Books: Creature Comforts

It’s time to jump for joy, people: according to the Chinese horoscope, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. In celebration of our favourite lop-eared friend (and fellow critters), this month’s book picks all star an anthropomorphic character or two…

To kick things off with a classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll features conversational creatures aplenty. A flustered rabbit (“I’m late, I’m late!”), a cryptic caterpillar (“who are you?”) and a grinning (Cheshire) cat to name just a few, Carroll’s seminal text is famously – and fabulously ­– anthropomorphic. There have been some wonderful editions of Alice published over the years – Tove Jansson’s illustrated version (£12.99, Tate Publishing) comes in as a firm favourite – but we’ve got our eyes on the gorgeous, soon-to-be-published edition from the Rock Point Timeless Classics series (below) | £22, Rock Point

Carroll’s characters aren’t alone in their penchant for dishing out the wisdom / nonsense; “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye”, ponders Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s philosophical fox in The Little Prince. After crash-landing in the Sahara Desert, a pilot encounters a young royal who is visiting Earth from his own planet. Along his journey, the prince meets several animals with some important things to say: from a sage fox, to a troublesome snake. Penguin’s beautiful Clothbound Classics edition of Exupéry’s masterpiece is the one to own, in our books | £14.99, Penguin

For a bit of light relief post-French-philosophy, we’re looking to Snoopy and the gang. Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strips and characters – including the iconic Snoopy the dog and Woodstock the little yellow bird – are loved internationally, appealing to fans young and old since they appeared in the 1950s. The Bumper Book of Peanuts takes readers back to the golden age of Peanuts, gathering the very best of the strip from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Packed with strips featuring Snoopy, and the whole motley crew | £14.99, Canongate Books

It wouldn’t be a much of a list of novels-that-feature-animals-who-act-like-humans without some George Orwell: Animal Farm, starring the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm, is potentially The Most Famous of All Anthropomorphic Tales. When the farmyard manage to overthrow their master, Mr Jones, they imagine it is the beginning of a life of freedom. But soon a cunning, ruthless elite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, starts to take control | £14.99, Penguin Books

Dubbed as Orwell for the 21st century, NoViolet Bulawayo’s Glory – a scintillating allegory of anthropomorphic uprising, incisively capturing the destructive cycle of corrupting power and relentless tyranny – is next up. A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, writes Bulawayo, the animal denizens lived quite happily. Then the colonisers arrived. After nearly a hundred years, a bloody War of Liberation brought new hope for the animals ­– along with a new leader. Glory tells the story of a country seemingly trapped in a cycle as old as time, and reminds us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it | £18.99, Vintage Publishing

Another recent addition to the (anthropomorphic) literary landscape, Sunday Times bestseller The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde is a political satire described by The Guardian as a “crazed cross between Watership Down and Nineteen Eighty-Four”. When a family of human-sized rabbits, the result of an inexplicable anthropomorphising event half a century before, move into the village of Much Hemlock, two worlds collide. Fforde’s is a bizarre tale of human-rabbit coexistence masking a clever allegory about belonging and identity | £8.99, Hodder & Stoughton

Sticking with the vaguely (/extremely) unsettling theme, Mona Awad’s Bunny is a nice dose of Dark Academia (fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, unite!) with a splash of anthropomorphic attitude. Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort – a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’, and seem to move and speak as one. (Despite its soft-and-fluffy title, this isn’t one for younger readers: you have been warned) | £9.99, Penguin Randomhouse