rather than rescuers themselves.

Still, it’s a wide ranging read, and New Mexico itself is an interesting (perhaps hysterical) character in the plot overall. The plumber won’t come on Thursday because the earth energy forces are bad. That kind of thing.

I was entertained, informed, and moved by this book – a rare triple crown. If you’re driven by stories, maybe this won’t interest you so much, but if you like journalistic storytelling, you’re gonna love it.