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The Bestiary

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  703 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
From "a writer of remarkable gifts," "Borges with emotional weight, comes a tale that is at once a fantastical historical mystery, a haunting love story, and a glimpse into the uncanny--the quest for a long-lost book detailing the animals left off Noah's Ark.
Xeno Atlas grows up in the Bronx, his Sicilian grandmother's strange stories of animal spirits his only escape from
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published July 26th 2007 by Dial Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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nicholas christopher has written one of my favorite books (trip to the stars) and one of my least favorite books (veronica) and this one is right in the middle. it starts out very strong; i thought it was going to be a sweeping family drama in the vein of middlesex or piano mans daughter, but then there was a turn and there were too many little quirks and weaknesses in the writing that bothered me. there were tons of cameo characters who entered, were overdescribed, and then wandered away from t ...more
Richard Derus
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
When I was a wee tyke, I had several stuffed toys. My favourite was a simple stuffed cut-out of Tweety-Bird. I carried him around until the stuffing fell out, and truly Tweety was never the same after he went into the wash. I recall longing wistfully for him for many years thereafter. I think in many respects that hankering went into SF and fantasy novels in my teens: that evocation of another world so terribly terribly tantalising to a boy out of place in the real world, and searching for his i ...more
Maria Headley
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I happened upon The Bestiary a few weeks ago, and was blown away. This book is underknown. Nicholas Christopher is underknown! This should not be the case. He's an amazing writer on a cellular level - each sentence is a work of art - and on a conceptual level. This book is a bibliophile's wet dream. A guy hunts a long lost Bestiary, the Caravan Bestiary, to be precise, which purportedly depicts all the animals who did not make it onto Noah's ark. For a relatively slender book, the story is wide ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was excellent. I wish it had been a thicker book with more about the mythological creatures. I think Nicholas Christopher could have devloped this story even more. Having said that, I really enjoyed it!
Kevin Fanning
May 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
10 stars, a hundred. I was so disappointed when I turned the page and saw that it was over. Darth Vadar style, all NooooOOoooOOOoo......

The back jacket says this is a book about a quest to find the Caravan Bestiary, a legendary, lost illuminated manuscript detailing all the mythical creatures who were not granted passage on Noah's Arc. (Griffins, manticores, dragons, hydras, etc.) And it's totally about that, and on one level it's a really fun summer blockbuster-style ride.

Except not really, be
Jeremiah Genest
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: secrethistory
Nicholas Christopher is on the list of authors that I don’t understand why he’s not more popular amongst fantasy fans. Probably because he is firmly in the literary camp and thus ignored by most genre people. It’s a pity because he writes good fantasy of history. A literary omnivore (which I always appreciate), he is versed in classical lore and pulp fiction, and his books are a thrilling amalgam of the two: erudite, lyrical and breathlessly paced. Unlike Christopher’s previous novels, The Besti ...more
Sherry Howland
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, loved this book! Even if I didn't thoroughly enjoy the story itself, I would give it 5 stars for Nicholas Christopher's evocative prose alone. In addition to his 5 excellent novels, Christopher has penned 8 books of poetry as well as editing 2 highly regarded anthologies of poetry. That talent shines on every page of The Bestiary.

Xeno Atlas is a lonely boy whose mother died giving him birth, leaving him in the "care" of an emotionally vacant father who spends most of his life at
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: animal lovers, bibliophiles, anyone who likes a thought-provoking story
I picked this up at random in the library because I liked the synopsis and the cover, and it turned out to be outstanding. A lonely young man becomes obsessed with mythical or spiritual animals, and begins a quest for a lost, legendary bestiary.

Christopher's writing is a little choppy, and it bothered me at first -- the sentences were like this. And sometimes I wondered why he wrote so many fragments. The book is for grown-ups. Not a Magic Tree House book. Grown-ups can read longer sentences. B
Jul 18, 2007 rated it liked it
nicholas christopher's books are not-so guilty pleasures of mine. not-so guilty because they're just so much fun to read -- effortlessly beautiful page-turning prose following an intellectual (usually arcane) quest. he's quietly building a unique body of work. if you're the kind of person who wanted less action and more book-browsing in far-flung libraries in Raiders of the Lost Ark (which isn't to say ROTLA isn't one of the most perfect movies ever), his books might appeal to you, especially th ...more
Melissa McCauley
May 31, 2015 rated it liked it
I kept reading all the way to the last word to find out what happened to Xeno and his quest for the Caravan Bestiary. Nicholas Christopher is a wonderful writer. I have been to some of the places in the book and his words made me feel like I was transported back there. I could smell the rain in the forest in Italy, feel the dust blowing against my ankles walking up the cobblestones…

That being said, this book made me furious. I threw it across the room after I finished and screamed some things my
Tim Lepczyk
I guess I wanted more from this book. The idea intrigued me. It follows the trail of a bestiary that has been lost, which detailed the animals that were not on board the ark when the flood came. There are some elements of fantasy here, but not really. Personally, I wanted this to go into the realm of fantasy, see what really happened to these mythological animals, but that never happens. Instead, it is one man's pursuit of an idea and how that sustains him through his life. The novel can be summ ...more
Nov 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Nicholas Christopher's tragic flaw is his ineptness with plot structure. He has these intriguing concepts, unique characters, and intricately rendered settings, but he blows it all when it comes to tying everything together into a well developed story. Some pieces of the novel don't tie in at all, and he skips over central plot developments in a couple of lines. I give it three stars because, barring this one mistake, his works are imaginative and profound. I'll probably pick up another one in t ...more
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
What an interesting book. I picked it up thinking it would be another book along the lines of The Shadow of the Wind, where people are in search of a lost codex and run into a shadowy underground ... you know, a "literary" thriller.

What this is, instead, is a more realistic depiction of what it must be like to actually do the research to find a lost tome. And although that might sound boring, it was actually a really good read.

In the end, it's the story of a man's search for meaning in his own
Megan Reichelt
Xeno Atlas was a neglected child, raised by his grandmother who told him about the animal spirits who haunt the world. So many animals die every day that the air is thick with them. Some people have animal spirits inside them, or were animals in another life.

Xeno has had glimpses of mysterious animals since he was a child, from the gargoyle from a city building that appeared at his window one night, to the fox present when his grandmother died. When he learns of an ancient book called the Carav
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at the end of this. What an interesting start and what a strange ending! As a child, Xeno Atlas is fed a pagan history of fantastical animals by his grandmother, and his father (a fleeting and distant image in his life) and his dead mother represent all of those mythical creatures from the Caravan Bestiary that he can see in his blurry periphery but can never come into full and intimate contact with. I think the first 150 pages or so were wonderfu ...more
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-fiction
Book #62 of 2009

I found this book while browing a bookstore in Traverse City for another of Christopher's A Trip To The Stars. They didn't have the other book, but they did have this one.

It was an enjoyable book, a kinda of literary quest book. Not a lot of action, but interesting with reality interspersed with the fantastical. The narrator, Xeno Atlas, undertakes a quest to find the "Caravan Bestiary", a book written in the middle ages detailing all of the creatures denied entrance to Noah's fl
Bookmarks Magazine

The Bestiary, Nicholas Christopher's fifth novel-after Franklin Flyer (2002) and A Trip to the Stars (2000)-has more than a little in common with Dan Brown's hugely popular The Da Vinci Code: the plots of both books are driven by a search for a lost object whose disappearance involves significant religious and historical intrigue. But The Bestiary is no mere Da Vinci knockoff. As the Washington Post opines, by blurring the edges of fantasy and reality, "Christopher is doing something strange her

Susan Ackland
Nov 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I was entranced by the beginning and disappointed by the end. I thought that the descriptions of Xeno's lonely boyhood resonated emotionally and his friendship with the Moretti family was soul satisfying to read about. I think the book began to crash when Xeno began the literal search for the Bestiary. At that point, the book seemed to lose it's emotional bearings and become a kind of intellectual's "DaVinci Code" hunt. Another reviewer mentioned the book's many over-described cameo characters w ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Zafon's Shadow of the Wind
Fans of books about books should give Nicholas Christopher's new novel, The Bestiary a try. The book here is an ancient illustrated book called The Caravan Bestiary that describes all the animals that were left off of Noah's ark at the time of the flood. From a young age Xeno Atlas seeks this book, and the journeys he takes in the searching are the meat of the book. Vividly described locales include Venice, Paris, Gibralter, Vietnam, and the Greek Isles. What I like about Christopher's books is ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Emma
Less "magical" and more "realism" than other books by Nicholas Christopher I have read. I did miss that dreamy, floaty state I experienced reading Veronica. But still, I found the story quite absorbing. It's a relatively quick, straightforward read. The life story of the hero, Xeno, is not complex or surprising, but it has enough going on to carry you along as you gather up the true rewards of the story. Those are the arcane tidbits of ancient history, mythology of the entire Mediterranean regio ...more
Summer Seeds
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
It started strong. The story was intriguing. However, midway through the novel, I began to loose interest. Though, I once more began to enjoy the story towards the very end. Ironically, the weakest parts of this story for me were those which involved the Caravan Bestiary. I found myself bored. Also, too many questions go unanswered. I feel like there was no real resolution for any aspect of the plot. The text just kind of ended, leaving so much open ended.
Abby J
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was deliciously engaging from the first page to the last; I highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in history, mythology,and mystery.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: different
I bought this from a library book sale years ago and just got around to reading it. It was really good. He brings to mind an earlier version of Dan Brown or Steve Berry.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
A bit drawn out
Marie Maltese
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Complex and a bit heavy at times, but all in all a good read. Christopher has a really eclectic knowledge base and it shows in this book. In particular, his knowledge of ancient history is pretty amazing. I enjoyed this, as i have his other books that I've read.
May 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Yet another bookclub choice, The Bestiary was my suggestion for this round, and I rather enjoyed it.

The Bestiary tells us the story of Xeno Atlas and his ongoing search for "The Caravan Bestiary". Xeno is a man who has grown from a childhood mixed with both loyal care (his grandmother, his nanny) and emotional neglect (his father). After his mother dies in childbirth, these are his caretakers.

His grandmother, in particular sows the seed of his interest in all things to do with animals, and this
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A handsome, allegorical, coming-of-age tale. A kid who's lost most of his family, has his imagination cranked to life by his guardian grandmother, spinning up a passion for mythical and wondrous creatures. He embarks on what eventually turns out to be a global quest, that enables him to regain love and heartache, identity and peace. The book's description gives you a clear idea of what he's looking for.
Along with being a novelist, Nicholas Christopher is a poet of high caliber and his prose in
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
As a young boy Xeno Atlas learned of an ancient book called the ‘Caravan Bestiary’ that contained stories of all the animals who had been denied safe passage on Noah’s ark: the manticore, the unicorn, the sphinx, to name of a few. An isolated youth whose mother died giving birth to him – and whose father resents him for it – Xeno is raised by his grandmother and her tales of animal spirits. When his grandmother dies and Xeno is shipped off to boarding school a teacher tells him of the Caravan Be ...more
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Nicholas Christopher was born and raised in New York City. He was educated at Harvard College, where he studied with Robert Lowell and Anthony Hecht. Afterward, he traveled and lived in Europe. He became a regular contributor to the New Yorker in his early twenties, and began publishing his work in other leading magazines, both in the United States and abroad, including Esquire, the New Republic, ...more
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