Review: We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo, Benjamin MeeLife takes you strange places. Benjamin Mee always loved animals, but he never thought it would lead to buying a zoo. He also never imagined embarking on such an adventure without his beloved wife, Katherine.

But that is where he finds himself: elbows deep in paperwork and big cats, working with his family to revitalize a failed zoo in the south of England.

We Bought a Zoo is Mee’s chronicle of his family’s two-year journey toward zoo ownership. What started as a lark soon became a vocation, a calling to save the animals and the people at Dartmoor Zoo.

Talk about a bold move

You know what probably doesn’t make life easier? Sinking all your money (plus your siblings’ and mother’s) into buying a zoo.

It started out as a pipe dream, a wild hare that no one imagined would take over their lives. But the more Mee learned about the zoo — its animals and its people — the more he saw his ownership as stewardship.

While it’s always better for animals to live in their natural habitats, sometimes zoos are the only thing standing between an animal and extinction. A zoo closure means stressful travel or even death for animals. Mee was determined that that wouldn’t happen.

We Bought a Zoo is a timely reminder to care about the world around me, to follow my passions, and to do what makes me happy, even if other people think I’m crazy.

Book vs. movie

We Bought a Zoo was adapted into a film starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in 2011. The filmmakers decided to set the script in Southern California, probably so it would appeal to an American audience and so they could cast top American talent.

It also introduced the love interest angle. It made for a nice movie, but wasn’t more interesting than Mee’s original story. That said, there are some great moments that made the film a truly wonderful experience.

I can’t say whether the book or movie is better — they’re too different for direct comparisons. Suffice to say they’re both wonderful, and you should check them out.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. May’s challenge was to read a book that has a movie based off it.)

Review: Smile at Strangers

Smile at Strangers, Susan SchornSusan Schorn began taking karate in order to conquer her temper and anxiety; along the way, she discovered that her studies were bleeding into her personal and professional life. Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly is an exploration of how discovering a way to empower one part of your life can make your entire existence more wonderful and meaningful.

What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

Fear and worry rule my life, and it sucks. They keep me from doing stupid things (like driving too fast), but they also keep me from doing things that are important (confronting people, applying for that dream job, etc.).

There are many people like me out there, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the majority of those people are women. We don’t want to cause trouble, ruffle feathers, or be called a “bitch.” We’re sometimes afraid to make noise, say “no,” or take up too much metaphorical space.

Smile at Strangers takes lessons from some of history’s best martial arts instructors and puts them in a contemporary context, explaining how readers can use them — on the mat and off — to improve their lives in whatever ways they choose.

And it might have inspired me to do a few new things, too.

(I read this book as part of Non-fiction November. Click the link to see posts from this and previous years!)