Simon Garfield on his new book and how dogs got us through 2020


Journalist Simon Garfield is the author of 20 books including the international bestsellers Just My Type (a book of stories about type fonts), On the Map, Miniature (covering the trends to big and then to small and back again) and Mauve (about the discovery of the colour).

The End of Innocence, his book on AIDS in Britain, won the Somerset Maugham prize.

He lives in London with his wife Justine, a chef and their Labrador Ludo.

simon garfield with ludo dog's best friend book
Simon Garfield with Ludo the Labrador.

Why did you choose to write Dog's Best Friend, your new book about dogs?

Two things: I saw an advert for a cinema in South London announcing they were doing special film screenings for dogs, and a dog cafe near me had just opened with a very long menu exclusively for pets. So I had to wonder, how on earth did we get to this point, where we take dogs to the movies and feed them supper with added turmeric? So, this is a book about how the human/canine relationship has developed over the centuries, and asks whether the dog is now top dog.

Do you believe people are either dog people or cat people?

Definitely. Though I'll be getting into very hot water if I try to define the key characteristics of one or the other.

Do you think that dogs became more essential during COVID-19 times?

There's no doubting the extraordinary comfort and companionship they've provided this year. Some rescue shelters were overwhelmed with the demand, but sadly many dogs were then returned when inexperienced owners couldn't cope with their needs. Overall, I'd argue that canines and Amazon have been the big winners from COVID-19: so much more human company, so many more walks.

What was your first job?

Working in the VIP bar at the Aldwych Theatre in London when I was a student at the London School of Economics around the corner. Celebrities weren't expected to mix with the hoi polloi as they sipped their interval pick-me-ups, so they were served in a side-room by a very inexperienced young barman in a wonky bowtie instead. I poured Sir Larry Olivier his gin and tonic, don't you know?

What's the best money advice you've received?

Invest in Apple in 1988. I bought a car instead, and not even a good one.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

Investing in Apple shares in 1998. Not many though...

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

Maybe that Ford Fiesta.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

Modern paintings and ceramics from the St Ives School.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

In a beautiful pot (or two) by Lucie Rie.

What would you do if you only had $50 left in the bank?

Put it on 34 Red. Or buy the latest Michael Chabon and Percival Everett novels.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

Depends how well the dog books sells...

What's been your best money making career move?

Pursuing my ambition to be a writer.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...

...a great way of starting Side Two of Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

If you could tell your pet one thing and have them understand, what would it be? Tell us for your chance to win a copy of Dog's Best Friend by Simon Garfield.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.