“Knowing someone who belongs to another species can enlarge your soul in surprising ways.”
One of my favourite books of 2018 was a very late contender. In fact, it was the last book I read of the year: How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery. I adored it.
Sy Montgomery is an incredible woman. She has explored some of the world’s most remote corners and met beautiful, charismatic and memorable creatures along the way – octopuses, spiders, pigs, emus and, of course, dogs, to name but a few.
How to be a Good Creature reminded me of everything I love so much about animals. It also made me think back to my favourite dogs, rabbits, and other wild friends I’ve met so far. For a lot of my life, I’ve found animals considerably easier to get along with than people, that’s for sure.
But the point of the book is so much more than that; it gets you thinking of your place in the world and the lives you touch every day.
It’s a wonderfully beautiful book, complete with gorgeous illustrations. Without ever telling you how you should be, the book shares heartwarming stories of Sy’s life with animals that make you ponder:
Am I kind?
Do I bring joy to the world?
Do I share my warmth, intelligence, and wisdom with others?
Do I show people the real me?
I talked to my boyfriend a lot about this book during and after reading it. Be a good creature became a frequent comment to one another, especially if one of us was acting out of sorts.
When we’d say it, the underlying message would be: chill out, enjoy life, and be nice. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Be kind. Slow down and just live the life you want to live.
It’s rare that a memoir comes along and teaches you powerful life lessons without seeming preachy, woo-woo, or self-centered.
It also makes for the perfect gift: I read the book before giving it to a friend who’d had a tough year with losing pets, and she loved it too.
“I often wish I could go back in time and tell my young, anxious self that my dreams weren’t in vain and my sorrows weren’t permanent. I can’t do that, but I can do something better. I can tell you that teachers are all around to help you; with four legs or two or eight or even none; some with internal skeletons, some without. All you have to do is recognize them as teachers and be ready to hear their truths.”
How to Be a Good Creature is humble, graceful, and a wonderfully heartwarming celebration of the innate goodness in the world. A life shared with animals is a special kind of existence.
You can get your copy of How to Be a Good Creature here, and find more books to remind you of the beauty and goodness of the world.
If you adore books, need a bit of a boost, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, check out The Sanctuary, a seven-day course from Tolstoy Therapy.