Book clinic: can you recommend novels and nonfiction books about cats?

From the creations of Stephen King to Hilary Mantel, there are many literary felines to savour

Q: Can you recommend some novels and nonfiction books about cats?
Feline lover, 60, Oxford.

A: Novelist Jessie Burton writes:
My cat Margot is my constant writing companion and it seems from Alison Nastasi’s lovely Writers and Their Cats that I’m in good company. Beat novelist William S Burroughs adored cats so much he wrote a whole book about them; The Cat Inside is a dreamlike love letter to the cats he knew through his life and a meditation on humanity’s relationship with our favourite “psychic companions”.

Many of the best-known cats in fiction tend towards the mischievous (Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat, The Master and Margarita’s Behemoth), the machiavellian (the eponymous protagonist of Terry Pratchett’s delightful The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents) or the outright malevolent (Church in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary).

For something a bit different, I’d recommend dipping a paw into Japanese literature, where cats feature in wonderful variety. Natsume Sōseki’s I Am a Cat is a biting satire of Meiji-era Japan told through the eyes of a sardonic street kitten, while The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa beautifully explores the friendships we share with our pets through the eyes of Nana, as he takes a road trip with his beloved human Satoru. Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared From the World is a much more pleasant read than its horrifically dystopian title would suggest, while 1Q84 by renowned cat-obsessive Haruki Murakami features a town populated entirely by cats. Heavenly.

My favourite literary feline is Marlinspike, the impish black kitten given by Cardinal Wolsey to Thomas Cromwell in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. He’d run off by the sequel Bring Up the Bodies, “as cats do, to make his career elsewhere”, but I live in hope that he’ll make a triumphant return in next year’s The Mirror and the Light.

Jessie Burton’s new novel The Confession will be published by Picador on 19 September

  • This article was amended on 16 August to remove an incorrect name

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Jessie Burton

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