Study Guide

The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain Introduction

Did you pick up The Art of Racing in the Rain expecting to get a sweet, lighthearted story about a dog and his family? Yeah, don't let the cute dog on the cover fool you: this book is going to dive headfirst into some of life's greatest questions.

And we don't mean questions like Where did I bury my bone? or Should I chase the mailman today?

We're talking serious questions:

  • Why are we here?
  • What's our greater purpose in the grand scheme of things?
  • Where do we go after death? Anywhere?
  • What are the keys to true happiness, and where we can get them?

Here's a shocker: sometimes, humans don't have all the answers.

Okay, fine, most of the time we don't have the answers.

And who could blame us? Human life is crazy and confusing. Scholars, philosophers, artists, and people from all walks of life have been trying answer these questions for millennia. Some find the answers in hobbies, or in family, study, meditation, or self-reflection. And some others find that thinking too hard about these answers just causes a major headache.

So when there's nowhere else to turn for answers, why not get an outsider's opinion? Well, Garth Stein knows the perfect outsider to ask.

A dog.

Our hero Enzo might be a dog, but he has a lot to say about life. He also has a lot to say about opposable thumbs, specifically about how he wishes he had them. But anyway, this pup's willingness to talk about the big stuff made this book a huge hit—and we mean huge. The Art of Racing in the Rain was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 156 flippin' weeks after it was published in 2008. And no, that's not in dog time. That's in people time.

So if you want to learn a little more about being human—and gain some real pop culture cred while you're doing it—dig in and take a look at the world from a dog's point of view. Hey, if nothing else, you'll learn all about how great it is to have opposable thumbs. Maybe being human isn't so bad, after all.

What is The Art of Racing in the Rain About and Why Should I Care?

We all grapple with those nagging questions about life, existence, and our purpose in the universe. And unfortunately—fortunately?—the answer is not 42.

Er, at least we don't think it is.

Being human means having the capacity to think deeply about yourself, your life, and your reason for being here. We all feel some pressure to find a deeper meaning in it all—it's just part of life. Plato did it, Aristotle did it, Copernicus did it, Einstein did it, and lots of other less famous people did it, too. There's even an entire branch of philosophy related to these questions: ontology. So, yeah, we're in good company.

But it's also pretty easy to get bogged down in all that thinking. It's easy to forget to just live. It's easy to forget what it means to be happy.

So who better to remind us about happiness than a dog?

Seriously—we bet you can't top that.

As a dog, Enzo's needs are pretty simple. He likes long walks in the park, stopping to smell the flowers, sitting in front of the television with loved ones, and sniffing for table scraps. He probably knows as much about life as any of us do.

But what Enzo also knows how lucky humans are to be, well, human. He sees being a human as a gift he wasn't granted, but one he wants more than anything to get. As an outsider, he reminds us about the good things that come with being alive, being loved, and being part of a family.

Of course, Enzo can't teach us the "why" of the universe—he's a dog, not a miracle worker—but he does teach us that we can play a part in our own lives and manifest our own destinies. By telling us—and himself—that "your car goes where your eyes go," he's reminding us that we as humans have choices to make, and that while we might not be able to answer what life is or what we're doing on this planet, we sure can decide what we do with the lives we're given. And that's definitely a motivation booster if we've ever heard one.

So, if you're ever in doubt that your dreams are too big or your ambitions are set too high, remember that your car goes where your eyes go. Shoot for those dreams, keep an eye on the road, and go for it. It might just be the best way to find the answers for your questions.

And if you're using this advice to literally drive somewhere, don't forget your seatbelt.

The Art of Racing in the Rain Resources

Websites

The 411 on Garth Stein
Need more racing action? A good place to start is Garth Stein's website, where he has fun facts about the writing process, a synopsis of his works, and an entire page dedicated to The Art of Racing in the Rain.

A Dog's Purpose
In case you're looking for something equally uplifting and tail wagging, look no further than A Dog's Purpose. It's not related to The Art of Racing in the Rain, but we think Bailey and Enzo would be good friends.

Movie or TV Productions

The Art of Movie-Making in the Rain
There's no movie adaptation of this book yet, but don't fear: Disney, that movie-making monolith, has nabbed up the movie rights, and there will probably be some tail-wagging fun sometime soon. We'll just impatiently sit on our paws while we wait.

Articles and Interviews

An Interview with the Man Behind the Dog
Among the other goodies on Garth Stein's website is this FAQ about where the idea for Enzo came from, why he chose racing as the sporting analogy of choice, and who exactly the Muggs from the dedication is.

Book Review Times Two
Both Kirkus Review and Publishers Weekly posted this book review in anticipation of the book's release.

Who's Who on the Racetrack
Among Enzo's idols, Ayrton Senna, a racecar driver whose unexpected death proved a loss to the racing community, receives repeated mention. So, who was he, anyway?

Video

Book Trailer
Since we'll be waiting for that movie adaptation for a while, may we recommend the book trailer?

Off to the Race
Feeling the burn of the rubber and the squeal of the tires isn't that hard once you've seen this video about what goes into preparing for the Indy 500.

Audio

Enzo's Song
Like pretty much everything else about Enzo, this song might make you cry.

Images

The Anatomy of a Racecar
We know racecars are basically cars that go really fast, but what makes them special?

Imola, Italy
It's Denny and Zoë's new home, and it's also the home of the Grand Prix circuit, where Denny becomes a famous racer.