I've always been passionate about animals. It started when I was young. At 12, I took zoology courses at the Bronx Zoo. It was a thrill handling chimpanzees, tiger cubs, and boa constrictors. I still get excited seeing animals — I'm the type to say hello to dogs on the street.
I also enjoy reading about animals. Here are a few of my favorite books; some are about animals and others feature animals as the main characters. I’m sure you will be wild about them too.
by Benjamin Mee
If you ever wondered what it is like running a zoo, pick up a copy of Benjamin Mee’s memoir. A former newspaper and magazine writer, Mee convinced his wife, brothers, and retired mother to purchase a small zoo in the southwestern English town of Dartmoor. Even though he studied animal behavior, Mee wasn’t prepared for the frightening loud roars coming from the lion cages in the middle of an otherwise quiet night. Or when tranquilizing a large animal to administer medicines he had to be sure the animal was truly asleep. The book provides an insiders look at running a zoo, trying to get financing, taking care of the animals, and hiring staff. It also delves into Mee’s personal life with his family. His beloved wife, Katherine, fights a brain tumor while all of this is going on. The book is touching and informative, and filled with wry British humor.
by Susan McCarthy, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
I was hooked as soon as Moussaieff described his encounter with wild Indian elephants. Upon spotting a herd of elephants, he got a bit too close. Thinking that these magnificent creatures would be thrilled to meet him, Moussaieff bows. The leader of the pack flapped his ears. Moussaieff mistakenly thought this warning from the elephant was a sort of friendly hello. So, he continued. The elephant trumpeted and started charging. Despite their large size, elephants can outrun people. Fortunately, Moussaieff found shelter and hid. Thus starts the book which delves into the emotional lives of animals.
by Olivia Gentile
While I love watching birds, I’m not a birder. You don’t have to be to follow the life of Phoebe Snetsinger, who traveled the globe to see and record more than 5,000 birds. That’s a large life list considering that there are 9,000 recorded species of birds. Snetsinger graduated from college in the 1950s, a time when women were expected to marry, have kids, and stay home. While she did just that, she yearned to travel. When she was diagnosed with cancer and told she had a short time to live, her family told her to follow her dreams. Author Olivia Gentile details the adventures of Snetsinger in a loving manner that allows readers to get an inside look at this amazing life.
by Yann Martel
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, I picked this book up at my local bookstore and was immediately hooked. I have a lot to read at home and wasn’t planning on purchasing it. However, the writing was so captivating. Life of Pi is a fictional work about the son of a zookeeper who leaves India on a cargo ship for America with a handful of animals. The ship sinks and Pi, who is just 16, is in a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. It's quite surreal. However, Martel is such a good storyteller that you will believe every twist and turn.
by Jay Ullal, Willie Smits, Gerd Schuster
I picked up this book because I went to the orangutan rehab center in Borneo that is featured in this book. While the book covers the survival of these great apes, how they are like humans, and how they are being reintroduced into the wild, it is also a coffee table photo album with incredible art. You can see why the baby orangutans seem so cuddly. It also shows the harsh reality of why baby orangutans shouldn’t be kept as pets. They grow up, and as wild animals need to be in the wild. So, the rehab centers in Borneo and Sumatra that are featured in this book show readers how they are adapting to life in captivity, at the rehab center, and in the wild.
by Kenneth Grahame, introduction by Luanne Rice
I read this as a child, and am now rereading it with my 8-year old. It’s charming, delightful, and even more than that—it has held the attention of an 8-year old. We are enjoying the adventures of Toad, Frog, and Rat. You don’t have to be a child to enjoy this book. The writing is brilliant.
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