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We Bought a Zoo

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  5,546 Ratings  ·  860 Reviews
When Benjamin Mee uprooted his family to move them to an unlikely new homea dilapidated zoo with over two hundred exotic animalshis friends and colleagues thought he was crazy. Mees 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 of it easy for these novice zookeepers. ...more
Published August 1st 2011 by Findaway World (first published 2008)
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Olivia The book, published in 2008. The movie came out in 2011.
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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’
This is the story of one man's dream, and how he achieved it. But it is no fairy story, although there is a happy ending of sorts.

Benjamin Mee is a journalist, with a talent for making what must have been a traumatic and nerve-racking experience sound both entertaining and poignant. This is his true account of how he bought a failing ramshackle zoo, with the aim of rescuing and re-opening it to the public. There are about two hundred animals now in his care, in the revamped Dartmoor Zoological P
Mar 04, 2012 Terri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 07, 2012 Yzobelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2008 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
Jan 01, 2009 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 30, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 19, 2010 gargamelscat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, memoir
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
Jan 16, 2012 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
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
Jan 12, 2009 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
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

★★★✩ (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 -
Keilani Ludlow
May 25, 2012 Keilani Ludlow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2012 Gayle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
M.T. McGuire
Apr 13, 2013 M.T. McGuire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 11, 2009 Leigh-ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 01, 2017 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
very interesting book about animals and managing a zoo. weird to live in the zoo. Also a story of his life and his wife's death from brain cancer. Sad and well written.
Expanding Bookshelf
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
Feb 20, 2017 Analisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Mee's writing is witty, hilarious and kept me wanting to read more!
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
Jan 08, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 05, 2008 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2015 MaryJo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written account of Mee and his family's experience of buying a run down zoo in England, and bringing it up to speed with modern zoo keeping practices. The narrative is partly a family story, as the zoo is bought as a family endeavor by Mee, his sibs, and his widowed mother with money from his deceased father's estate. During the period of the story, Mee's beloved wife Catherine also dies of a brain tumor, leaving him and his two young children to cope. Mee had a previous career as ...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
Aug 04, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
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
Apr 30, 2013 Casey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 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.” 417 likes
“All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage and great things will happen.” 17 likes
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