Expert Picks
Expert Picks

12 Books to Read if You Just Finished Binging Tiger King

March 30, 2020
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What. Just. Happened?! Between the fashion, the murder, the tattoos, and, oh yes, the tigers-- I have no idea. Last week, Netflix gave us the quarantine content we all so depserately deserved and dropped Tiger King, a show which I couldn't even begin to know how to describe.If you're stuck inside like so many of us, trying to figure out the best way to get by in this crazy situation, you might have binged the whole thing. In a day. With copious amounts of popcorn and M&M's. Seven episodes and oh so many hours later, you finally reached the end and what do you do with your life now? It seems impossible to go back to life before Tiger King. Don't worry. We've got you.

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

What it's about: In this classic novel, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.Who should read it: You know who scares us more than the Mother Teresa of Tigers? Nurse Ratched. If you're looking for a fictional account to keep you terrified and on your toes after Tiger King, this is for you.

2. Zookeeper's Wife

What it's about: After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these "guests," and human names for the animals, it's no wonder that the zoo's code name became "The House Under a Crazy Star." Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story--sharing Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism.

Who should read it: If Tiger King made you curious about how people have used creatively and courageously for the good of humanity, this is the perfect historical nonficiton for you.

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3. Tiny But Mighty

What it's about: Hannah Shaw, better known as Kitten Lady, has dedicated her life to saving the tiniest felines, but one doesn't have to be a professional kitten rescuer to change--and save--lives. In Tiny but Mighty, Hannah not only outlines the dangers newborn kittens face and how she combats them, but how you can help every step of the way, from fighting feline overpopulation on the streets to fostering unweaned kittens, from combating illness to combating compassion fatigue, from finding a vet to finding the purrfect forever home. Filled with information on animal welfare, instructional guides, and personal rescue stories of kittens like Chloe, Tidbit, Hank, and Badger--not to mention hundreds of adorable kitten photos--Tiny but Mighty is the must-have kitten book for cat lovers, current-and-future rescuers, foster parents, activists, and advocates.Who should read it: Tigers are just ginormous kittens, right? If Carole Baskin inspired you to get into cat rescue, this is best place to start.

4. Feather Thief

What it's about: On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

Who should read it: Anyone looking for more bizarre and twisty true crimes about obsession, here you go.

5. All Creatures Great and Small

What it's about: Delve into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world's most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients.For over forty years, generations of readers have thrilled to Herriot's marvelous tales, deep love of life, and extraordinary storytelling abilities. For decades, Herriot roamed the remote, beautiful Yorkshire Dales, treating every patient that came his way from smallest to largest, and observing animals and humans alike with his keen, loving eye.In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult, such as one to an old man in the village whose very ill dog is his only friend and companion, some are lighthearted and fun, such as Herriot's periodic visits to the overfed and pampered Pekinese Tricki Woo who throws parties and has his own stationery, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening, such as Herriot's recollections of poor farmers who will scrape their meager earnings together to be able to get proper care for their working animals. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth.Who should read it: If Tiger King left you curious about how to get involved with other large animals, this book is perfect for you!

6. The Devil in the White City

What it's about: This New York Times bestseller intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his "World's Fair Hotel" just west of the fairgrounds--a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.Why you should read it: This nonfiction is a wild ride of world fairs and serial killers. If you were drawn to Tiger King because of crime, this true story is the perfect next place to go.

7. Life of Pi

What it's about: Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional -- but is it more true?Who should read it: Did you want more stories about boys and their tigers? Life of Pi is for anyone who needs a more heartwarming narrative.

8. No Beast So Fierce

What it's about: Nepal, c. 1900: A lone tigress began stalking humans, moving like a phantom through the lush foothills of the Himalayas. As the death toll reached an astonishing 436 lives, a young local hunter was dispatched to stop the man-eater before it struck again. This is the extraordinary true story of the "Champawat Man-Eater," the deadliest animal in recorded history.One part pulse-pounding thriller, one part soulful natural history of the endangered Royal Bengal tiger, No Beast So Fierce is Dane Huckelbridge's gripping nonfiction account of the Champawat tiger, which terrified northern India and Nepal from 1900 to 1907, and Jim Corbett, the legendary hunter who pursued it. Huckelbridge's masterful telling also reveals that the tiger, Corbett, and the forces that brought them together are far more complex and fascinating than a simple man-versus-beast tale.Who should read it: If you were a little bit into the true crime, but mostly into the tigers, this story of a tigress who kills almost 500 people is perfect for you.

9. Falcon Thief

What it's about: On May 3, 2010, an Irish national named Jeffrey Lendrum was apprehended at Britain's Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside were fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs snatched from a remote cliffside in Wales.

So begins a tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions--and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom's National Wildlife Crime Unit, who's hell bent on protecting the world's birds of prey.The Falcon Thief whisks readers from the volcanoes of Patagonia to Zimbabwe's Matobo National Park, and from the frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle to luxurious aviaries in the deserts of Dubai, all in pursuit of a man who is reckless, arrogant, and gripped by a destructive compulsion to make the most beautiful creatures in nature his own. It's a story that's part true-crime narrative, part epic adventure--and wholly unputdownable until the very last page.

Why you should read it: This is perfect for anyone who is curious about rare and precious animals, and the smuggling that goes on behind them.

10. Midnight Garden of Good and Evil

What it's about: Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.Who should read it: If you're interested in a true crime and the mystery of murder or self-defense, this is for you. A Southern tale of murder and humor, this book will keep you on your toes while cracking up the whole way through.

11. No Country for Old Men

What it's about: In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones. One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law-in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell-can contain.As Moss tries to evade his pursuers-in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives-McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning's headlines. No Country for Old Men is a triumph.Who should read it: Anyone who loved the small town and crime from Tiger King, but doesn't mind a work of fiction, should immediately dive into this world.

12. A Million Little Pieces

What it's about: A story of drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation as it has never been told before. Recounted in visceral, kinetic prose, and crafted with a forthrightness that rejects piety, cynicism, and self-pity, it brings us face-to-face with a provocative new understanding of the nature of addiction and the meaning of recovery.By the time he entered a drug and alcohol treatment facility, James Frey had taken his addictions to near-deadly extremes. He had so thoroughly ravaged his body that the facilityís doctors were shocked he was still alive. The ensuing torments of detoxification and withdrawal, and the never-ending urge to use chemicals, are captured with a vitality and directness that recalls the seminal eye-opening power of William Burroughsís Junky.Who should read it: You might not remember, but Frey was picked for an Oprah Pick as writing this heartbreaking memoir that famously came out as being a work of fiction. If you're intersted in drugs, recovery, and untrustworthy narrators, I highly recommend.

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