When I think of comforting, compelling animal companions, I didn't think of snails until I read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. During a long period of an autoimmune illness, a snail that a friend brought to her room was both companion and source of wonder.
The book that Bailey has compiled, comprised of both her experience with "her" snail and extensive research into the natural history of snails is a fascinating read. When the snail first arrived in Bailey's life, she was a bit annoyed--she could barely take care of herself, she didn't need another creature to worry about. Despite this, she soon found watching the snail almost meditative, and she began to follow the rhythms of its nocturnal life, becoming fascinated with its habits. She found out about the eating and reproductive habits of snails, about their unique anatomy. She found both scientific studies on snails and literature about them, including haiku and several short stories by Patricia Highsmith, one involving 20-foot carnivorous snails. This tiny book had tidbits that I wanted to share on nearly every page. If you want a read to remind you that there are small things in life that we often don't think about, pick up The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating and become immersed in the world of snails for a bit.