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We Bought a Zoo

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  6,938 ratings  ·  996 reviews
In the tradition of "Marley & Me" comes an unforgettable memoir about the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy in this chronicle of the Mee family's purchase of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside.Weinstein Books ...more
Hardcover, 261 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Weinstein Books (first published 2008)
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Elyse There was a TV miniseries first, then the book, then the Matt Damon movie.

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Average rating 3.51  · 
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 ·  6,938 ratings  ·  996 reviews

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Miranda Reads
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook

The May Reading Vlog (aka tier listing 30+ books) is up! Now that you know where this one ranks, click the link to check out the rest!
The Written Review

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.
Benjamin Mee and his family...bought a zoo.

They literally up and bought a zoo.

And that zoo? Whew. It needed a LOT of work.

To put it mildly, i
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 to 4 Stars

Sometimes the whole book is right there in the title. This is a book about a family who bought a zoo, and it is just about what you would expect! They don’t have a zoo, they decide to buy one, and they do.

Well, there is a bit more to it than that, but generally it is pretty much that straightforward. So, if you want to read the story of an Average Joe deciding to buy a zoo and everything that could potentially be involved in the care of animals, maintenance of the grounds, business
Bionic Jean
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
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’
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
I was exited to read this book because I loved the movie.
Unfortunately however, this was one of those cases where the actual book fell short of the movie.

I loved the story but the writing style, perhaps too plain and direct, made me feel like I'm reading a newspaper article instead of a book. It didn't allow feelings to be properly shown. And it didn't allow me to really bond with any of the characters either. The humour also fell flat and felt like sarcasm most of the time.

I may be the odd on
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
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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.

Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010, bio
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 07, 2012 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
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
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 rated it it was ok
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
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
Benjamin Mee is a British journalist, writing to known papers like The Guardian. In 2006, together with his family, he bought a zoo and that is what the book "We bought a Zoo" is about. Mee talks in it about the initial period of running it, or rather its preparation for the official opening, because the facility required renovation and re-obtaining a license to run.

For me, the author wasted the potential for a really cool book. It is both about the choice of content and the style in which it wa
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa Kay

★★★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
Caly ☯ Crazy Book Lady
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
This was an excellent book and I enjoyed it much more than Gerald Durell's "My family and other animals". Would love to see the movie some time. ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Animal Lovers
Reviewed for THC Reviews
I’ve had We Bought a Zoo on my TBR list for some time now. Generally being a sticker for reading the book before watching the movie, I finally decided to pick it up for a book-to-movie reading challenge I’m working on. It ended up being a good read. It’s the story of a British man and his family who decided to buy an old, broken-down zoo and revitalize it. I can’t quite decide if Benjamin Mee is very brave, a little crazy (in a good way), or both. I think it probably requ
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Benjamin Mee and his family decide to buy a run down zoo in Dartmoor, England. In the midst learning about the zoo and preparing for opening day, Ben's wife Katherine suffers a recurrence of a brain tumor and passes away. It was fun reading about the different animals and experiences around the zoo, but it seemed to be disjointed at times. I still enjoyed the book though and reading about their future plans for the zoo and animal conservation. ...more
Keilani Ludlow
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 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
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
M.T. McGuire
Apr 13, 2013 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
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I almost never say this, but the movie was much better. More of a coherent story, better characterizations. I know that means that a lot of it is made up, but honestly the book is more about the technical and financial aspects of running a zoo, which is interesting in it's own way, but not that great of a "story." So for a heartwarming tale of family and zoo life, the movie wins. ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
Didn't actually like this book. Didn't like the movie, either. It is written with the flavor of a DIY book. If you ever decide to take over a dilapidated zoo in the UK, this is your 'How-To'. ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Mee's writing is witty, hilarious and kept me wanting to read more! ...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.

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