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James Herriot's Books of a Veterinary Life

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

James Alfred Wight was an English working veterinarian who wrote about his experiences in books with the pen name, James Herriot. Wight lived in Yorkshire and doctored large animals and the occasional pet for farmers and pet owners. His memoirs are warm, heartbreaking and engaging for anyone who likes animals. Herriot is a natural story teller. His books are engaging without being maudlin, cloying or overly cute. They are happy, sad, and on occasion, hilarious. The covers of some of the books are excessively cute, and don’t realistically capture the spirit of the books. The series was made into a popular BBC television series that aired on PBS in the United States.

James Herriot surgery.
Credit: Public Domain

Herriot wrote 5 volumes about his life’s work.  His books should be read by anyone interested in becoming a veterinarian. They are accounts of dealing with farmers who look on their animals as a livelihood and owners with pampered pets who view their animals as more important than people. While techniques and medicine has changed, the way people regard their animals hasn’t.

All Creatures Great and Small

This is the first book Herriot wrote about his experiences. It covers the time from when he graduated from college and went to work in Yorkshire for Siegfried and Tristan Farnon. This book recounts his first experiences of going from classrooms to farms and dealing with recalcitrant owners, beasts and situations.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

This is the second book and continues from where the first left off. It continues his experiences of dealing with Farnon, the various owners, farmers and patients with whom he comes in contact.

All Things Wise and Wonderful

Herriot is married, his wife is pregnant and he is training to be a WWII Royal Air Force pilot. He uses the military parts to reflect on his veterinary experiences.

The Lord God Made Them All

The war is over, and Herriot continues his life as a vet. Now he has children and meets new people and animals.

Every Living Thing

This is the final book in the series where his children mature and develop the appreciation for animals that Herriot has. It is the conclusion of his memoirs of a full life of caring for animals.

James Herriot’s Dog Stories

This book is a compilation of the other books with the emphasis on dogs. Of course it contains a chapter on Tricki Woo.

James Herriot’s Cat Stories

This is a book similar to his dog stories, but about cats.

These books are somewhat episodic. They do have a linear story, but each chapter is separate. While they sometimes refer back to an earlier episode, the earlier event isn’t completely critical for enjoyment.



Jan 21, 2013 1:28pm
James Herriot is a natural story teller. I think these books are particularly good for young adults, as a change from vampire fiction. Thumbs up.
Jan 22, 2013 5:08am
I agree. They hold up pretty well, still engaging with good values.
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