The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
From what I’d heard about this novel, I didn’t want to like it. For one thing, reincarnation plays a role in the endgame, which I was pretty sure would be hokey as hell. For another thing, I suspected the dog’s voice would strike me as unbelievably wise. I was wrong. This is a fine story full of honest emotion, which dares to say two things that are rarely said in modern fiction, which is generally nihilistic or too hip to believe in anything beyond the material. Those two things are: We have souls, and the world is a mysterious place. This is a moving story about love, tragedy, commitment, humility, and redemption. It embraces the idea that life has dimensions we cannot see but that if we are honest with ourselves, we intuit every day of our lives.
City by Clifford D. Simak
Often science fiction is little concerned with characterization, favoring story and/or intriguing scientific speculations instead. Simak always wove complex and believable characters. In these eight tales, written in the 1940s and collected into a novel in 1952, Simak creates many strong characters, but especially an endearing robot named Jenkins and, beginning in the third of the eight, a series of wonderful dogs, who by the end of the novel have inherited a world in which humankind no longer exists and is a legend on the way to becoming a myth.