Feature

Geraldine Brooks' 6 favorite books for those who love horses

The Pulitzer-winning author recommends works by Sarah Maslin Nir, J.R.R. Tolkien, and more

Geraldine Brooks is the Pulitzer-winning author of March and four other best-selling historical novels. In Horse, her new novel, she weaves a portrait of America since 1850 by following multiple lives touched by a legendary racehorse and its legacy.

Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley (2000)

Smiley has written many fine books about horses. This is my favorite. There's humor, but also tension, as rivals vie to produce a champion thoroughbred. A capacious and generous-spirited novel with a large cast of characters both human and animal, and an intensely satisfying conclusion. Buy it here. 

The Horse by Wendy Williams (2015)

From the dawn horse to modern Equus ferus, from wild mustangs to exquisitely trained Lipizzaners, this panoramic book melds science with story, offering surprising insight on almost every page. Buy it here.

Horse Crazy by Sarah Maslin Nir (2020)

A distinguished investigative reporter, Nir has a side hustle as a horse obsessive. A fearless rider almost from infancy, she shares in this memoir what horses have done for her, and what they have done to her, as she pushes her limits in many varieties of this extreme sport. Buy it here.

The Art of Horsemanship by Xenophon

After almost two and a half millennia, this elegant treatise (written circa 355 B.C.) still offers actionable advice on how to choose and train a good horse. Xenophon's emphasis on kind handling speaks to the timeless bond between humans and horses. It's only when he describes the best way to use your javelin to vault onto your horse that you remember this guy studied with Socrates and led the Ten Thousand. Buy it here.

A Good Horse Has No Color by Nancy Marie Brown (2001)

A scholar of Icelandic sagas, Brown becomes enamored of the country's unique horses with their silken gait and fearless disposition. This journey across Iceland in search of her own perfect horse becomes a deep dive into a rare culture, and into her own motivations and limitations. Buy it here.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55)

Not a series about horses, and yet horses are among these novels' most memorable characters. Consider Gandalf's untamed Shadowfax, the stallion who carries only those he consents to bear; the king of Rohan's "faithful servant yet master's bane, Lightfoot's foal, swift Snowmane," and Sam Gamgee's humble, valiant rescue pony, Bill. Tolkien evokes the charisma of horses and adds to the romance with which we humans have always invested them. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here

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