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Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Books


     As the year draws to a close I reflected on some of the books that have impressed me this year and would like to share a few of them with you. These are not necessarily recent books, but works that are new to me. They are not presented in any particular order; the idea is not to rank them, rather it is to share with you some first rate nature titles which gave me great pleasure, and also made me think.

The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson, Henry Holt and Company (2018)



     I was first alerted to this volume when my good friend, Marg Paré, told me of a book that she had purchased in a European airport where she was changing planes. I borrowed her copy and immediately bought my own. Nicolson, like so many good nature writers today, has a command of language that would rival a fine essayist, and the book not only covers important aspects of the life of seabirds, it does it in a style guaranteed to captivate. 
     It is a story of the global tragedy of seabirds and the urgent need to change our ways to ensure the future survival of these magnificent creatures. Sombre stuff indeed, but a story that needs to be told.

This isn't just about 'seabirds.' It's about the living poetry of winged beings who share our planet as though inhabiting another world.  Carl Safina

This marvelous book inhabits with graceful ease both the mythic and the scientific, and remains alert to the vulnerability of these birds as well as to their wonder. It is a work that takes wing in the mind.  Robert MacFarlane

Birds of Prey of the East, Birds of Prey of the West by Brian K. Wheeler, Princeton University Press (2018)
     


     These companion volumes are as fine a work on raptors as one might wish for, with text and illustrations by Brian K. Wheeler, a name associated with birds of prey for well over thirty years. His familiarity with these birds is reflected in his superb illustrations and detailed, comprehensive text. It is a compendium of knowledge refined over a lifetime of study and thousands of hours spent in the field observing the birds first hand. It is called a field guide, but is in fact much more than that. For a single work on the raptors of North America I can think of nothing better.

Brian Wheeler's new field guides are must-haves for every bird of prey aficionado, hawk watcher, raptor biologist, or field naturalist. The wonderfully detailed plates and text synthesize the latest knowledge on plumages for each species, including information on aging, and mark a new frontier in raptor identification books.  Laurie J. Goodrich

The spectacular colour illustrations and detailed text should make Birds of Prey of the East and Birds of Prey of the West welcome additions to the library of any serious aficionado of diurnal birds of prey - or to anyone who has ever looked skyward and marveled at the grandeur of a soaring raptor.  Wayne R. Petersen

The Most Perfect Thing - Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg by Tim Birkhead, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (2016)


     Birkhead brings his formidable scientific knowledge and impeccable writing style to this enchanting work. I have recommended this volume to non birding friends and they have universally enjoyed it, a testament to the way that Birkhead can cover a topic to make it interesting to dedicated naturalist, biologist and lay reader alike.
     It covers every aspect of the avian egg - shape, colour, design, fertilization, development, efficacy, the sorts of care needed, incubation and hatching. After reading this book you will never look at a bird's egg the same way again. Even writing this brief review, I find myself already wanting to read the book for a third time!

Full of wonder and surprise, and beautifully written.  Nick Davies

A thrilling voyage through what most of us think of as an ordinary item sold at the supermarket.....What makes this book such a pleasure is not just the author's breadth of knowledge.....but his unbridled enthusiasm and the clarity of his explanations.....One doesn't have to be a bird enthusiast to relish this book, but it would be the most perfect gift for anyone who is.  Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Red Canary by Tim Birkhead, Bloomsbury USA, Paperback Edition (2014)


     Another fine work by Tim Birkhead in which he dons his deerstalker hat to play detective in a work that delves into the field of genetics and eugenics and illustrates the inter-relationship between nature and nurture, a field hotly debated in recent years. His pursuit of the truth leads him to probe the use of eugenics as a basis for racial purity and the dark uses to which this was put in Nazi Germany. The hero of the piece, Hans Duncker, had a darker side, perhaps unknown to any extent before Birkhead's scholarship revealed the details.               And all this in the quest to breed a red canary!
     Birkhead also comments on the relationship between ornithologists and bird fanciers, and explores how the long held hostility between the two groups is both unnecessary and limiting to scientific research.

Popular science at its very best - a perfect blend of exactness and superb entertainment.   Mark Cocker

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf, Vintage Books (2016)


     Alexander von Humboldt was arguably one of the most famous scientists of his day and without doubt the most adventuresome explorer, going where few people had been before, fearlessly and without regard for personal comfort and security. Many of Humboldt's discoveries changed the way we understand the natural world and his legacy lives on in the many towns, parks, the ocean current, birds, etc. that bear his name. 
     I had the finest pelagic birding adventure of my life in the Humboldt Current off the coast of Chile and marveled at the antics of a Humboldt Penguin. The name Humboldt piqued my curiosity, for I knew little of the man behind the name, and this detailed and superbly written account of this great naturalist and larger-than-life figure fills in every detail. I am left breathless at the energy and drive of the legendary explorer.
     Andrea Wulf deserves great praise for this stunning work.

Gripping...Wulf has delved deep into her hero's life and travelled widely to feel nature as he felt it...No one who reads this brilliant book is likely to forget Humboldt.  New Scientist

A big, magnificent, adventurous book - so vividly written and daringly researched - a geographical pilgrimage and an intellectual epic... a major achievement.  Richard Holmes

The Running Sky by Tim Dee, Vintage Classics (2016)
     

     I was unfamiliar with Tim Dee until a recent visit to Australia when my friend and fellow bibliophile, Stewart Monckton, presented me with a copy.
     Yet again, Dee demonstrates that serious scientific issues can be presented in a non-threatening way, free from intimidating jargon, and written in soaring poetic fashion. Simply to appreciate the use of language is reason enough to read this book. And the degree of scholarship is astounding.
     The book is a month by month account of the lives of birds and begins in June at a seabird colony in the Shetlands. It continues its exploration of birds both familiar and exotic, in locations close to home and in far flung corners of the globe. Throughout the work Dee's passion is evident and the extent to which influences from his sometimes troubled childhood have shaped his life's work is explored in the book. 

Dee's extraordinary, beautifully written account of a life spent watching birds is a fine addition to the flourishing genre of British nature writing.  Sunday Times

The Running Sky has the makings of a classic. It's beautifully written, extraordinarily vigilant, and very moving. Most remarkable of all, it mamanges to give a sense of the bird world as being something which embraces and contains our own - which mean that, as we read it, we learn a lot about ourselves as well as the fellow creatures flying through, over and around our own lives.  Andrew Morton


63 comments:

  1. En superb genomgång David av några välskrivna fågelböcker. Du är en god rescensent av det skrivna ordet och din kunskap om fåglar garanterar bloggens läsare en läsupplevelse som är mödan värd.

    Jag vet inte hur det är med fågelböcker men i trädgårdsböckernas värld finns så mycket skräplitteratur som inte är värda ens pappret de är skrivna på men ibland dyker det upp någon riktig pärla och då bör det uppmärksammas.

    God fortsättning på helgen.

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  2. Hari OM
    A lovely selection David - one are two are going on my 'wishlist'! Hope you are having a wonderful day. YAM xx

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  3. Hola David, muy interesantes estos libros y la presentación preciosa. Feliz semana. Un abrazo.

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  4. Una preciosa colección de libros nos muestras amigo David y seguramente todos ellos sumamente interesantes pues de tú pequeña y como siempre buena narrativa se desprende que son obras muy buenas.
    Pero yo espero la tuya, te animo a que algún día y no muy lejano escribas sobre algunas aves dada tu experiencia y facilidad narrativa así como esplendidas fotografías podrías presentar una esplendida obra que a buen seguro tendría una muy buena acogida no te lo pienses mucho y adelante.
    Un fuerte abrazo apreciado amigo.

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  5. Interesting books, David. I hope you are having a nice Christmas.

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  6. Very good selections! Merry Christmas!

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  7. Wonderful. A love of books and learning were the very best presents my parents ever gave me.

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  8. I will look out for The Seabird's Cry. People often underestimate the contribution birds make to the ecosystem. In Mauritius the plan is to encourage certain seabirds to return to Round Island, where the ecosystem is being restored.

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    1. It is always encouraging to hear of habitat restoration. We need more of it.

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  9. A birder and a bibliophile all wrapped into one! Hope you have a good year of both birding and reading!

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  10. Hello David, looks like a great selection of favorites. I see a few I would like. Happy Birding! Enjoy your day and have a good week ahead.

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  11. A wonderful selection of books. I have only read the Tim Birkhead book "The Most Perfect Thing" so you have given me some reading ideas :)

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    1. You would be the very person I would expect to pay attention to this list!

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  12. I do love good bird books, I do not have enough!! Happy 2019 Diane

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  13. These sounds like some good titles. I haven't read any but the most perfect thing was on my Amazon wish list. Now I have some others to add. Hope it was a Merry Christmas!

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  14. Hi David - so interesting to see another Tim Birkhead book - I loved the Egg (The Most Perfect Thing) one, but left it behind ... and now I've another to read ... also the Humboldt book looks to be fascinating ... I will definitely read these - as they look enticing ... and as two of the others relate to seabirds here in the UK I'll learn more - thanks for letting us read these resumes ... cheers and enjoy the run up to the New Year - I'll be back blogging soon - Hilary

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    1. I will look forward to the pleasure again, Hilary.

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  15. Hello David,
    This is a wonderful collection of books.
    I wish you a very happy 2019.
    Best regards, Irma

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  16. What a nice blog post about the books that have impressed you, David. I also love the bird statues in your pics, they are so great. I collect Wild Life statues (made by Schleich), that's the reason I love yours. The bird in photo 6... is the bird a wood nuthatch or a short-toed treecreeper? I doubt.

    On the day I will read an English book about birds I think I will choose the book with the eggs on the cover. Handsome coloured picture. A book full of wonder. Nice review!

    Thank you for your sweet response to my blog. I do my best with English but Dutch; so your compliment encourages me.

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    1. Hi Aritha: The Bird in the sixth picture is a Brown Creeper, the only member of the Treecreeper family found in North America.

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  17. Every book tells its story, fabulous David.

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  18. There are only few things that make us happier than good books, especially if about interesting topics. :)
    Many thanks to you, Miriam and others for all the fantastic bird photos of 2018. Happy and healthy 2019 to you all!

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  19. Good choices David. I must agree with you about the Birds of Prey volumes - quite superb. And of course I am familiar with the work of Tim Birkhead. Alas I have not met him but would love to do so.

    At the moment I am reading Curlew Moon, a very good read by Mary Colwell.

    I hope you both had a good couple of days rest and relaxation. Unless like us you were busy both entertaining and visiting?

    Now I'm looking forward to taking that tree down and the longer days. Great Tit and Dunnock singing today. How do they do that?

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    1. I too would love to meet Birkhead. I think I have everything he has published and if I had to choose he would be my favourite author.

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  20. Excelente idea mostrarnos los libros que más te han gustado, se aprende mucho de las explicaciones y experiencias que cuentan los que los escriben, como el de "The most perfect thing" que agrada leer aún no sabiendo del tema ¡un libro siempre es bueno!
    Me ha gustado mucho las figuras de los pájaros.
    Un abrazo.

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  21. Love the bird carvings, especially the wren. We have been entertained by brown thrashers today in the yard.

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  22. I think I would especially like the ones by Tim Burkhead. They sound very accessible to the non-birder and the story of the eggs would fascinate me especially. I wonder if he writes with the same passion and elegance of Gerald Durrell, whose work I love. I'm not a scientist or a hard-core naturalist in terms of knowing about things, yet with the right author one falls into it and wants to learn more. Thanks for the recommendations.

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    1. The egg book would be the perfect introduction to Tim Birkhead. I just finished re- reading it.

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  23. Hello, these are all great books for the birder. The Birds of Prey are on my list to buy. Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post today. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day and weekend! PS, I also appreciate all the comments you have left me this past year, thanks again! I wish you all the best in 2019 Happy New year to you and your family!

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  24. I love to read and these all look intriguing! I'll add them to my books to read list for the coming year! Thanks! And your little bird in the banner is precious! Look at those little loose feathers! So cute!

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    1. It was the first day out of the nest and there was still quite a bit of down mixed in with the new feathers. We actually had five of them in the back yard (where they were born) and as far as we know they all survived.

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  25. Hello my friend David,
    it is very nice to share book reviews :-)
    This way we can get acquainted with the book and also assess whether it is for us. Now everyone's tastes are different, of course, but the books you show here and the titles that I read about nature and birds also appeal to me. Thank you for nice tips.
    Dear greeting, xx

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  26. Such a lovely selection here, David.

    Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year.

    All the best Jan

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  27. Interesting. I don't know if I'll get around to any of these. I'm reading at least three books right now. I really need to spend less time on social media and finish the books.

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  28. que placer leerte y conocerte Me voy he aprendido bastante
    que la vida te siga regalando arte

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  29. Buena lectura tienes.
    I wish you a Happy 2019 David. That we can continue sharing and doing what we like
    Feliz Año Nuevo 🙋
    Un abrazo🙅〰〰💕

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  30. Beautiful bird carvings. Happy reading and Happy New Year!

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  31. i am not a reader, but i adore and use my bird books all of the time!! you have a great collection!!

    the bird carvings are really beautiful!!!

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  32. Thanks for sharing David, i'm always on the look out for books to add to my reading list!

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  33. I see that you not only love birds and observe them and help, but you increase your knowledge with professional literature. Bravo!

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  34. Nice selection. My books tend to be about music and musicians. Have a wonderful 2019!

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    1. To each his own, of course. The important thing is that you love books! All the best to you too for 2019.

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  35. I love book reviews, especially now when less blogging means more time for reading. I've added the Wulf and Birkhead books to my wanna read list - more than I can read in a lifetime, but who's complaining? Have you read Tim Low's Where Song Began? Happy new year to you, dear cyber friend David.

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    1. I have not read the Tim Low book but I will make it a point to look for it now. And Happy New Year to you too, Sue. All the very best for 2019.

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  36. Great book reviews...tempting twhen you tell me about science presented using soaring language and in a way even I might understand. The Andea Wolff bio of her hero naturalist sounds excellent, but I do wonder what “daring research” is though.

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    1. You would have no difficulty with any of these books, Sallie; furthermore I have no doubt that you would enjoy them.

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  37. So many interesting books! I put the book about Alexander von Humboldt on my wishlist. I don't know much about his life but I feel I should.

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  38. Hi David,
    To you and your family I wish a Happy New Year !!!
    Many greetings and a big hug
    Maria de
    Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

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  39. Thank you very much for your wishes !!
    Happy New Year to you too !!
    Greetings

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  40. A fine selection - only two of which I have! I agree with the recommendation of Where Song Began - its a good book, about a rather splendid part of the world.

    Hope you had a good New Years Eve / Day!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Well, I know that one is “The Running Sky” and if I had to guess at the other it would be “The Most Perfect Thing.” Am I right?

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  41. I had never thought about birds eggs but I can imagine they would be a wonderful subject for a book. So would birds nests, they can be so delicate and intricate, such wonderful works of art by the birds.
    Have a wonderful 2019 with lots of birding and reading.

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    1. If there is one book that I would recommend to people not especially interested in birds, this is the one. It is a fascinating study and very readable. Too bad you didn’t have it on your recent flight!

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  42. It is great to read good books...
    A happy New Year to you and your family, David.
    All the best✨

    Ida

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  43. lol, would not mind having all of them :)

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  44. Loved the Red Canary! Thanks for the list.

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  45. It is very interesting!
    You have a great selection of books on birds.
    I love your last post of 2018.
    Happy New Year to you all.David.

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  46. beautiful bird books...this looks like a fine selection. i am not a reader but i LOVE my bird books!!!

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