I grabbed this book a few years ago, because it seems like it might be interesting, as Brazaitis is sort of like a crocodilian Gerald Durrell. Since my latest order at the library hasn’t come in yet, I needed something to read, and I picked this off the shelf on a whim.
There’s not a lot to say about this book. It’s interesting, because careers in zoology are intriguing, and the author has a number of wild and really neat stories to tell, but it’s not…exciting or groundbreaking. It also feels kind of poorly edited, skipping around seemingly at random in a way which I found frustrating at times. A lot of times, there would be an abrupt topic switch which didn’t have any apparent context or logic.
The book is also an example of one of those “look at all the stuff I built from nothing, you can too” sort of memoirs. While it is awesome to see what the author did with his life, I don’t think his life is even possible in the modern world. You can’t make something out of nothing in this world anymore, and while I hope that young naturalists read the book and get excited about careers as zoo keepers and what have you, I hope they realize that you can’t just walk into a zoo and get a job anymore.
Which is probably a good thing, as Brazaitis points out. In the old days, zoo keepers were not the ethical, highly skilled professionals that they are today. The focus has switched to conservation and education, not amusement, and that requires a different sort of zoo keeper.
That said, I would recommend the book. It’s fun, and it is interesting, and you don’t get to say that about a book very much these days. A good old fashioned workplace memoir, complete with silly (and scary) stories taken from years in the business of working with animals.
You Belong in a Zoo!, by Peter Brazaitis. Published 2003, 345 pages. Autobiography.