Gerald Durell could quite possibly be the science nerd’s perfect author. Born to an eccentric English family in Jamshedpur, India in 1925, Durell began a life devoted to the exploration and conservation of nature which he chronicled in over 3o books and publications. Over his 70 years of life, Durrell lived and traveled to the world’s most exotic places, collecting animals for British zoological gardens and stories for his books along the way. As a recipient of numerous awards, accolades, degrees and medals, Durrell shines as an academic but retains the personable and affable nature lacking in so many of our higher intellectual institutions. Durrell hosted seven television series and made appearances on a number of BBC programs.
I have such glowing praise for Durell’s writing that as I sit here typing, I resemble and incandescent light bulb. (OK, energy efficient LED diode). His descriptions of the flora and fauna of Corfu in his trilogy of novels detailing his childhood exploits in Greece are simply magical, invoking the tastes, smells and sights of a place so close to his heart. There are few authors that can make science writing so engaging, charming, and evocative of such emotion. His craftsmanship of story lines, witty dialogue, and achingly beautiful accounts of scenery are as good as those of any great fiction writer. His animal observations are thorough without being dry, and reading his accounts allows the reader feel as though they are an adventurer alongside Durrell.
For a good introduction to his work (whether you are a naturalist geek or just plain lover of humor and entertaining stories) I would suggest starting with My Family and Other Animals, a hilarious account of his formative years on the Greek island of Corfu with his mother, sister and brothers. Each character introduced becomes a cherished friend and is as fascinating a study as any of the plants or animals in the book. You may soon find yourself making your way down the list of Durell’s works, and I am proud to say that I am making significant progress through the collection. Put Gerald Durrell on your “Must Read” list!