My Family and Other Animals was written by the naturalist Gerald Durrell. He writes his experience on the island of Corfu with his family between 1935 and 1939. He writes about the island; its people and its customs. He writes about his family; their friends, their houses, their conversations and their altercations. There are some seriously funny moments.
He writes about the natural history he observed. Although he was only eight when he arrived on Corfu, he demonstrated an amazing love for wildlife as well as the tenacity and patience to wait, observe and record what he saw. There are some seriously incredible moments. He relates, for instance, in great and terrifying detail, a chance fight between a mantid (think praying mantis) and a gecko, both of which he had already individually observed and named. You'll have to read it to find out who wins!
He writes very well, combining charm and humour with clever use of language*. On occasion the descriptions of places or creatures can be a little tedious but are happily skipped. On the whole I think he does an excellent job of taking what usually remains in the hands of the white-coated and putting it the hands of the ordinary man. If all natural history was this much fun the world would be a better place.
This book was recommended to me by friend without the background in science that I have. So make no mistake. This book is for you!
* I particularly loved his use of the simile. Here are some of my favourites:
"we were served by the bewhiskered porter, who had become the head waiter simply by donning tails and a celluloid dicky that creaked like a convention of crickets."
"I had hoped to give an impression of gracious majesty, and this is what happens... we arrive in town like a troupe of medieval tumblers." (this one from his brother, Larry).
"the three dogs hung out their tongues and panted like ancient, miniature railway engines."