Book Review: My Wild Kingdom

My Wild Kingdom is the autobiography of former Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom host (and Lincoln Park Zoo director) Marlin Perkins. The narrative is linear, starting with his Missouri boyhood and moving on to far-flung expeditions scuba diving with sharks and snowmobiling alongside reindeer migrations.

The early parts are compelling, as Perkins remembers a pre-Depression childhood, conjuring an era and setting that still carry a whiff of the frontier. He works his way across the country, starting his career with animals by dropping out of college to take a job at the St. Louis Zoo.

As a narrator, Perkins is confident and straightforward, offering recollection without much reflection. His lifelong love of animals–particularly snakes–is tempered with a blunt collector’s approach that can seem exploitative today. While the book bogs down a bit at the close with details of filming Wild Kingdom, he remains intriguing and approachable throughout, particularly for fans of animals.