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Peter Allison – Whatever You Do, Don’t Run

May 23, 2012

51. Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison (2007)

Length: 246 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Started: 03 May 2012
Finished: 04 May 2012

Where did it come from? Downloaded from Amazon.
Why do I have it? Amazon recommended it to me; I don’t remember what was the source.
How long has it been on my eTBR pile? Since 19 April 2012.

A safari guide’s
life is equal parts humor
and almost dying.

Summary: When he was 19, Peter Allison left his native Australia and moved to Africa to become a wildlife safari guide in South Africa and Botswana. Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is a collection of some of Allison’s stories from his experiences working in a safari camp, stories that involve charging buffalo, a plague of mice, misbehaving royalty, waterlogged Land Rovers, hungry honey badgers, lion pride drama, German tourists, and baby elephants.

“Whatever you do, don’t run.” This was the solemn counsel of the three guides who worked at the camp. “Food runs,” added Alpheus, the tracker, his rough face split by an enormous grin. “And there is nothing here that you can outrun anyway.”

Review: This book is not a memoir per se; it’s more of a collection of stories, the sort that get told when you’re sitting around after work with drinks and somebody breaks out with “Hey, remember the time that ______?” I can say this with some authority, since the day after I started reading this book, my coworkers and I were having drinks, and we started telling exactly these same kinds of stories. Ours had a less-dramatic cast of animal characters, admittedly, but the gist was the same. Honestly, I think any biologist, park ranger, nature guide, or zookeeper – anyone that works out of doors, with animals, and/or with tourists – probably has enough equally funny and/or death-defying stories to fill a similar book.

This cuts both ways. On the one hand, Allison’s stories are undeniably entertaining, he’s got a good sense of comic timing, and his love for his job and the wildlife comes across loud and clear from every page. On the other hand, the fact that it was a loose collection of stories rather than a more ordered memoir meant that it was not really organized in any cogent manner, so that the stories skipped back and forth in time, people were constantly referred to without any introduction or context, and some bits of Allison’s life (a crappy childhood in particular) were brought up from time to time without ever being explained. This gave the collection a somewhat unfinished feeling that was reinforced by the occasional roughness of the prose; Allison is clearly a safari guide first and a wordsmith second. But, as long as you’re willing to treat this book the way you would a friend that’s shooting the shit over drinks, and not as anything more formal, the stories are an entertaining diversion for a few hours. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s not a must-read, but for fans of nature documentaries and African wildlife, it’s a quick and humorous look into what it’s like for the humans that live with such things every day.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: At Home With Books,
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: When I was nineteen, after two years in a job that was going nowhere, I bought a ticket and set off for Africa.

© 2012 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 2:52 pm

    I do love a good memoir but the organization of this one might drive me batty.

    • May 25, 2012 1:09 pm

      Kathy – Maybe if you go into it knowing it’s a collection of anecdotes and not a memoir proper, that would help?

  2. May 24, 2012 12:33 am

    “Food runs.” that small sentence sounds so amazing I want to make it my motto in life. I might just buy this book just for those few excerpted lines you shared. :)

    • May 25, 2012 1:10 pm

      Amritorupa – Hey, that’s kind of deep! I didn’t even think about those lines in the broader, philosophical sense.


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