James Herriot was the British veterinarian turned bestselling author who delighted generations of fans with his charming tales of animals and their owners.
His books have sold more than sixty million copies worldwide and put the quaint English county of Yorkshire on the international stage.
And though he sadly passed away in 1995, this beloved author’s work is still treasured by readers around the globe to this day.
James Herriot’s Books in Order
In this post, I’ll give you a full list of every James Herriot book, including his classic ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ series, his illustrated children’s stories, and his non-fiction work.
Plus, I’ll include a selection of fascinating biographies written about this multi-talented author.
But before we dive into Herriot’s extensive bibliography, let’s find out more about the man behind the books.
Who is James Herriot?
Though most people know him by his famous pseudonym, James Herriot’s real name was James Alfred Wight, or simply ‘Alf’ to his friends.
He was born in 1916 in Sunderland, England, but spent much of his childhood in Glasgow after his family relocated.
As a boy, Alf was fascinated by animals, and by the time he was twelve years old, he knew beyond all doubt that he wanted to be a vet.
And so, at the age of 23, he graduated from Glasgow Veterinary College before taking on his first job at a veterinary practice in his birthplace of Sunderland.
But just a few months later, he was offered a similar position in the market town of Thirsk, Yorkshire, and the charms of rural England proved too much for him to resist.
He quickly settled into country life, and soon after he arrived, he met his sweetheart, Joan Catherine Anderson Danbury.
A year later, the couple was married, and Wight was promoted to a salaried partner at the veterinary clinic.
But meanwhile, WWII was raging, and in November 1942, Alf Wight joined the Royal Air Force as a combat pilot. Yet his time in the forces was short-lived, and in July of the following year, he was discharged on the grounds of ill health.
Upon his return, he rejoined his beloved practice in Thirsk, and by 1949, he became a full partner.
Working alongside him was fellow veterinarian Donald Sinclair, who would later inspire Wight’s hot-headed and eccentric main character, Siegfried Farnon.
But after the publication of the first James Herriot book in 1970, his relationship with Sinclair became strained. His partner hated the way his alter-ego, Siegfried, was portrayed, so much so that he even threatened to sue him.
In the books, Siegfried is bad-tempered, outspoken, and opinionated, but according to Wight’s son Jim, the real Sinclair was even more outlandish than his fictional counterpart.
Yet, in both his novels and in real life, Wight was always quick to point out that underneath his brash exterior, Sinclair was a kind-hearted man who always put the welfare of his animal patients first.
And thankfully, despite their disagreements, their friendship survived, and the pair continued their practice together for many years to come.
Sinclair may have disliked Wight’s semi-autobiographical tales, but his fans couldn’t get enough.
By the mid-1970s, Alf had gone from an unknown village vet to an international sensation, and readers began turning up at his clinic to meet the man behind their favorite stories.
But Alf was a low-key kind of guy who valued his privacy. So, he, his wife, and their two children eventually moved out of Thirsk to the quaint village of Thirlby just a few miles down the road, away from the throngs of adoring fans.
Juggling two successful careers as both a veterinary surgeon and a bestselling author didn’t leave Alf Wight with much free time, so in 1980, he decided to go part-time at the practice.
Many others may have left their old career behind for good, but not Alf Wight. “I wouldn’t give up being a vet if I had a million pounds,” he said. “I’m too fond of animals.”
For the next decade, he continued delighting readers around the world, all while treating sick and injured animals in the Yorkshire Dales.
It wasn’t until 1990, after more than 50 years of veterinary service, that he finally retired from his beloved practice in Thirsk at the age of 74.
In February of 1995, Alf Wight sadly passed away at his home in Thirlby after a long battle with prostate cancer.
Yet his son, Jim, who also trained as a vet, continued his father’s legacy at his clinic for years to come.
Jim also followed in Alf’s literary footsteps, and in 2001, he published The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father.
In it, he describes his father as a kind-hearted, generous, and modest man who never quite understood the attention he received from his adoring fans.
Instead, he preferred to avoid the public eye, dedicating himself to the welfare of animals while sharing the joys of his work with readers around the globe.
Although he didn’t become a published author until much later in his life, Alf Wight had always had a talent for writing.
Even as a child, he wrote daily journals and submitted several pieces for his school magazine.
Yet it wasn’t until the early 1960’s that he took his hobby to the next level.
He began by penning numerous short stories, but despite sending them to publishers around the country, he was met with rejection.
Ultimately, he realized the key to success was in writing what you know, and so in 1969, he began work on a collection of stories inspired by his experiences as a vet.
The following year, they were published in the UK by Michael Joseph Ltd. under the title ‘If Only They Could Talk,’ and Wight’s writing career finally began to take off.
But strict rules from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons prevented practicing veterinarians from advertising in any way. And so Alf Wight needed a pseudonym, and his alter-ego, James Herriot, was born.
Sales of his early work were slow, but in 1972, he finally got his big break when the New York City publisher, St Martin’s Press, released his two first books under one volume, ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’
Suddenly, his readership skyrocketed, and James Herriot became a household name on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the decades that followed, he penned eight novels, multiple children’s stories, and several non-fiction works, too, including his final gift to the world, 1999 posthumously released ‘James Herriot’s Yorkshire Revisited.’
Even to this day, Alf Wight’s incredible legacy lives on, and thousands of fans still swarm the Yorkshire Dales each year to visit his iconic veterinary practice, now ‘The World of James Herriot’ museum.
So, if you’re a fan of this prolific author’s work, make sure to include a trip to Thirsk, Yorkshire, on your bucket list.
The Complete List of James Herriot Books in Reading and Publication Order
Alf Wight’s career as James Herriot gave birth to numerous semi-autobiographical fiction novels, as well as multiple children’s picture books, short stories, and non-fiction works too.
Below, I’ll list them all in the order they were published.
|The Original UK Series||• Print length: 864 pages|
• Publication date: January 1, 1982
|The USA Series||• Print length: 342 pages|
• Publication date: September 1, 1992
|James Herriot’s Children's Books||• Print length: 32 pages|
• Publication date: August 15, 1991
|Non-Fiction Books||• Print length: 224 pages|
• Publication date: January 1, 1980
|Short Stories||• Print length: 503 pages|
• Publication date: October 1, 1983
|Further Reading||• Print length: 384 pages|
• Publication date: September 11, 1997
The ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ Books
This charming series about Herriot’s life as a Yorkshire veterinarian is his most celebrated body of work.
Each book takes the reader on a new and fascinating journey into the ancient English countryside, exploring the lives of the people, and animals, who live there.
Although they’re technically works of fiction, the stories are inspired by the author’s real-life experiences living and working as a vet, and many of the characters and events are rooted in reality.
The series was a phenomenal success on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 1975, the first two novels were transformed into a blockbuster movie starring Simon Ward and Anthony Hopkins.
As well as finding fame on the silver screen, Herriot’s work was also adapted as a hugely successful and long-running BBC television series starring Christopher Timothy and Robert Hardy.
The show ran from 1978 to 1990, and according to producer Bill Sellars: “It became a world favorite, and at its height was actually watched by twenty million viewers.”
It’s clear that Herriot’s ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ has left a lasting impact on the world. And even today, more than 25 years after the author’s death, these heartwarming tales of animals and their owners are as delightful and poignant as ever before.
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The All Creatures Great and Small Books in Reading and Publication Order
The series was originally published in two different formats, one for each side of the Atlantic.
So, how you order the books will depend on whether you’re reading in the UK or the USA.
In the UK, books one to six were published as separate novels, but in the USA, they were collected into two book volumes.
But the final two titles, ‘The Lord God Made Them All’ and ‘Every Living Thing,’ were the same on both sides of the pond.
To avoid any confusion, I’ll list both the UK and the USA series in reading and publication order below.
The Original UK Series
- If Only They Could Talk (1970)
- It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet (1972)
- Let Sleeping Vets Lie (1973)
- Vet in Harness (1974)
- Vets Might Fly (1976)
- Vet in a Spin (1977)
- The Lord God Made Them All (1981)
- Every Living Thing (1992)
The USA Series
- All Creatures Great and Small (1972) (includes the stories If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet)
- All Things Bright and Beautiful (1974) (includes the stories Let Sleeping Vets Lie and Vet in Harness)
- All Things Wise and Wonderful (1977) (includes the stories Vets Might Fly and Vet in a Spin)
- The Lord God Made Them All (1981)
- Every Living Thing (1992)
James Herriot’s Children’s Books
After the incredible success of ‘All Creatures Great and Small,‘ Herriot published several books for children, illustrated by Peter Barrett and Ruth Brown.
Many of these original stories are still available to buy separately online, but in 1992, they were compiled into a singular special edition, ‘James Herriot’s Treasury for Children.’
Each title acts as a standalone, so they can be read in any order you wish.
- Moses the Kitten (1984)
- Only One Woof (1985)
- The Christmas Day Kitten (1986)
- Bonny’s Big Day (1987)
- Blossom Comes Home (1988)
- The Market Square Dog (1989)
- Oscar, Cat-About-Town (1990)
- Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb (1991)
Over the course of his long career as a vet, Herriot fell in love with the picturesque county of Yorkshire.
And so, in 1979, he published a bestselling non-fiction book, ‘James Herriot’s Yorkshire,’ to give readers a glimpse into life in this beautiful part of England.
Then, in 1999, four years after the author’s death, Herriot’s family authorized an updated edition, which includes never-before-seen photographs, excerpts from Herriot’s popular series, along with an introduction by his son, Jim Wight.
James Herriot penned countless short stories in his life, and many were written long before he became a household name.
Some of these quick reads never made it outside of the publisher’s office, but the ones that did have been collected into the anthologies below.
- The Best of James Herriot (1983)
- Horse & Pony Stories (1986)
If you’ve read all of his books and still can’t get enough of James Herriot’s work, then worry not.
There are several fascinating biographies to explore about this beloved author’s life and career, including the popular titles listed below.
- James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet by Graham Lord (1997)
- The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father by Jim Wight (2000)
- Young Herriot: The Early Life and Times of James Herriot by John Lewis-Stempel (2011)
- The Yorkshire Vet: In the Footsteps of Herriot by Peter Wright (2018)
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James Herriot’s heartwarming and captivating reads are the perfect antidote to the stress of modern life.
His stories transport us back into an age of innocence and remind us of the fundamental connection that humans and animals have always shared.
If you’re new to Herriot’s work, I hope this article has helped you figure out where to begin your reading journey.
And if you’re already a James Herriot fan, I’d love to hear about your favorite books, so drop me a comment in the box below!