Welcome To

Buy Now

James Herriot

James Herriot was the pen name of James Alfred Wight (1916 – 1995), an English veterinary surgeon and writer best known for his semi-autobiographical works, which are often referred to collectively as All Creatures Great and Small.

Blurbs

"[W]arm, joyous, and often hilarious . . . shines with love of life."

– The New York Times Book Review

"A rarity, magnificently written, insightful, unforgettable . . . If you have ever loved a friend, human or otherwise, this is the book for you."

– Houston Chronicle

"[M]akes you feel good about the world and some of the people in it."

– San Francisco Chronicle

"James Herriot . . . is one of those rare men who know how to appreciate the ordinary . . . a natural storyteller."

– The New York Times

"If there is any justice, All Creatures Great and Small will become a classic of its kind."

– Chicago Tribune

"What the world needs now, and does every so often, is a warm, G-rated, down-home, unadrenalized prize of a book that sneaks onto the bestseller lists. . . . James Herriot's memoirs qualify admirably."

– Time

"[Herriot] is the most entertaining, most thoroughly likable, most engaging person to have come along in a long time, and the stories he has to tell are fascinating."

– The Washington Post

"Great animal stories . . . amusing character sketches of country people and an almost palpable love of the Yorkshire countryside."

– Boston Herald

"[Herriot's] unsentimental but unstinting love of animals, his family values, his affectionate appreciation of human nobility, his affectionate tolerance of human foibles, his gentle good nature, are hard to resist."

– Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Reading Herriot's book is like listening to the stories of a very old friend."

– Library Journal

Book Trailer

Reviews

Related Posts

Featured Book

All Creatures Great and Small

Happy Thanksgiving from The Lit Pub (with James Herriot)

11/24/11

I'd like to begin with a little confession: I had no idea what book I was going to write about for today's post until about 5 p.m. yesterday, on Thanksgiving eve. It wasn't the end of the world -- my backup plan was to publish any of the 50+ posts we already have scheduled for the weeks ahead, but I wanted to write up something myself, a personal message from me to you, something special befitting the holiday (and no, the irony is not lost on me that I settled on a European author, but bear with me). In particular, I wanted to provide a bit of an update about where we are now with The Lit Pub, and of course, as ever, I wanted to write about a very special book, a book I love. The problem was, I just wasn't sure what book it should be; all I knew was it had to be the right book, a book that means something to me, a book that perfectly captures the nostalgia for all the warmth and loveliness that I think Thanksgiving -- insofar as it brings families together -- is supposed to inspire us to feel.

With time ticking on and my fear growing greater that I'd have to post something by someone else -- a disservice to her or his efforts, I thought, due to the high probability that traffic would be slow on the holiday -- I took my dilemma to Team TLP. I thought, Hey, maybe I can just run a Happy Thanksgiving post. I asked everyone what they're thankful for and here are the responses I got:

Josh Denslow wrote: "I'm thankful for electronic submission managers because now I barely ever have to go to the post office." A minute later, he added: "I'm also grateful for this community. I've had a really fun year."

Samuel Ligon wrote: "I'm thankful for meats and cakes and pies and tax incentives."

Alex Pruteanu wrote: "I'm grateful for reasonably priced gin and reasonably priced dry vermouth. I'm grateful for Submishmash and for zines that allow simultaneous submissions. I'm grateful for editors who make concrete, quick decisions -- no matter whether or not I agree with them."

Brian Contine wrote: "I'm thankful for paper over board, fair use, and brief nudity in graphic novels."

I wrote: "I love yr resistance to sentimentality. I will more than make up for it with my own thanks-givings." (And I will, I will.)

Then Dave K. wrote: "I'm just thankful to be alive and still creating. This year has reminded me that, while my blessings might be extremely basic, they are nonetheless important and more than many other people have."

(Thank you, Dave K., for being so sweet. And while I'm sure the others were being no less sincere, I still wanted to tsk tsk them, Mother Hen of The Lit Pub that I am.) Then I got really worried because time really began to run out. I wrote:

"I have no idea what book to even write about. I'm either totally screwed or will pull something out of the depths of my soul by midnight. Or, much easier, I'll run someone else's post, which sucks for them because nobody reads the Internet on holidays. Sorry gang. I totally suck."

But that's when Brian Contine came to the rescue with: "Thanksgiving is about food. Any favorite foodie books?"

There it was! I immediately thought of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small -- no, not because I thought of all the tasty creatures great and small (tsk tsk!). Seriously, there isn't another author out there that can make me as hungry as James Herriot. The way he writes about farming life, working up an appetite, and all those Yorkshire Dales farmers who invite him into their homes after a calving or a lambing or a foaling for a bit of their wives' home-cooked meals is mouth-wateringly delicious. Furthermore, the BBC series on-demand at Netflix does a fine, fine job of showcasing housekeeper Mrs. Hall's 3-square-meals-a-day philosophy. . . .

But there are other reasons that make James Herriot's memoirs so perfect for today's post. Before I get into all that, though, how about some background information? All Creatures Great and Small is the first of five semi-autobiographical novels / memoirs by Alf Wight, who wrote under the pen name James Herriot. The first four in the set are titled after lines from Cecil Frances Alexander's quatrain:

"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all."

The fifth, titled Every Living Thing, has this on its back cover:

"Herriot's last memoir, Every Living Thing, is a truly heartwarming read, breathtakingly full of his deep joy in life, sense of humor, and appreciation of the world around him."

I don't think any other blurb can sum up these books as well, though not for lack of trying. You should certainly turn your attention to the far left column and read the other blurbs (go on, just skim through them over there), which are incredible -- not to mention, for the first time ever, I've also felt compelled to include the links to reviews on Google Books, Goodreads, and Amazon, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of fans' responses is emotionally and staggeringly overwhelming.

These five books are probably sold as a set, though, to be honest, I didn't even know about the fifth until last night, when I dashed out to my local Barnes & Noble to snag a fresh, clean copy of All Creatures Great and Small, which I would like to give away to one lucky winner. (All you have to do is leave a comment here about what you're thankful for between now and midnight EST Sunday, November 27, 2011. Multiple comments earn you multiple chances to win, so if you're thankful for many things, leave several comments! The more the merrier, and the winner will be selected at random and announced on Monday, November 28, 2011.)

My personal history with these books goes all the way back to high school. I randomly stumbled upon All Things Wise and Wonderful in the lending library of the condo association my folks lived in. I pulled it off the shelf and headed for the pool. That night, I broke the lending library's rules and took all four books back to the condo with me (on the honor system, we were only supposed to take out one book at a time, and we were supposed to return them promptly). All four books, completely and totally worse for the wear, are now displayed on an end table in my living room. One, I'm not sure which, is missing half a cover, due to a very hungry dog's very sharp teeth. And yet, those four books are very special to me and deserve their elevated status -- not on the bookshelf, no, but on display where anyone can see them when they come into my home.

Every time I look at them, which is just about every day as they're in plain view of the couch I sit on and the dining table where I eat, I remember how I left Florida with those books a changed person. I returned to my high school (I lived away from home) with those four books and began writing about them. My English teacher, Sara Berry, at the School for Creative and Performing Arts (now the nation's only K-12 school of the arts), is someone I am extremely grateful for today. She changed my life, and I was lucky to have her for two years. My 11th grade English teacher, she was also my 12th grade English teacher because that year the former 12th grade teacher retired and Mrs. Berry moved on up with us. And it was for her 12th grade AP English class that I was required to write one reading response a week. They didn't have to be long -- only four pages, if memory serves -- but on this particular week after that break, I turned in a 25-page research paper on James Herriot's tetralogy.

For the first time in my life, I had gone to the library and researched postmodernist, feminist, and deconstructionist perspectives on the works of an author (and although I may not have understood the terms and the quotations I found, I pulled and cited them like it was my one and only job on earth). I turned in the essay, worried that Mrs. Berry might roll her eyes at the sight of so many broken staples in the upper left corner (she was a sarcastic one, that woman), but when it finally came back to me, she had written only one word in her recognizable red scrawl: "Amazing!"

At the risk of even further digression, I should go back in time a bit. In the 10th grade, I wrote essays for English class, sure. I did all right. Got A's and B's. In the 11th grade, I turned in my first essay and Mrs. Berry wrote on it: "Oh please!" I revised it and she wrote: "See me." It was the first time anyone had ever challenged my writing. She inspired the best out of me, and it was a painful year of excruciating "See me" and "Oh please!" responses. But when 12th grade rolled around, she accepted me for her AP class, and I was writing pretty decent essays. And, to no one's great surprise, that was the year I bailed on my long-term major, Jazz Theory and Music Composition, and headed upstairs to the 3rd floor, where I auditioned for the Creative Writing teacher and became a creative writing major. I wrote awful poems, plays, and stories, but at least my essays for Mrs. Berry had shaped up by then. I probably knew MLA better then than I do now. By the time I graduated, I didn't even consult my Hacker.

In any case, James Herriot has been with me for the long haul. I'm 30 now. I was only 17 then. It's strange to think that these books have been with me for nearly half my life. But it's comforting, too. I'm thankful for these books, the stories in them, the memories that Herriot shares. And I'm so grateful, too, that I've got this opportunity to write about his books again now, if for no other reason than I am currently working on a memoir and there is something very special and unique about Herriot's light touch when it comes to the sentimental. Further, as his books are "semi-autobiographical," and somewhat fictionalized, I'm thrilled to have this revelation today that they qualify as being hybrid in nature. As I like to fancy myself an expert-in-training when it comes to hybridity, I couldn't be happier that I can add Herriot to my list of genre-blurring authors.

Yet I digress, more and more it seems, with every new paragraph. Here I was worried I wouldn't have anything to write about, and now I'm writing too much. I haven't even told you about what he writes about. In a nutshell: his life as a veterinary surgeon in the Yorkshire Dales, taking care of small animals in the surgery on-site and taking care of large animals like horses, cows, sheep, and pigs, on the farmers' properties. His cast of characters includes his boss, Siegfried Farnon; Siegfried's younger brother, Tristan; their indomitable housekeeper, Mrs. Hall; James's wife, Helen, and their children; and, of course, the many farmers and animals they all tend to at any time of day or night, "rain, snow, or blow."

The books, plain and simple, are heartwarming. The BBC series on Netflix captures them perfectly, I think, and I've spent the past many months making my way through the various seasons and episodes. (If you watch only one, make sure it's Season 2, Episode 7, "Tricks of the Trade." Granville Bennett is one of the great and classic characters of the series, and Christopher Timothy, the actor who plays James, is probably at his finest as the "straight man" that he generally always has to be, given the eccentricities of everyone else around him. Additionally, I think the entire cast is perfect, and so there's no need to fear watching an episode, seeing the actors, and worrying about not being able to imagine the characters if you were to go read the books. When I read the books, I see the actors, but they do such a damn fine job of it, nothing's lost, only gained. In fact, many will recognize Robert Hardy, the actor who plays Siegfried Farnon, for another of his more well-known characters: Cornelius Fudge.)

Obviously, then, I absolutely recommend these books. You could read them at bedtime to your youngest children they're that "good" and "clean" and "fun," although there are sometimes bad people, dirty animals, and sad cases too far gone for any cure. But I couldn't think of a better way to break such truths than with these books, and, really, they offer a bit of an escape, to a simpler time and a distant past when hard work and neighborly kindness were what got us through the days. It's an important message, and one I'm thankful to have at my fingertips any time I need it. To be able to say that these books have been with me for the long haul is my privilege, really -- I mean, of course they have; quite simply, I love them.

It is this kind of love that I hope all of us at The Lit Pub will continue to bring to our recommendations and consistently share with you all -- love of reading, love of good strong characters and the great stories they live, love of authors who touch us each individually for those tiny little reasons that make us the unique human beings and readers that we are.

Finally, and to close, I would like to take this moment to thank everyone at The Lit Pub for doing what they do -- all the Staff Writers, Assistants, Data Gatherers, Interns, and, of course, all of our readers who make their way to this website whether randomly or via links from all of the bloggers and web editors out there who have been kind enough to tell others about us. We couldn't do it without you, and for this I will most certainly raise my glass to you tonight at my own table; until then, let me tell you here how much I appreciate all that you have done. Thank you, all of you, and have a very, very happy Thanksgiving.

You might also like

  • Buy Now
    Every Living Thing
    James Herriot
  • Buy Now
    All Things Bright and Beautiful
    James Herriot
  • Buy Now
    All Things Wise and Wonderful
    James Herriot
  • Buy Now
    James Herriot's Cat Stories
    James Herriot
  • Buy Now
    The Lord God Made Them All
    James Herriot
  • Buy Now
    James Herriot's Dog Stories
    James Herriot
  • Buy Now
    James Herriot's Treasury for Children
    James Herriot

Let your voice be heard

Subscribe to Comments RSS

6 Comments

  1. The Lit Pub said on 11/24/11 at 2:25 am Reply

    For a chance to win a free copy All Creatures Great and Small, please leave your comments here — just tell us what you’re thankful for (multiple comments = multiple chances to win) — between now and midnight EST Sunday, November 27th, 2011.

    Happy Thanksgiving from yr friends at TLP!

    Reply

  2. Josh Denslow said on 11/24/11 at 2:35 pm Reply

    Wonderful post, Molly! Now that it’s actually Thanksgiving, and I’m here with my wife and family, I can’t help but laugh a little at my earlier aversion to sentimentality. Maybe it’s something that carries over from my writing, my fear of being syrupy (of which I’ve never actually been accused). Maybe I’m scared of putting my own personal feelings on the internet for anyone to read. My first reaction to a direct question about me has always been to extend my hands as far out in front of me as possible and keep my distance from anything too revealing. Inspired by your post, I began thinking of all the things I’m truly grateful for. I have a lovely, supportive wife who will sometimes laugh at my jokes. We have a houseful of animals that know exactly what time I get home each day and anticipate my arrival. I’m healthy, and I keep myself quite busy. My wife and I play in a band together and we spend a lot of our time loading up our equipment and playing small clubs in town. We’re taking tango lessons, something I grow to look forward to more and more as the years go by. This year alone I’ve had more stories accepted for publication than any other year of my writing career. And I’m so very grateful that my amazing mother-in-law has found more than one possible kidney donor (and one of them is me!). I’m thankful for the life that I lead and the opportunities that I have. I want to thank my wife for being the most honest, the most critical, the most genuine, but above all, the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. I know next year is going to be even better, because she’s shown me an optimism that I never knew I could have.

    Reply

  3. Dena Rash Guzman said on 11/24/11 at 6:27 pm Reply

    I’m grateful, Molly, for your hard work and also for the wealth of writing housed here.

    Reply

  4. Tamara said on 11/26/11 at 1:51 am Reply

    I’m thankful for animals. And trees.

    Reply

    Molly Gaudry said on 11/28/11 at 9:07 am

    Congrats, Tamara! You’ve won the giveaway! Just email [email protected] with your mailing address and I’ll ship this right away! P.S. Include your T-shirt size if you want a Lit Pub tee. 🙂

  5. Richard Thomas said on 12/31/11 at 11:41 am Reply

    Yeah, I read the four books (FIVE? didn’t know THAT) when I was young and they really were a touching, endearing, and emotional experience. Loved them. I think of them with fond memories, much like Watership Down and Of Mice and Men and others I read at that time. So glad to see you mention them here, Molly.

    Reply

Leave a Comment