Book Review: Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan


Hi everyone, this is Dakota’s Mom.  I fell in love this past weekend. I fell in love with a little black and white Miniature  Schnauzer  with a name and  bushy white  eyebrows reminiscent of a professor or lawyer, deeply knit in thought,  full of moxie, wiser than his years.

I fell in love with Atticus M. Finch as thousands of others have, for his wisdom, courage, love, devotion and willingness to defy the odds on many fronts.

Atticus and Tom Ryan

I also fell in love with author Tom Ryan who in many ways is a “dog whisperer”. He  didn’t believe in training methods that others would consider to be “normal”.   More than any other books that I have read about a man’s love for his dog and their ensuing  adventures, the title “Following Atticus” speaks volumes.  Ryan  is so keenly tied to the nuances of Atticus that he raised Atticus not to do what HE wanted him to do, (there is nobody who is hung up on who is the “Alpha” here), he raised him to be what Atticus wanted to be.

Tom Ryan, who knew little about owning a dog when he brought home Atticus based his entire upbringing on literally following Atticus’s  lead, which was also something he practiced when he and Atticus attempted the unthinkable,  exploring and conquering forty-eight peaks.

In other words, he observed, he listened, he sensed, he felt. This was a skill he was already adept at  using, being the founder of the Newburyport, Massachusetts, newspaper, The Undertoad where for a decade he was its editor, publisher and “roving reporter.”

From “Following Atticus”:

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

The above quote sets the stage for what lies ahead in this heart-tugging,  adventurous, suspenseful, thought-provoking,  deliciously descriptive gem.

From the publisher:

“Middle-aged, overweight, and acrophobic newspaperman Tom Ryan and miniature schnauzer Atticus M. Finch are an unlikely pair of mountaineers, but after a close friend dies of cancer, the two pay tribute to her by attempting to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s four-thousand-foot peaks twice in one winter while raising money for charity. In a rare test of endurance, Tom and Atticus set out on an adventure of a lifetime that takes them across hundreds of miles and deep into an enchanting but dangerous winter wonderland. Little did they know that their most difficult test would lie ahead, after they returned home. . . .”

Ryan and Atticus,  two  unlikely partners conquering mountains both literally in reference to nature and figuratively of the mountainous challenges that life has a tendency to hurl our way as well as the  mountainous burdens of our past seeking to take over our present.

The book also features photos with incredible images taken by Tom and others that document his journey with Atticus.

Following Atticus is for all of us who dare to dream, who have dreams that we think may never become a reality, for dog lovers, those who are inspired and reap strength from nature, for those who set high expectations for themselves,  for those who seek to make sense of the past and how it relates to the present.

"Little Buddha"

For those who know what it feels like to sacrifice our own wants and needs for that of our pet, and for those who dare to admit that our pet just might be a lot wiser than we are and have faith that they will lead us, to give us exactly what we need, if only we are willing to follow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In 2007  Tom Ryan sold The Undertoad and moved to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to write and to hike with Atticus. Over the last five years the pair has climbed more than 450 4,000 foot peaks. Tom writes the popular “The Adventures of Tom & Atticus” column in the NorthCountry News and Mountainside Guide and the blog:

“The Adventures of Tom and Atticus.” 

In November of 2008 Tom & Atticus were honored as co-recipients of the MSPCA’s Human Hero of the Year award given at their annual Hall of Fame dinner at the JFK Presidential Library.

Heroes Of The Year 2008

FOLLOWING ATTICUS: FORTY-EIGHT PEAKS, ONE LITTLE DOG, AND AN EXTRAORDINARY FRIENDSHIP  published by  William Morrow Hardcover/September 20, 2011/ $25.99/ 9780061997105 E-Book/September 20, 2011/$12.99/ 9780062101303

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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I loved this book. I also fell in love with Atticus. It was such a great book about a man and his dog. I loved how Tom never “trained” Atticus. It is truly an inspiring book. The two of them have such a great relationship. Please read this book. 🙂

    • Jackie thank you! I am glad that you mentioned what I mentioned about Tom never having “trained” Atticus. That, to me was amazing in itself that this little guy pretty much trained himself! He is truly a special dog. Thank you for your endorsement of this wonderful book! Love, Dakota’s Mom

  2. I have read this book and I must agree with you completely this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I too fell in love with Atticus and Tom and their way of living a great life and adventure together. There is nothing greater then the devotion between man or woman and their dog. A GREAT heart warming story and the way Tom puts it into words is very inspiring.

    • Sandra I am so happy that not only did you read this book but that you agree with me. I was really hoping I did the book justice with my review. This was a superb book and I hoped that my review reflected that. You are so right, it was COMPLETELY inspiring! Thank you for stopping by! Love from “Dakota’s Mom”

  3. Wow ! Sound like a good book for my cousin’s family : )
    Basil is my new cousin and he is a woofie and he is a little black and white Miniature Schnauzer !!!
    Mom might get this book for his family for Christmas !
    Thanks Dakota
    xoxo

    • Mr Puddy Hi! I know you are so busy so I am happy that you visited! Thank you! Dakota and I are honored!

      This book is a MUST buy for Basil!! I forgot all about him! This would be perfect! It is such a touching story and it is full of excitement as well.

      I am sure they would love this book for Christmas!
      Love, “Dakota’s Mom”

  4. I just started a must read book list and put this one on it. Thanks for the recommendation. Now all I need is time to read!!

    • Hi Mario! I am sure you are going to love this book. With winter coming there will be lots and lots of cozy, cold days where you might have more time to read.

      I finished this one in about 2 days (not reading straight through)….I stopped more in this one though because it was thought provoking. I am certain you will love it!

      Love from “Dakota’s Mom”

  5. We added this book to our wish list!

    Stop on by for a visit
    Kari
    http://dogisgodinreverse.com

    • Kari I am so happy to hear that!!! Love from “Dakota’s Mom”

  6. This book is going to a number of folks on our Christmas list. We have a schnauzer who looks like a twin of Atticus, and before the book came out we had discovered she was more than a pet…her opinions are consulted often… we’re just glad to learn that there are people like Tom who make the most of a wonderful relationship with a wise canine!

    • Hi Ann, I think this is a perfect gift for the holidays for dog lovers (actually ALL animal lovers). Your Schnauzer must be equally as adorable. I love the unique markings on Atticus!! Thank you for visiting us, love from “Dakota’s Mom”

  7. Thank you for such an outstanding review on one of my favorite books.

    • Joyce thank you! Your comment means a lot to me! As much as I adored this book, when that happens I am always fearful that I won’t do the book justice, that is just me being ME! lol. Thank you for your endorsement of this literary winner as well! Love from “Dakota’s Mom”

  8. Dear Caren and Dakota,
    This sounds like a really good book. Me thinks it would be a good one for Mommy to reads to the Hairy Slobbery sisters the next time wes takes a long trip and Daddy is driving (instead of a murder mystery to Daddy).
    thanks yous for telling us about it!
    Kisses
    Nellie

    • Hi Nellie!

      This isn’t just a “really good book” it is SUPERB. I know you will love it. It would make a wonderful book to read out loud rather than a murder mystery, then again, I am biased. I LOATHE mysteries but the rest of the world loves them! I am one that could care less “who done it”

      Love from “Dakota’s Mom”

  9. I can’t catch up with your booklists, Dakota! But this book sounds really good, I’m busy reading some other random books at the moment but I will definitely look for this book soon.

    Kisses
    Priscilla

    • Priscilla, forget the cat books on your list and just read the woofies! BOL! That will cut your list down. The heck with the cats! lol!

      Seriously, just give the doggie books priority since you have a doggie! You will LOVE this one, I KNOW you will!

      Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  10. Hi Dakota,

    For those who ‘dare to dream’ – this Doggy book sounds awesome!! I think this needs to be on my Mum’s Christmas list!!

    Thanks for telling us about it buddy,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

    • Hi Snoopy!

      Knowing your Mom like I think we do…we KNOW she will LOVE this book!

      Yes it should be on your Christmas list!

      Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  11. Me and Charlie love the trailer!! Awww Atticus and Tom are wonderful together. The power of the paw to heal and bring out the best in people!! Yay!!

    Thanks for the review and info to this book lovely Dakota! take care
    x

    • Yep Old Kitty and Charlie they are! You got it! You are welcome! xoxoxo to you and Charlie! Love, Dakota’s Mom

  12. […] If you missed the above posts, you may read the SmartBones post by clicking here and my Mom’s review of Following Atticus by clicking here! […]

  13. Just reviewed this for a virtual book tour of the paperback version. So glad I didn’t read your review first. Your distinctive voice would have messed me up so much. 🙂

    Lovely review that really captured the flavor of this enchanting book. It was very loving without being sentimental. I got the sense that Tom no only loves Atticus but respects him very much.

    • Pamela you are much too kind! Thank you! I LOVED your review but I know what you mean. If I had not done the review yet and if I had been waiting to do it I also don’t read reviews others have done. I am always afraid of another person’s review getting in my head…….so….if I know I am reviewing a book and see it out there I won’t read it until after the fact.
      I couldn’t agree with you more. It is a mutual respect and a mutual love story.
      Thanks so much again, your review was superb!!!
      Love, “Mom”

  14. I love your review, Caren. It is totally different than mine (I hope that is a good thing, that we had different perspectives!) Your descriptions of Atticus and Tom are wonderful. If I hadn’t already read the book, I certainly would after your review. Now I’m going to have to read some of your other reviews to find my next book to read!

    • Thanks Jan! What is nice is most of us have different “takes” on different books. Even the authors have told me in some cases I have opened THEIR eyes to things that they never realized when they wrote the book. 99% of my books are sent to me via publishers or by authors that have read my reviews and want me to review their books. Have fun!


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