• Chronicle Books

The title Maddie on Things sounds like a philosophical inquiry, sort of like Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things. But actually Maddie is a 45-pound coonhound with a preternaturally developed sense of balance, and the book is a collection of photos of Maddie, well, balancing on things: posts, fences, the tops of doors, a giant watermelon, a basketball hoop, the axle of a John Deere tractor, shelves (both on walls and inside a refrigerator). It is one of the most charming things you will see for at least the next year.

The book’s very existence is somewhat serendipitous. Maddie’s human, Theron Humphrey, is a photographer who decided to take a year off from his job and travel the country meeting people and taking their pictures. (In the process, he became one of National Geographic‘s Travelers of the Year.) Before he set out, he decided he needed a road trip companion and adopted Maddie. A few days after they began their life together, he discovered her special talent.

“My buddy and I went out for coffee,” he recalls, “and when we got back, instead of lying on the couch, she was standing on the back of the couch with her head down.”

They started experimenting. Could Maddie stand on four soup cans, one paw on each can? She could!