We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever
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We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  3,657 ratings  ·  672 reviews
When Benjamin Mee decided to uproot his family and move them to an unlikely new home—a dilapidated zoo where more than 200 exotic animals would be their new neighbors—his friends and colleagues thought he was crazy. Mee’s dream was to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. The grand reopening was scheduled for spring, but there was much work to be done and none...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by Weinstein Books (first published 2008)
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K.D. Absolutely
My work in the office is to be in front of the computer for almost the whole day. I’m an information technology-systems analyst guy assigned on North American projects so I rarely talk to anybody except during lunch time. Due to this, I can don a headset and listen to a radio station. 8 hours a day.

Since early this January, my favorite afternoon station, RJ 100.30 has been airing the teaser for the movie adaptation of this memoir We Bought a Zoo with one line that goes something like: ”You don’...more
Terri
Part of what I'm writing is a review of the book, and part of it is a review of the reviews of the book. First of all, a disclaimer: I am primarily, by personal choice, a fiction reader, but I do know that one must bring different reading skills and expectations to a non-fiction account than to a novel. This book is exactly what it says, the story of a young British family living in France (think of some of those House Hunters International episodes from HGTV). The father is a writer of DIY arti...more
Yzobelle
Jan 26, 2012 Yzobelle rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: animal lovers
After loving the movie so much, it is difficult for me to give this book 3 stars. I thought and hoped I would be able to proudly give it 5 shining stars.

The book is not entirely bad. Benjamin Mee wrote as a journalist would -- the style was flowing, easy-to-read, a bit witty, and has a pretty good play of words. It was perhaps the focus of the book and the diversion from the movie (or rather, vice-versa -- the movie diverted from the book) that made it a little disappointing. I was expecting to...more
Ellen
It's written rather breathlessly and the photo gallery is completely unsatisfying (more shots of the house and zoo rather than their animal inhabitants would have been nice, not to mention more photos of the family) but the tale itself is pretty darn touching.

Melissa (ladybug)
While I basically liked this book, I did have several problems with it. The author would (frequently) say something like "but more on that later" but then Mr. Mee never returned to the subject. This happened frequently towards the end of the book. I hated this aspect of the book. Another issue, I had problems with Mr. Mee going on about money complaints and dealings with back room boys and others. He was beating a dead horse with some of his story. It was like he was trying to think of what to w...more
Sandie
Recently saw this family friendly movie and enjoyed it. If you have read Benjamin Mee's book WE BOUGHT A ZOO you may be disappointed at the "hollywood spin". Any similarity between the book and the movie basically ends with the title.

In the book Mee's father died and HIS MOTHER bought the Dartmoor Zoo (located in the UK not California) using funds received from the sale of her home in Surrey. Mee's wife Katherine was alive at the time of the purchase and moved to the zoo with their two children...more
Matt
Apparently in England you can buy a zoo if you have a million pounds or so...

The best parts were the references to Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, and the part where when they are testing the zoo restaurant before the zoo opens they drink most of the keg of Stella Artois before the zoo opens...

I felt slightly used when it became apparent that one of the author's motivations for buying the zoo was so that he could write a book about it.

Overall the writing is average, but it was a q...more
TheInnocentButler
My four-sentence or less take on the plot: Benjamin Mee and his family decide an extremely run down zoo (so run down that the animals are going to be quickly euthanized if a buyer isn't found). The zoo provides an extreme amount of both enjoyment and difficulty. During this time, Mee runs in to personal tragedy when his beloved wife gets diagnosed with brain cancer. This book deals with a lot of the nitty gritty business details of the buying and opening of a zoo.

Rating: 8

What worked:I really li...more
gargamelscat
An interesting story spoiled by a literal take, inadequate writing quality and a superficial treatment.

Ok for a memoir maybe there is no requirement for flights of lyrical prose but I expect better from a professional writer.

The superficiality bothered me - we get no real idea of the numbers involved and I'd like to have seen it treated as more of a business case study.

The park itself, the background history and personality of the animals are never detailed except as involved in a couple of anec...more
Jane
Once the family bought the zoo, I enjoyed this book a great deal. However, it was very slow starting. The opening chapter deals with life in France, as the author's wife is diagnosed with a brain tumor. I'm sure it was very important to the author to include this, but it would have served the book better if it had been covered later in the book as a look back. It dragged the book down and made me reluctant to continue.

I run a movie club and we are going to see the movie. I like to read the book...more
Sarah
I did enjoy this book. To be specific, I enjoyed the storyline--a family in England buys a small rundown zoo and works to get it licensed and started up again in the midst of a family tragedy. Now that being said, this book was in serious need of a good editor with lots of red ink. At times it did not flow logically and suffered from a severe overuse of parentheses. Rarely was there a simple sentence containing one uninterrupted thought. And it was downright aggravating that the author would com...more
Lisa Kay
description

★★★½✩ (This is a review of the audiobook.) This was narrated by Gildart Jackson, who does a decent job of reading this memoir. However, he pretty much sounds like he is talking from a lectern, if somewhat informally. In his defense, this is in large part due to the way the author wrote the story.

I can see why this book would make a good movie. Nevertheless, the book spends a lot of time on Mr. Mee’s troubles with wills, bank loans, finances, and his wife's illness and death, when - sorry to say...more
Gayle
I'm so excited! I am receiving 'We Bought a Zoo' by Benjamin Mee, as a gift through Goodreads Giveaways and Mandy. Today my husband and I just purchased the movie and I'm more than thrilled and cannot wait to receive, read and review the book. Thank you so much. I feel like a lottery winner!!

I liked this book! There were laugh out loud moments and well-deserved triumphs.

I read a previous review where it was stated that the reader felt that Mee was not very likable in the book. I thought ( and I...more
M.T. McGuire
Having picked this book up, on a whim, at a car boot sale, I read it in a morning. The style is easy to read and voice is particularly clear, I really got the impression that I was sitting having a chat with Benjamin Mee. The voice is very strong. He's a journalist and it's an easy read journalistic style which I enjoyed. Because it's written by him, it has an immediacy that some of the more obviously ghost written celebrity biographies lack.

The book is funny enough to have me laughing out loud...more
Keilani Ludlow
What a wonderful book! So many laugh out loud moments even in the midst of sadness and trial. I saw and enjoyed the movie, but the book really expands the story. However, without the movie I would never have known of the book so can't deride the movie for changing so much.

He is an excellent writer, witty and observant. As a fan of Gerard Durrell (another writer with a zoo), I also really enjoyed his discussions of the different animals, habits that they have, bits and pieces of scientific inform...more
Sim Carter
About the Book:
Knowing it was the basis for what looked like a romantic comedy starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, I really wanted to LOVE this book. It was not at all what I expected and I tried to enjoy it for its own merits. If you've seen the movie, believe me, this is nothing like the film. BUT if you are an animal lover and find topics like extracting a tooth from a bear or how to get a decrepit animal park in shape for the inspectors, then this book may be for you. It was occasion...more
Leigh-ann
My own love of animals may have made this book more interesting to me than to the average person. The idea of owning a zoo seems like heaven, so I was happy to follow along as the author and his family traveled the very difficult and expensive road to zoo ownership. The book is not just about the zoo, however... it's also about the author's wife, who develops (and dies from) brain cancer (that's not a spoiler, as her death is revealed on the book jacket). Her death was particularly sad because s...more
Carol
More than I really wanted to know about running a Zoo. Feeding, culling, moving, medicating... The real nitty gritty. (Aside) The author, at one time, hides a big chunk of meat high in a tree branch in the lion's enclosure and it takes the lioness three days to figure out how to get it. (keeping her entertained)

I'm a little ambivalent about Zoos, but they seem to have improved the habitat for the animals greatly since I was a child. I do remember two Zoos particularly from when our daughters wer...more
David
We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Changed Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee is a look at a family that decides to buy a zoo and raise their family on that property, but also ends up dealing with the tragedy of the brain tumor and death of Mrs. Katherine Mee.

The story is interesting, poignant and bittersweet. It focuses on the rundown zoo, an ecletic staff and a wide variety of animals, some of which were in detereoratin...more
♥Xeni♥
Alright, so normally I don't pick up a book and read it all the way trough in one (or one and a little) sitting unless it's captivating and usually fiction. Yet, this non fiction book on one man's experience in buying a zoo I read from 1 am to 6 am and then the last 15% after I woke up at noon. Finished the whole thing before 1 pm.

And I don't know why.

Certainly I've been reading some crazy shit lately: John Dies at the End (fucked up fiction which is screwing with my sense of insanity), The Er...more
Casey
I struggle to rate this book. The storyline should have made it amazing, but the writing to me just didn't seem all there. Like some other reviewers, I was expecting a little different from a journalist being the writer of the book. I felt like so much was going on, but instead of getting really invested I felt a little like I was being forced to sit down and watch him go thorough hundreds of slides of pictures from those years, each accompanied by a factual and detailed description of the exper...more
Jen Russell
I liked this book and the author reminded me a lot of Chris. It was exciting, interesting, and emotionally touching. Some sections had quite a bit of foul language when he is quoting other. I would have rather he "bleeped" them out. Can't wait to see the movie now. There was a BBC2 tv series produced while they were trying to buy the zoo- opening day. It would also be fun to see that now that I feel as if I know the characters.

In the memoir, the author's father dies. His mom is contemplating se...more
Nikitabanana
In “We Bought a Zoo”, Benjamin Mee tells the story of how his family came to buy the Dartmoor Zoological Park and the great lengths it took to revitalize the zoo and prepare it for opening day. After his father dies, his 76 year old mother needs to sell their old house and eventually the family decides to purchase a zoo with the money. Mee, who writes DIY magazine articles, along with his mother, wife and two children move in and immediately start working on renovating this zoo in hopes of it so...more
Kim
I got this as a Advanced Readers Copy and was very pleased with it. Benjamin Mee and Weinstein Books has a sure fire hit on their hands with this book!

Some parts of the book were emotionally tough to get through, however by the time you get to that part you already feel that you are part of the family. You also begin to feel as you are part of the team at the zoo.

Benjamin (not to be confused with his father Ben) goes looking for a better place to live with his family and ends up buying a delapit...more
Melissa
I had a really hard time rating this book. Mostly, because I love animals and was afraid I'd be a bit biased. Here is why I only gave it four stars. First, Benjamin Mee is a DIY author for a magazine and that is how he basically writes the book-like a DIY article. He occasionally gets off track and wanders a page or two on a subject that, to be honest, bored me to death. Not to mention, that I sometimes felt he mentioned certain people as if he was trying to include as many "thank you, this woul...more
Diane
This is a fun and interesting read, though it has a sad story at the heart of it. Benjamin Mee and his family decide to buy a rundown zoo in England, but in the middle of the adventure, his wife dies after a lengthy battle with a brain tumor. (In the overly precious movie version of this book, the wife's death is what causes Benjamin to buy the zoo, in addition to other Hollywood script doctoring.)

I like stories about fixer-uppers and when a group pulls together to accomplish a goal, which is wh...more
Arminzerella
Benjamin Mee’s mother was looking to downsize after her husband passed away, but when a unique opportunity to own and manage the Dartmoor Wildlife Park in England was brought to her attention, she and her adult children (and grandchildren) decided to bid on it. Several attempts to secure the zoo ended in failure, but the family was finally able to purchase it in 2006, refurbish it, and open (to great success!) in July of 2007. During that time, Ben lost his beloved wife Katherine to cancer, and...more
Zoe
This book will strike a chord with many, I suspect, who have the personal fantasy of working at a zoo. However this is part memoir as well, as the writer lost his wife to a brain tumor shortly after his family purchased trhe zoo.

While the story is engaging, many will find Mr. Mee rambles a bit, and while the reader might prefer more details about the zookeeping, he interjects a great deal about adminstrative and staff details and how difficult it was to get a loan. He misses a few opportunities...more
David
After seeing commercials for the new movie based on this book, I remembered that I had a copy that I had not yet read. It's a quick read, and quite engaging. I've always enjoyed "behind the scenes" books (see my review of "Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate became an American Icon"), and this book fits the bill as an interesting look at the inner workings of small zoo. The one thing that kept me firmly in my place as an outside observer was the bizarre notion of a family actually buying a zoo...more
Katrinka
The story of an admirable dream chased and realized, while also losing another. Some might consider it a selfish undertaking considering the circumstances of his wife's illness, or feel that it lacked the height of emotion that he surely felt, but Benjamin Mee, in the overwhelming work and details of saving the Dartmoor Zoo, saves himself from what could have proved overwhelming grief from the eventual loss of his adored wife that he could not save. It is in all the many little details he commun...more
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Benjamin Mee, a former bricklayer and decorator, returned to education in his early twenties in order to investigate animal intelligence. Ben studied psychology at UCL and wrote his dissertation on dolphin intelligence, after which his first article appeared in the Independent, while he was a student on the MSc in Science Journalism at Imperial College.

As the world preferred articles on health and...more
More about Benjamin Mee...
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“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” 214 likes
“And for once, Donald Rumsfeld, in the news at the time over the Iraq war made sense to me: "As we know," he said, famously, "there are known knowns-things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns-things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns- things we don't know we don't know.” 9 likes
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