The Internet loves nothing more than cats, but it’s rare that we look beyond the cute photos and memes to more seriously consider their place in our world. Flavorwire’s Highbrow Cat Week is an attempt to remedy that, with a series of pieces devoted to analyzing their impact on the cultural realm.
Looking for something that’s kind of like a cat video, but a little more literary? Writers have long been inspired by their pets, and particularly, it seems, by their cats. It’s not surprising then that our feline friends figure prominently in some great books, from Russian classics to YA masterpieces to that one book everyone has definitely read. After the jump, find ten of the greatest books starring kitties of every persuasion. Is this list missing your favorite? Add it in the comments.
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
The greatest cat in all of literature might just be Behemoth, the gun-crazy, vodka-swilling, wisecracking feline — a kind of cracked Puss-in-Boots — that pals around with Satan in the 1930s Moscow of Bulgakov’s classic. He’s also, as his name suggests, rather enormous. And he won’t let you forget it.
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
Cats weave in and out of many of Murakami’s twisty, surreal worlds, but if you’re hunting for literary felines, or, like Nakata, can talk to them directly, this is the novel for you. And you may just learn something — after all, as they themselves will tell you, “cats know everything, unlike dogs.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Cheshire Cat may be one of the most famous felines in literature, mischievous and transient, and always plastered with that iconic shit-eating grin. There’s also, of course, Dinah.
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
In C.S. Lewis’s world, Jesus Christ is a lion. Can’t be any more direct than that.
Star Ka’at, Andre Norton
It’s probably safe to say that cult sci-fi writer Andre Norton was obsessed with cats. Well, cats or, in this case, Ka’ats, which are telepathic alien cats on a mission to rescue their “near kin” from impending doom. Yep, it’s mega-weird, but this is bizarre ’70s sci-fi, and it is great.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Martel’s book raises the question: is there really a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker living on a boat with Pi Patel? Whether the feline is a figment of his imagination, a desperate screen, or a true story, he is a lurking, brooding force in a spectacular novel of survival. Meow.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Patricia C. Wrede
Morwen, the no-nonsense witch of Wrede’s excellent YA series, has a veritable tribe of cats, each of with its own personality, but as a group massively satisfying snarkers. While a relatively small part of the stitched-together world of the books, they’re a memorable bunch, with magic of their own, and are generally quite pleased with themselves about it.
The Carbonel trilogy, Barbara Sleigh
Ah, to be young Rosemary, who buys a cat and a broom in the market and quickly finds that she has the King of the Cats on her hands. She sets off to free him from the witch’s spell that binds him, but he is — as one might expect from his station — a majorly high maintenance cat. Joy.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot
Another classic: T.S. Eliot’s beloved collections of poems about cats — or more particularly, about the inner workings of their minds. Cat psychology, if you will. The poems are worth reading for their excellent cat names alone: Skimbleshanks! Mr. Mistoffelees! Old Deuteronomy! The book, of course, was the basis for the famed musical Cats.
The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss
But of course, there’s no list of great book starring cats without Dr. Seuss’s enduring classic, with that mischievous, boundary-pushing, adventure leader of everyone’s heart, the eponymous Cat in the Hat. Also excellent as a housekeeper.