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Binge-then-Read: Tiger King

Binge then Read Tiger King

When the pandemic started many of us hunkered down at home, and binge watched Tiger King. Season two is out now on Netflix, and we know exactly what we will be doing after work! Did Carol Baskin kill her husband? Will Joe Exotic be exonerated? What happened to all of the tigers from Joe Exotic's zoo?

If you were fascinated by the story of Tiger King, our Book Chat librarians have great recommendations from wild true crime stories, to novels about the exotic pet trade, reality television, and more!

The Feather Thief

The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

Tiger King portrays the obsession of owning exotic and dangerous animals. In The Feather Thief,  Kirk Johnson explores the underground world of fanatical fly-tiers and the black market for exotic and rare bird feathers in a true-crime story so absurd it's hard to believe it's true.

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. 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. 

Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir

Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir by Joe Exotic

Want to learn more about Joe Exotic in his own words? In his new memoir, Joe Exotic, star of the Netflix original documentary that "consumed the pop-cultural imagination" (The Atlantic) and transfixed a nation in the midst of a global crisis, opens up about his outlandish journey from Midwestern farmer to the infamous Tiger King, and finally, to federal inmate.

Shortly after his arrest (for charges including hiring a hitman to murder his rival, Carole Baskin), Joe Exotic began keeping a daily journal of his life behind prison walls. In support of his defense, Joe began writing everything he wished he could tell a jury of his peers. Little did Joe know that mere months later, the self-proclaimed "gun-toting, gay redneck with a mullet" would become one of the most famous men in the world.

Written entirely while incarcerated, this no-holds-barred memoir is Joe Exotic's first, and maybe only, chance to tell his side of the story—the full story. Despite never having seen Tiger King, Joe is aware of what's been said about him, and he's eager to answer all the questions the world is dying to know. 

No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger by Dane  Hucklebridge

No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger by Dane Hucklebridge

The big cats that are the heart of Tiger King are beautiful and incredibly dangerous. In No Beast So Fierce, Dane Hucklebridge tells the astonishingly, true story of a tiger who killed more than 400 people in the early years of the twentieth century. One part pulse-pounding thriller, one part soulful natural history of the endangered Royal Bengal tiger, No Beast So Fierce is a 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.

The Falcon Thief by Joshua Hammer

The Falcon Thief by Joshua Hammer

The trade of exotic animals doesn't stop with big cats. The Falcon Thief is a rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs—and the wildlife detective determined to stop him. 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.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Did Tiger King whet your appetite for true crime narratives? In Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, experience a true story that is so engaging it reads like fiction. 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 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.

Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown

Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown

In this engaging novel, retired racehorse jockey and Vietnam veteran Anse Caulfield rescues exotic big cats, elephants, and other creatures from people like Joe Exotic. When one of his prized lions escapes from Little Eden, his wildlife sanctuary on the Georgia coast, he dives into the underworld of the exotic animal trade obsessed with replacing her. From the rhino wars of Africa to the battle for the Baghdad Zoo, from the edges of the Okefenokee Swamp to a remote private island off the Georgia coast, Anse and his team battle an underworld of smugglers, gamblers, breeders, trophy hunters, and others who exploit exotic game.

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

One reason so many people loved Tiger King was the wild, and quirky cast of characters. In Carl Hiaasen's novel Bad Monkey, Andrew Yancy—late of the Miami Police and soon-to-be-late of the Monroe County sheriff's office—has a human arm in his freezer, and he is determined to prove the man died by murder, and not a shark attack.

Yancy must negotiate an obstacle course of wildly unpredictable events with a crew of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including his just-ex lover, a hot-blooded fugitive from Kansas; the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; two avariciously optimistic real-estate speculators; the Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen, whose suitors are blinded unto death by her peculiar charms; Yancy's new true love, a kinky coroner; and the eponymous bad monkey, who with hilarious aplomb earns his place among Carl Hiaasen's greatest characters.

Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic by Ben Westhoff

Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic by Ben Westhoff

Tiger King dealt with a lot of hard topics including the opioid epidemic. Fentanyl Inc. is a remarkable four-year investigation into the dangerous world of synthetic drugs—from black market drug factories in China to users and dealers on the streets of the U.S. to harm reduction activists in Europe—which reveals for the first time the next wave of the opioid epidemic

No Speed Limit: The Highs and Lows of Meth by Frank Owen

No Speed Limit: The Highs and Lows of Meth by Frank Owen

Meth was also present in the culture at Joe Exotic's Zoo and among the people featured in the show. In this fascinating book, Frank Owen traces the spread of methamphetamine—meth—from its origins as a cold and asthma remedy to the stimulant wiring every corner of American culture.

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Poverty looks different in rural America. Tiger King shared a glimpse of what poverty can look like in middle America. In Where All Light Tends to Go, David Joy shares a savage and beautiful story of a young man seeking redemption.

The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when a fatal mistake changes everything, he's faced with a choice: stay and appease his father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he's ever known

True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us by Danielle Lindeman

True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us by Danielle Lindeman

Tiger King is a reality TV, pop culture phenomenon. In True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, the sociologist and TV-lover Danielle J. Lindemann takes a long, hard look in the "funhouse mirror" of this genre. From the first episodes of The Real World to countless rose ceremonies to the White House, reality TV has not just remade our entertainment and cultural landscape (which it undeniably has). Lindemann layers sharp insights with social theory, humor, pop culture references, and anecdotes from her own life to show us who we really are.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Joe Exotic is famous for testing the boundaries and the relationship between big cats and humans. Fierce Kingdom is a masterful thrill ride about a visit to the zoo that takes a dark turn. 

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Where is the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another? For whom should a mother risk her life?

David Copperfield's History of Magic by David Copperfield

David Copperfield's History of Magic by David Copperfield

Before Joe Exotic made a name for himself as the Tiger King, he started out as a magician. Get into the head of a magician and master of illusion by checking out David Copperfield's History of Magic. An illustrated, illuminating insight into the world of illusion from the world's greatest and most successful magician, capturing its audacious and inventive practitioners, and showcasing the art form's most famous artifacts housed at David Copperfield's secret museum.

142 Ostriches by April Davila

142 Ostriches by April Davila

Whether it's tigers or ostriches the world of unusual animals is more cutthroat than you might think. In the novel, 142 Ostriches, Tallulah Jones' her grandmother plucks her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brings her to the family ostrich ranch on the Mojave desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything-just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.

Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property, and deeply rooted dysfunction, threaten Tallulah's ambitions and eventually her life. 

What Cats Want: An Illustrated Guide for Truly Understanding Your Cat by Yukichi Hattori

What Cats Want: An Illustrated Guide for Truly Understanding Your Cat by Yukichi Hattori

Now you hopefully don't have a tiger at home, but many people have a cat or two roaming the halls of their house. From the top feline doctor in Japan comes a fun, practical, adorably illustrated "cat-to-human" translation guide to decoding your cat's feelings.

What makes cats climb into tiny spaces? Why do they sleep that much? And, most of all, how can we give them a good life? This book is a great tool for new and experienced cat owners who want to get to know their furry friends.

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker

They might night act like it, but your friendly house cat is a distant relative of big cats like the tigers from Joe Exotic's zoo. The Lion in the Living Room is a lively adventure through history, natural science, and pop culture in search of how cats conquered the world, the Internet, and our hearts.

To better understand these furry strangers in our midst, Abby Tucker travels to meet the breeders, activists, and scientists who've dedicated their lives to cats. She visits the labs where people sort through feline bones unearthed from the first human settlements, treks through the Floridian wilderness in search of house cats on the loose, and hangs out with Lil Bub, one of the world's biggest feline celebrities.

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

In another story about obsession with the unattainable and exotic, journalist and writer, Susan Orlean follows one man, John Laroche on his mission to clone an endangered flower—the rare ghost orchid.

Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America's strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida's swamps and beyond, along with the Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him.

Published on November 15, 2021
Last Modified December 05, 2021