Good Minds Suggest—Lynne Truss's Favorite Clever Literary Cats

Posted by Goodreads on March 3, 2015
Lynne Truss

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If you've ever suspected a cat of being a secret evil genius, Lynne Truss's new comic horror novel, Cat Out of Hell, will leave you sleeping with one eye open. Truss, a well-known BBC Radio 4 host, writer, and grammarian—whose bestselling nonfiction romp, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, taught us the importance of the comma, the apostrophe, and even the dreaded semicolon—has taken a 180-degree turn into darker, more sinister humor. In Cat Out of Hell, Alec, a retired librarian grieving for his wife, studies a strange set of documents—screenplays, audio files, JPEGs, and an assortment of notes—that reveal a chilling story about a talking cat named Roger, who really does have nine lives; his demonic cat master, the Captain; and a centuries-old feline conspiracy. Truss shares her top-five favorite clever cats, who may or may not be plotting world domination.

The Silent Miaow: A Manual for Kittens, Strays, and Homeless Cats, translated from the feline by Paul Gallico
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"A mysterious typed manuscript titled £YE SUK@NT MUWOQ falls into the hands of author Paul Gallico. He quickly realizes it has been typewritten (badly) by a cat and is a manual for 'kittens, strays and homeless cats,' explaining how to manipulate humans so that you get the best chair, the best food, and so on. The 'silent miaow' is the ultimate weapon, the cat explains—just open your lips as if to miaow, but make no sound. Humans can't help interpreting this as bottomless emotion. It gets them every time."


Tobermory by Saki (H.H. Munro)
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"At an English country-house weekend before the First World War, a guest claims to be able to give the gift of speech to animals. He is challenged to try out his gift on the resident cat, Tobermory—with uncomfortable results. The cat is articulate, haughty, and worst of all, he has spent his whole life listening and observing, with the result that he now knows something to the disadvantage of everyone present. It's a very funny story. Someone asks him, 'What do you think of human intelligence?' and he prefaces his reply with, 'You put me in an embarrassing position.' "


Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
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"'Macavity'—the feline equivalent of Sherlock Holmes's Moriarty—is the superbrain puss in this collection. Even the shape of his head tells us how intelligent he is: 'His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed.' Just the name is perfect: Macavity rhyming with 'gravity,' 'depravity,' and 'suavity.' But the proof of this cat's criminal brilliance is that whenever a crime is committed, 'Macavity's not there!' I learned a lot of poems by rote as a child, one of which was Eliot's 'The Ad-dressing of Cats' (from the same collection), but I wish someone had put 'Macavity' in front of me. It's the sort of poem to be remembered—and recited—with fondness in old age."


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
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"I read the Alice books again the other day (it's the 150th anniversary of Wonderland's publication in 1865), and I realized that the Cheshire Cat is the one 'mad' character I actually looked forward to meeting again. Even Alice is pleased to see him, when his head rematerializes at the croquet game. Like the other creatures she encounters, the clever cat asks riddles and gives unsatisfactory answers, but he takes more of an interest in Alice than many of the others. 'What became of the baby?' he asks her (he remembers that she left the Duchess's house carrying an infant). 'It turned into a pig,' she says. To which he hilariously replies, 'I thought it would,' and vanishes from sight."


Felidae by Akif Pirinçci
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"There are two clever cats that hover on the edge of my consciousness: the cat Behemoth in Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and the cat sleuth Francis of Felidae. People are always telling me to read the Bulgakov, but although I like his plays, I'm worried that his sarcastic, gun-wielding black cat just won't be funny enough. At least the cat in Felidae (by all accounts) reads books, uses a computer, and talks about Kierkegaard. He also uses cat-slang, referring to humans as 'Can Openers,' although this dates him a bit now, of course. I once wrote that my own cats could hear the sound of a can opener lifted from a velvet cushion in a soundproofed room two floors away. But nowadays it's all ring-pulls and pouches and kibble, so pinpoint-remote-can-opener-movement-detection is a skill that cats generally no longer require."





Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Great "Cat" Books



Comments Showing 1-50 of 71 (71 new)


message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Willis One of my favorite cat books is the graphic novel, The Rabbi's Cat.


message 2: by Linda (new)

Linda Stewart The Sam the Cat mysteries. They've been nominated for Edgar and Agatha awards and there are four of them. Best two, I think, are The Big Catnap and The Maltese Kitten. Sam is a cat detective who lives in a bookstore. The books are a good parody of classic noir. Written for all ages, 9 to grownup.


message 3: by Brooke (new)

Brooke I hope a few of my fellow feline lovers will take a stroll through the Shadowland... The Cat's Maw (The Shadowland Saga, VOL 1) by Brooke Burgess


message 4: by Maylin (new)

Maylin A long time favorite is Petronius the Arbiter (Pete to his friends) the cat in The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein.


message 5: by Peggi (new)

Peggi I enjoyed Rita Mae Brown's mystery series co-authored by Sneaky Pie. Mrs. Murphy , one of the cats , is so right on.
I also enjoyed reading The Cat Who... series, by Lillian Jackson Braun.


message 6: by Terri (last edited Mar 05, 2015 05:10AM) (new)

Terri Markle Our family listened to every title in The Cat Who... Series by Lillian Jackson Braun on cassette tapes from our library. There were dozens and it was a joy. If you are a Siamese cat lover, you can't help to love the adventures of KoKo and YumYum (his male and female cats). KoKo discovers murderers, foils burglars and reads human minds.


message 7: by J. Sebastian (new)

J. Sebastian I also recommend The Alchemist's Cat. It's a very twisted (I was a child when I read it last) book and the rest of the books in this series are incredible. Highly worth a read. I feel like I'm the only person on earth that has read this book.


message 8: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn greatly enjoy Shirley Rousseau Murphy "Joe Grey" series and suggest it for a pleasurable read


message 9: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I liked Lillian Jackson Brauns "The Cat Who Books!


message 10: by Susan (last edited Mar 05, 2015 08:05AM) (new)

Susan H. Not fiction but more biography, I really liked "The Cat Who Came for Christmas",the first book in a cat trilogy written by Cleveland Amory. It's a humorous and warm story written by a non-cat person, at first! Yet Amory is an editorial personality of reknown, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clevelan....


message 11: by Betty (new)

Betty Furlich Best cat book ever - "Jennie" (sometimes called "The Abandoned") by Paul Gallico, in which Jennie explains how and why cats do the things they do.


message 12: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Loved "The Cat Who Came for Christmas" - Cleveland Amory. Thanks for all the other suggestions of cat heroines/heroes.


message 13: by Susan (new)

Susan H. Carolyn wrote: "greatly enjoy Shirley Rousseau Murphy "Joe Grey" series and suggest it for a pleasurable read"

Love Joe Grey and Dulcie


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan H. Bonnie wrote: "I liked Lillian Jackson Brauns "The Cat Who Books!"

Me, too. But the last one was not as good.
But I didn't like the loss of Penny.


message 15: by Audrey (new)

Audrey What was the title of "the last one"? And what happened to "Penny"?? I must have missed a couple - didn't think I'd let that happen where Braun's Cat-Who books were concerned?


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan H. Audrey wrote: "What was the title of "the last one"? And what happened to "Penny"?? I must have missed a couple - didn't think I'd let that happen where Braun's Cat-Who books were concerned?"

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers. And I'm sorry, it is Polly who is/was Quilleran's girlfriend.
It just seemed to me that Ms. Braun got confused when writing this one. I love all the books.


message 17: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Thanks for the info. I volunteer in a used book store and will look for more of Braun's books, but like I said - I thought I had read them all. Yes, I love her books as well.


message 18: by Audrey (new)

Audrey and Lillian Jackson Braun's books, of course. I may well decide to read them all again! Wish I had one right now on this beautiful, snowy day!


message 19: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Nicola Tailchaser's Song, for the win!


message 20: by Deborah (new)

Deborah D. I have truly enjoyed Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Joe Grey series.
The characters, regardless of their species are fantastic and the storylines suspenseful and humorous.

And the Magical Cats mysteries by Sofie Kelly are a more recent find with uniquely abled sleuth kitties.


message 21: by Judie (new)

Judie Dooley Iloved all "The Cat Who" series and most other cat stories.


message 22: by Trisha (new)

Trisha "Dewey" the library cat was wonderful


message 23: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Oh my goodness - I loved Dewey!


message 24: by Ceelee (new)

Ceelee Midnight Louie! My cat nephew could play him in the movie!


message 25: by Elisabeth (new)

Elisabeth Guss I love ARchy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis, the story of Archy the literary cockroach and his cat friend the irrepressible 'toujour gai' Mehitable.


message 26: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Lord, have mercy: a literary cockroach! I lived in Florida for many years - a place where residents live side-by-side with cockroaches. Afraid I can't think of them as literary buddies!


message 27: by Elisabeth (new)

Elisabeth Guss Archy writes on an old typewriter and has the soul of a poet. Mehitabel is something of a good time feline girl. And the story unfolds in rhyming stanzas.

I'd also like to recommend HENRI LE CHAT NOIR who is a utube celebrity, typically anguished,snobbish towards other less erudite moggies but existentially philosophical. I can never get enough of Henri who has a string of cat (rip off) admirers sighing over him.


message 28: by Paula (new)

Paula Peggi wrote: "I enjoyed Rita Mae Brown's mystery series co-authored by Sneaky Pie. Mrs. Murphy , one of the cats , is so right on.
I also enjoyed reading The Cat Who... series, by Lillian Jackson Braun."


Those are my favorite too!!


message 29: by Mary (new)

Mary The books by Derek Tangye are wonderful for cat lovers.


Virginia B. Silverstein I'm glad to see that others are fans of Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Joe Grey series, my cat book favorite. (After I discovered that series, I binged on about 14 of them in a row. I hope the author adds more titles to the series!) I've also enjoyed all the books in the Rita Mae Brown/Sneaky Pie mystery series. For some reason I haven't gotten into "The Cat Who" books. I have some fond memories of Gallico's "The Abandoned," as well as the Diane Duane fantasies, "The Book of Night with Moon" and "To Visit the Queen." The Ursula Le Guin "Catwings" books were sweet, and my granddaughter was crazy about the "Skippyjon Jones" books when they first came out. I'm also a fan of the Henri le chat noir videos. (I was first introduced to them by a friend who has a cat who looks very much like Henri but is not as depressed or condescending.)


message 31: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Glad to hear that someone else binged on Joe Grey! Live for the day a new adventure is available...Have you read "The Cat,the Devil and Lee Fontana" and "The Cat the Devil the Last Escape" written in partnership with Ms Rousseau's husband?


message 32: by Deborah (new)

Deborah L Mkk


message 33: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Carolyn wrote: "greatly enjoy Shirley Rousseau Murphy "Joe Grey" series and suggest it for a pleasurable read"
LOVE THOSE!!!


message 34: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Carolyn wrote: "Glad to hear that someone else binged on Joe Grey! Live for the day a new adventure is available...Have you read "The Cat,the Devil and Lee Fontana" and "The Cat the Devil the Last Escape" written ..."

Haven't read The Last Escape, still unsure if I liked Lee Fontana, but generally love Joe Grey.


message 35: by Marjorie (new)

Marjorie Paula wrote: "Peggi wrote: "I enjoyed Rita Mae Brown's mystery series co-authored by Sneaky Pie. Mrs. Murphy , one of the cats , is so right on.
I also enjoyed reading The Cat Who... series, by Lillian Jackson..."


I always read Sneaky Pie, those critters are so darn funny!!!


message 36: by D (last edited Mar 06, 2015 07:55AM) (new)

D Crane David Weber writes a trio of ya books about (sf) Treecats, any cat lover will fall in love with them and years ago Robert Heinlein wrote a wonderful book called The Door Into Summer with a cat that steals the show. The treecat series include, A Beautiful Friendship, Fire Season, and Treecat Wars. As usual although these books are listed young adult they are a delight to read regardless of age. Somewhere in our family circle is a dog eared and worn paperback copy of the Door Into Summer with half the family claiming ownership


message 37: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn It's hard to pick a best cat book, but Paul Gallico must be the best cat author. As well as the wonderful “The Silent Miaow” and “The Abandoned”, he created the most memorable cat ”Thomasina” (sometimes subtitled “the Cat Who Thought She Was God”). As I recall, the Disney movie version was pretty good, but of course, the book is much better. I treasure the copy I was given when I was 10, and reread it every few years. Equally good for adults and children, it never fails to delight.


Virginia B. Silverstein Marjorie wrote: "Carolyn wrote: "Glad to hear that someone else binged on Joe Grey! Live for the day a new adventure is available...Have you read "The Cat,the Devil and Lee Fontana" and "The Cat the Devil the Last ..."

I had just run out of Joe Grey books when the "Lee Fontana" was announced, and I read a rather lengthy sample of it online. Disappointingly, I just couldn't get into it. I don't know if I wasn't in the right mood or was still too hooked on Joe Grey and his feline and human friends and their story lines to be willing to part with them. Still hoping for new Joe Grey titles.

Meanwhile, I've read and enjoyed some books in a mystery series about a Russian blue (don't recall the title) and a few books from series about veterinarians and pet sitters. There's a series "The Cats Who... " (Told a Fortune, Surfed the Web, Chased the Storm, etc.) that sounded promising but (for me) didn't deliver. (The problem may have been that the household had something like 5 or 6 cats, and the books seemed to lack focus -- a personal preference on my part.) (I have only one cat of my own.)


Virginia B. Silverstein D wrote: "David Weber writes a trio of ya books about (sf) Treecats, any cat lover will fall in love with them and years ago Robert Heinlein wrote a wonderful book called The Door Into Summer with a cat that..."

Thanks for the tip on Treecats; I'll check into them. I read Heinlein's "Door into Summer" when I was in college, and it had a major impact on my life.


message 40: by Liam (new)

Liam I just adopted a cat and she really liked Lynne's book, though she may be in the minority - there's been some backlash from Cats Rights Activists who are protesting it, because it portrays cats as evil. Crazy!


message 41: by Edna (new)

Edna King-Miller I was really captivated by the 'Dewey' books. Laughter and tears, as well as longing, were constantly with me as I read. I am totally a cat person, and the second of the Dewey books had me reaching for my tissues constantly.


message 42: by Judie (new)

Judie Dooley Trisha wrote: ""Dewey" the library cat was wonderful"

I loved Dewey too. Wouldn't give that book away.


message 43: by Ellen (new)

Ellen I love the Midnight Louie books and I've read most of Shirley Rousseau Murphy's and The Cat Who books. Years ago I read a lot of Doreen Tovey's books which had lots of cats in them. I am also a fan of Mrs. Murphy and Pewter.


message 44: by Sara (new)

Sara "Summon the Keeper" and "The Second Summoning" by Tanya Huff (also "Long Hot Summoning")

I rarely laugh out loud when reading, but the feline characters in these books kept me in stitches. Huff is a master of hilarious dialogue.


message 45: by Mary (new)

Mary No one else ever read the books by Derek Tangye? I know he's English, and the books are biographical and set in Cornwall, but even for Americans they are an easy and fun read, and he is wonderful when writing about his cats. Well worth a try.


message 46: by Anne (new)

Anne And what about "Thomasina"??? Paul Gallico's all-time favorite cat-book. Thomasina is why I fell in love with cats.


message 47: by Alison (new)

Alison Pound Elisabeth wrote: "I love ARchy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis, the story of Archy the literary cockroach and his cat friend the irrepressible 'toujour gai' Mehitable."

I scrolled down looking to see if this wonderful collection of Archie's "stories" would be mentioned. Yepp! I give these books a gifts and help people get started w/ the cadence and the fascinating concept. So rich and super fun to read aloud.


message 48: by Anne (new)

Anne Thought of another fave..."The Fur Person", by May Sarton. I absolutely love that book!


message 49: by Ginelle (new)

Ginelle Gomez Love to read this book? :)


message 50: by B.M. (last edited Mar 07, 2015 09:12PM) (new)

B.M. I'm a huge fan of the verse epic Archie and Mehitabel. 'Toujours gai' Mehitabel is rather a sad cat in straightened circumstances, relating tales of her past glory to Archie the cockroach. However, her defiant refrain of 'there's a dance in the old dame yet' betrays true feline bravery and dignity. T.S.Eliot's poems are wonderful too - my class learned and recited 'Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat" when I was seven. We loved it!


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