Herriot books worth the while

Published 10:59 am Friday, October 4, 2019

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

I enjoy books that make me laugh at times and tug at my heartstrings at others. James Herriot’s fit that description. My husband had macular degeneration and listened to books on tape. One day I saw him laughing while he was plugged into a tape. I asked him what was funny and he told me he was listening to one of the Herriot books.

If you are unfamiliar with the stories of the real life experiences of a country veterinarian in Yorkshire, England, you have missed a joyful reading treat. After purchasing a set of those books years ago, I read them all, one right after the other. They offer insight into a demanding country practice that treats farm animals as well as family pets. They introduce you to Herriot’s partner, their assistants, his wife and children and those they serve.

Called “Mr. Herriott” by the Yorkshire folk, the city-born vet had a deep appreciation for the beauty of the countryside where he lived and worked. His descriptions of the green hillsides and grassy roadside banks made one feel as if you were walking along beside him. Sometimes between calls, he pulled his car by the side of the road and roamed the hills with his dog. This communion with nature probably did much to rest him and refresh his spirit after he had treated sick livestock and interacted with their owners of varying ages and personalities.

I remember my husband was so enthralled with the book that it even carried over to our conversation when we went out to eat the next evening. While we ate, he told me some other amusing incidents from the chapters he had finished,

I had heard enough. He had whetted my appetite. Our set was somewhere in his office bookshelves, so when we got home, I looked it up. Tucked in a cardboard slip was Herriot’s first, All Creatures Great and Small, published in 1972. The accompanying three were All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful and The Lord God Made Them All.

Every Living Thing copyright 1992 was on a nearby shelf. On the back cover a reviewer labeled the author as the most beloved storyteller of our time. All were best sellers.

I began reading Every Living Thing for the second time. I finished a chapter about the partners’ brilliant but peculiar assistant who made calls with a ferret on his shoulder and kept several dogs, more ferrets and an owl in his room above the office.

Readers learn right away that doctoring farm animals is dirty, demanding, sometimes disheartening, but also deeply rewarding.

There are three more Herriot books in the same vein that I have not read. I hope to remedy that soon. I was glad to learn he wrote eight children’s books, which are probably just as delightful.

If you are searching for books that are both heartwarming and informative, go on call with “Mr. Herriot” in the Yorkshire countryside. I promise you that you will laugh a little and perhaps agonize a bit.