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From a well-known outdoors and nature writer comes a narrative that explores a lifelong obsession with competitive birding. What drives a man to travel to sixty countries and spend a fortune to count birds? And what if that man is your father? Richard Koeppel's obsession began at the age of eleven, in Queens, New York, when he first spotted a Brown Thrasher and promptlyFrom a well-known outdoors and nature writer comes a narrative that explores a lifelong obsession with competitive birding. What drives a man to travel to sixty countries and spend a fortune to count birds? And what if that man is your father? Richard Koeppel's obsession began at the age of eleven, in Queens, New York, when he first spotted a Brown Thrasher and promptly jotted the sighting in a notebook. Several decades, one failed marriage, and two sons later, he added an astonishing 517 birds to that list on a single trip to Kenya. Soon after, he ended the last romantic relationship he would ever have, scaled down his medical practice, and decided to see every bird on earth, becoming a "Big Lister," a member of a subculture of competitive bird-watchers worldwide, all pursuing the same goal. Over twenty-five years, he collected more than 7,000 species (of a known 9,600), becoming one of about ten people ever to do so. "To See Every Bird on Earth" explores the thrill of this chase, the all-absorbing crusade at the expense of all else, and travel, to places both dangerous and dull, for the sake of making a check mark in a notebook. It's also the story of obsession-answering the questions why list? and why birds?-and how it defines us. A riveting glimpse into a fascinating subculture, To See Every Bird on Earth traces the love, loss, and reconnection between a father and a son, and explains why birds are so critical to the human search for our place in the world....

Title : To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781594630019
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 278 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession Reviews

  • Sarah
    2019-04-07 17:42

    Microhistories are a subgenre of non-fiction books which take a particular subject or single event and through intensive historical research try to contextualize the chosen subject within the broader picture. As a history nerd, I find that a well written microhistory uncovers a previously unthought-of subject or event and breathes life into the history cannon as a whole. Several years ago I read and enjoyed a microhistory called Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel. The Banana book led me here. This book is part microhistory, part memoir and is shelved (appropriately) in the bird section next to bird identification books. Koeppel is primarily an outdoor journalist and has written a very intimate book about his father and his life as a Big Lister. This book takes you both into the world of the Koeppel family (the memoir part) but also into the world of birds, bird identification and the few people in the world who have seen and listed more than 6,000 bird species (the microhistory part). Koeppel tries to answer the questions about obsession, science, nature, competition, and family dynamics - and does a good job of guiding those not obsessed with birds through this new world. The details about their family dovetail nicely with the birding world to make for a very interesting read. I would suggest this title for anyone who enjoys nature writing and doesn't mind something a little personal.

  • David
    2019-04-20 16:23

    The author did an admirable job of telling a story that could have been a boring diatribe about “Daddy & Me,” or worse, a clumsy attempt to make birding an action adventure. Instead, he wove a heartfelt (although occasionally spilling into maudlin) story consisting of three parts: a biography of his father, the desperate relationship with his father (or lack of one), and the “sport” of big listing (birds). The biography was one of a man who didn’t fulfill his early ornithological career ambition because of his relationship with his own parents. It was intriguing in that many people (myself included) have a story about how their dreams or potential wasn’t fulfilled because of some circumstance and we went on with what was left to become who we are. So I saw a reflection of myself in this character. The second story of the relationship between the author and his father was a bit too gooey for my tastes. He couldn’t get past not having his father’s approval, until the end of the book when the conflict was resolved, which made for tidy storytelling anyway. The third story of big-listing was not only interesting because it discussed birds, but served as a description and analysis of what compels such compelling (and compulsive) behavior. It became introspective in that I came to see my own “listing” impulses of one sort or another (like this—listing the books I read and writing a short review of them). This was a hard book to write, but the author pulled it off by weaving together the three stories that alone probably would not have had sufficient gravity to hold interest.

  • Erin
    2019-04-06 20:45

    An inspiration for fledgling (hah) birders and compulsive list-makers like me. A son chronicles his father's discovery of birding as a child and subsequent rise into the ranks of famous listers--people who travel the globe trying to check birds off their life lists. I feel so...insignificant.

  • Siobhan
    2019-04-18 19:42

    A friend gave this book to my mother for her birthday, which is in March, and I asked if I could read it first, since I’m a fast reader. She kindly said yes and I finished about half of the book during that visit to her house, then put it away and forgot about it. I stumbled across it again recently and tried to start where I had left off, but because I couldn’t remember where that was, I started at the beginning. All this to say, I’ve read the book one and a half times.This is a sweet little book, a quick read that is ostensibly about birding but actually is about what seems to be one of the most complicated relationships on earth – that between a father and a son. (As a woman, I have to say that my relationship with my mother is complex and loving, while that with my father was just plain loving. So I get the complexity of parental relationships with their children of their own gender.) Dan Koeppel’s relationship with his father, though, is not the standard one of competition or trying to prove oneself, of seeking validation or approval. Rather, it is a constant seeking for his father’s love and attention. Richard Koeppel, the father in question, is a “Big Lister” (his father sighted more than 7,000 birds of different species between his early teens and his 70s), and seemed to set greater store on finding those elusive birds than he did on developing and maintaining relationships with his family. The great thing about this book is that it is a tale of forgiveness and redemption. Through writing the book, Koeppel comes to understand his father in a way that he couldn’t have without interviewing his father’s friends and colleagues – the other birders that he met during those intense trips to exotic places on the hunt for birds (not that these “hunts” resulted in any deaths – to the birds at least. Several Big Listers have been killed in pursuit of their quarries, including one man who was attacked by a tiger).Koeppel’s parents were divorced early in his childhood and Richard seemed to replace personal relationships with his passion for birds. To the author, the birds seemed more important to his father than Dan and his brother Jim were. Ironically, Richard experienced a similar feeling in his own childhood. Richard Koeppel believed that his parents were more dedicated to the cause of establishing the state of Israel than they were concerned about him. One quibble that I have with the book is that on two occasions, the author states that his father’s responses to certain situations were more complicated than his mother’s. It seemed like he was saying that his father is a more complicated person than his mother. Not knowing any of these people personally, I can’t say whether that’s true, but it came off as a put down of his mother. I have no interest in birds and the thought of traipsing through jungles with binoculars and bug spray doesn’t hold the least bit of interest for me. In fact, now that I've read the book, I'm even less interested. This book held my attention despite that. I came away with less of an understanding of the motivation behind birding than I started with. Birding isn’t a waste of time; the fact that there are people out there who devote their time, energy and money to birding has furthered the overall knowledge and understanding of the natural world. Still, I have always viewed it as the most boring pursuit one could engage in. Reading the book confirmed that opinion, but added numerous other reasons -- damaging personal relationships, traveling to exotic locations and ignoring everything but the birds -- to avoid this hobby. Koeppel sees birds as among the best evidence we have of evolution. I am not a creationist; I definitely believe in evolution. But when I think of how a bird is adapted for a specific area or dependent on the available offerings for nourishment, I am overcome with awe at the God who created this incredible world. I guess that makes my take on this a little different than Koeppel’s. Overall, this is an absorbing, interesting read, and may be of more interest to non-birders than it is to those who are in the fold, so to speak.

  • Jane Wetzel
    2019-04-19 16:21

    A fascinating true story. It is partly a story of Dan Koeppel's family, from his grandparents on down to himself and his brother. This was done so very well with impersonal honesty, even though his subjects were so personal to him. His childhood was tough, by his parent's making, and his father's life was overly influenced by his parents. But Dan wrote with integrity, compassion and love, and relayed the stories of their lives with understanding and without blame. It was a most refreshing and comfortable read, which cannot always be said about true stories of dysfunctional families. Then there was that part of the book devoted to Dan's father's obsession with "Bird Listing", his journeys to see the birds to add to his list, others belonging to the world of birding and listing and the birds themselves. The facts were extremely interesting and written clearly and in an uncomplicated style. It was a study of birds and a study of people. We all have our seemingly unique personalities. They may be unrelated to those of any other family member yet, out there in the world, there is likely to be another person with those same passions or gifts--the drive to make lists of the birds, the passion and patience to go in search of new species, the desire to read volumes and study about birds with all of one's time or all of one's being. With birds, it is often the same. We think for a while that a group of birds are the same species. They have the same markings and eat the same food. Then we watch them and learn of some important difference in the habits or songs. It is then decided by the ornithologists that the different group should be split out to be known as a different, possibly new species. Great book. I loved Dan Koeppel's style of writing. John McDonough is always an excellent narrator.

  • Jeff Shelnutt
    2019-03-27 17:45

    I was fascinated by the theme of this book: a relational investigation into the motives for obsessive bird-counting. I've personally never been into bird-watching as a hobby, though I certainly appreciate seeing birds in their natural environment. But this book doesn't deal with weekend hobbyists. It's all about the big-leaguers who spend enormous amounts of money and time to "see every bird." I like it when I stumble across non-fiction that covers topics wholly unfamiliar to me. The author primarily focuses on his father who is one of the world's top "counters," having passed the 7,000 mark. But more than an explanation of birding to the ignorant layman like myself, Koeppel attempts to untangle the complicated dynamics of his relationship with his father. I guess he feels that if he understands his father's birding obsession, he'll understand the man.However, I didn't sense that the author ever came to any concrete conclusion as to why some people tend to focus in one particular interest to the almost utter exclusion of all else. He ventures a guess that it has to do with our innate desire to make sense of the world around us, and nature seems a logical place to start. I give it four stars for keeping my attention on a subject that I was surprised to find interesting.

  • Scott Taylor
    2019-03-26 21:35

    Less of a book about the joys of biology and birding, more of a biography about the author's dad. And frankly he wasn't all that interesting. Child of the 1930s, grew up in the idyllic 1940s and 1950s, ended up with a job he hated in a fairly loveless marriage, experimented with everything in the 1960s and ended up divorced and jaded, became a seeker in the 1970s, then fled into obsessive birding as an escape for the rest of his life. The whole time basically neglecting his own family.My feelings about the book were confirmed when I found the epilogue, a brief travelog about a birding expedition, to be way more interesting than the main body of the book. The most interesting parts of the book for me were easily the tales about other birders, not his father, and the parts explaining the rules for "listers" as the author refers to bird-chasers who make big lists of birds they have seen.Also, the book was kind of sad. No offense intended to the author, but if you found the only quality times with your dad consisted of popping open a champagne bottle for five minutes after he sees a landmark bird, thats a bit sad. Top each their own, I guess, we all have our little distractions that take us away from those we love. I just think maybe this guy needed an intervention. And I say that, as a biologist who loves birding!Thanks for reading.

  • Cheryl Klein
    2019-04-02 23:35

    Like most uninitiated people, I always thought "birdwatching" was a pastime for those who like nature and sitting quietly. While that's not necessarily untrue, Koeppel's book--one part memoir, one part subcultural deep dive--reveals that birders are an obsessive, hyper-competitive bunch, and their pursuit is as much about "the list" as the birds. That's the irony--we associate birds with freedom and spontaneity, but studying them is a planner's sport. Yet Koeppel's father, the child of Jewish immigrants who had a clear trajectory for his future, and a man who mourned his broken marriage for much of his life, *does* find freedom in birding. It's the one arena in which he has no obligations and total control (except for the ways in which he has none). I imagine most writers can relate to that. Koeppel tries to get close to his often-distant father through birding, only to be pushed away repeatedly, allowed in occasionally and heartbreakingly. As a reader, I felt this push and pull, sometimes to the point of my own frustration; part of the elder Koeppel always remains missing. (I'm thinking here of George's lines from "Finishing the Hat": "You have to watch the rest of the world / From a window / While you finish the hat"--proof that muses make better subjects than artists.) I have an obsessive nature myself; I've learned that I'm usually happiest when I don't indulge it too much or too long. I never became an Olympic gymnast, I stopped seeing Rent after 15 or so viewings, and I even try to approach writing with a generalist's knowledge for lack of other options. Yet a part of me always admires people who *just fucking go for it.* Cataloging birds would never be my cup of tea, but when I read about how they wake up at 3 am to roll down dirt roads in the Amazon, I can't help but nod approvingly. They are hardcore.

  • Andrea Mott
    2019-04-07 23:39

    Let me start out by saying that the writing style was just fine. Fluid and easy to read. However, if you're looking to read a book on birds and birding adventures, this may not be the book you're looking for. I was looking for something along the lines of Kenn Kaufmann's Kingbird Highway or Mark Obmascik's A Big Year, but in a non-big year focused story. I was hoping for a book of adventures around the world searching for birds. Instead it was more focused on Koeppel's father and how his birding obsession drove a wedge between him and his family. There was some good birding history and some brief scientific narratives about various species, but really I just trudged through the book feeling uncomfortable. I felt like resentment was a big undertone throughout the book.With that said, I don't think that it was a poorly written book. I just wasn't a fan of it because it seems advertised as an adventurous birding book, when really, a lot of it was a seemingly invasive account of his dad and the author's childhood.

  • Quinn Lavender
    2019-03-30 16:25

    I thought this would be a book about the highs and lows, the excitement and adventure of birding, through the eyes of one of the world's topmost birders. Instead it was more or less a biography of the author's dad, sprinkled with stories about birding. In reality, birding is by far the most interesting thing (to a reader anyway) about the author's to the extent that the book strays from the birding narrative, it becomes rather dull.

  • Renee
    2019-03-23 22:32

    This was a disappointing read for me. I was expecting a book about birds, about adventures surrounding birdwatching and how it had become a life long family obsession. This book was just partly that, most of it was about a failed marriage, drugs and relentionship. the bird subject is fascinating and would have loved to read more of the passion both father and son had about those animals .

  • Catherine Symchych
    2019-04-07 22:26

    Part memoir, part biography, this book is interesting and well-researched, but didn’t grab me the way Life List and The Big Year did. It won’t stay on my bookshelf to maybe reread in the future.

  • Carol Dix
    2019-04-18 19:43

    So well written, and a unique glimpse into the world and psyche of "Big Listers" or the birders who have seen over 7000 species of birds. Thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Thebestdogmom
    2019-04-12 15:41

    Just ok. I wanted it to be better.

  • Malin Friess
    2019-03-27 21:28

    Richard Koeppel is a divorced, smoker, antisocial, ER physician who has become an intensely dedicated competive Bird Watcher or Birder or as they might like to be called a "big lister". Dan (Richard's son) writes a retrosprective biography of his Dad's life always thinking whenever Dad was looking through his binoculars (all the time) he was never looking at me?There are over 9600 bird species found on earth (only about 900 can be found in the continental US). But this book is even bigger than a big year..Big Listers roam outside the United States to Kenya, Columbia, Peru, Australia in an attempt to see every bird possible. 250 people have seen 5000 different birds. 100 birders have reached 6000. 12 birders have made it to 7000 (including Dan Koeppel) and only 2 birders (one living one dead) have seen 8000 different birds.My extended family has embarked on a big year competition this year. Our family has seen well under 150 I can appreciate the difficulty of what Koeppel has done in seeing and identifing birds. I (for whatever reason) am fascinated by people like Koeppel who arrange there entire life about being the best at one thing: Birding.What I learned from To See Every Bird on Earth:-many birders are doctors for whatever reason..they also possess ecentricity and drive -birders are fascinated with counting things..books, butterflies, states visited, cheeses-the number of known birds in climbing--30 years ago it was it is near 10,000..some ornithologist feel it bould be double or even triple that number-lumping (reclassiflying two different species as 1) and splitting (separating 5 seagulls into 5 different species) is happening all the time and changing the figures for the big listers..and there is not always a common agreed upon "master list"-birding identification is and always has been a matter of honesty..but cheaters are ultimately caught as they can not defend their finds- Can a bird be identified by sound alone? This is controversial. Some say yes..this is how birds talk to each other. Some say no..We are bird watchers, not bird listeners. 5 stars.I am inspired. I have new binoculars for Christmas. I am going to become a big lister!

  • Joanna
    2019-04-08 18:25

    Another father-son (auto)biography, this one focused on the obssessive culture of Big Listers who spend their energy and resources chasing bird sightings. It makes me sad that some of the listers don't even seem to LIKE birds, their purpose is to check as many species off on their list as they possibly can. By the end, this seems to be the case with Richard, the father of this piece. He was initially drawn to bird watching as a young boy, and the segments that describe those early experiences were lovely. As he grew older, he grew to resent choices in his life that kept him from the birds as he earned a college degree, got a job, made his own family. His relationship with his family suffered greatly as he continually abandoned them for the chase, even as he dragged them along. It was sad to read of the different accounts of his honeymoon- he thought it was a great trip with a mix of bird sightings and romance, she thought it was a terrible trip with her stuck in the car while he looked for birds. It was clear that their relationship lacked communication and to some extent the birding was scapegoated for the troubles that they experienced. It was also described as a refuge for Richard, a way to escape the realities of the people in his life. I especially enjoyed the other parts of the book - i loved the short bird sighting descriptions that fronted each chapter, and I liked the descriptions of other birders and Richard's interactions with them. I liked the cost-per-bird analysis of the various birding trips, especially the rueful acknowledgement of the diminishing returns as a birder re-visited sites in an attempt to see species that eluded them on previous visits. All in all, this was an interesting window into a culture that has puzzled and intrigued me for years. I was also mildly reminded of The Big List, the recent movie that my Movie Night crew enjoyed.

  • HeavyReader
    2019-04-20 18:21

    This book is not just about "birding" (as those serious about the activity prefer to "bird watching"), but about a family.The birder in question is Richard Koeppel, the father of author Dan Koeppel. It seems to me that Dan wrote this book not only to tell the world about big listers (birders who see thousands of birds in their lifetimes), but also in order to understand his father and his family.Koeppel's writing is sometimes challenging to read. He favors long, complicated sentences, and is fond of the dash as punctuation. Sometimes I really had to work at reading this book.However, I did enjoy reading the story of this family. Koeppel is unflinchingly honest in putting his family's dynamics and dysfunctions out there for the world to see. He shows how his father's unhappiness at not being allowed to pursue his desire to study ornithology (by his parents who insisted he become a doctor), led to an unhappy marriage, which lead to an unhappy family life. On a basic level, this book seems like a cautionary tale to parents: let your kids choose their own careers.I also enjoyed learning more about birders and big listers. I came into this book knowing very little about birding and absolutely nothing about big listers, but now I know a bit in general and one man's story in particular.This book ends with a three page bibliography.

  • Sonny
    2019-04-11 20:33

    Well I didn't really care about the people. And I didn't really think the writing was much to, uh, write home about. And the birds themselves were kind of a sidebar to this self-indulgent bio-book about the ignored kid/author, the distant father and self-indulgent mother. So I guess I wasn't that crazy about this.However, I've run the gamut of these bird-chaser stories and they seem to have something in common. The obsessed birders who run after these birds to add them to a list might as well be looking for different types of pasta noodles or collecting brands of motor oil for all they really cared about the birds. This is OK. Let them enjoy their obsession. But I don't find it particularly titillating. You know what else? Most of these characters are not particularly likable. They are so totally consumed with their obsession that there is not much dimension to them. None of this is meant to be judgmental. But this behavior and those who engage in it just don't appeal. I guess I'm done reading bird chaser books. I'm on to Sacred Hunger.

  • Sue
    2019-04-19 23:40

    The title tagline actually describes the book - Dan Koeppel talks about his first his father's life and how it intertwines more and more with the world of top-level bird watching (Listing), then he talks about his own life and how his father's birding affected him and his family as a whole. I appreciated that he wrote in the things that weren't great - about his family and his own choices, instead of making everyone seem 'okay'. Using the word obsession should indicate something that has sweeping effects, and if the effects hadn't been discussed, the birding would have seemed less urgent, not so much an obsession. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of nature still in NYC in the early parts of the book. (I'm not focusing on the fact that a lot of it is gone.) I want to google image many of the birds mentioned in the book, and thought perhaps the only way the book could have beena little better (to me) was if it included some color illustrations of the birds that make important appearances. (perhaps a set of color plates in the middle of the book).

  • Chuck
    2019-04-07 20:31

    I have been a dedicated lister for nearly a half of a century and this book gives a good explanation of the personalities, compulsions, experiences, obsessions and focus of successful listers. It also gives a glimpse into the personality weaknesses, failures and quirks of some of those burdened with this affliction. It highlights the benefits of travel, nature study, experiencing other cultures and simply expanding one's intellectual database. This story meant more to me because it was written by the son of the principal subject, who is a successful writer and was written with love, understanding and respect. Because of that it often did not focus on the effort to see every bird on earth, it focused upon how his father became the man that he was, which is loving, but often tedious. The book gives an excellent background on many of the founders and key players in the birding fraternity, most of which are now gone, and also an excellent timeline for the development of this avocation.

  • Peggy
    2019-04-20 19:27

    " To see Every Bird on Earth" opens with the author celebrating with his father, when his father sees his 7000th bird. Known as somewhat of a bird fanatic in my own family I was instantly drawn to this book. I immediately counted the birds that I have positively identified and realized what an amatuer I am, when the number is 130. This book, however was not just a book about bird watching. It was the story of a son who longed to have a relationship with his father; a story of a family and the conflicts that any of us who wished our parents paid more attention to us can relate to. I also loved hearing about Peterson who's field guide is well known to all birders, and was fasinated by the stories of people determined to see as many birds as they can. I have no desire to spend every waking moment counting birds, it did reawake in me the desire to get my binoculars out and see more birds.

  • Cindi
    2019-04-18 16:27

    This was a very interesting view into the life of a big lister. I enjoyed listening to the entire book. We learned some things we didn't know about making lists of birds and funny thing is, we found out that we do a lot of normal things birders do without ever having been initiated to the ideas.My favorite part about this book was the memoir portion of it. Up to this point, any books we have read that include family relationships have been the kind that you might want to model your family after. This was definitely not that type. This family was dysfunctional for generations. But, it was presented in a careful way. I appreciated the analysis Dan Koeppel made of his grandparents and his parents. The introspection gave me an opportunity to see how I was doing in many areas. I'm very impressed and would recommend this to anyone who loves birds or anyone who has an obsession.

  • Garrett Burnett
    2019-04-17 21:25

    Don't mix birding with complicated family dynamics. That's the take-away from this dreary, disjointed book. Koeppel basically sketches a biography of his father, one of the world's foremost "birders." While the two didn't share a very good relationship, Koeppel tries to be understanding and write sympathetically, to outline and explain his fractured interactions with his dad. He also writes about birding. All the stuff about Koeppel's father is maudlin drudgery. A lot of the birding stuff is enjoyable and interesting.It's not that Koeppel is a bad writer—he's not—but the topic was just too hard for him to write about without engaging in dismal reflection. He works hard to explain his father's avian mania. It's tough for us, however, to care about Richard Koeppel's psychology nearly as much as Dan does...because he's not our dad!

  • Laurasmoot
    2019-04-13 15:33

    The author writes about his father's birdwatch quest-- one of the handful of people in the world that has checked more than 7,000 birds off on his life list. It's not the way I birdwatch, but it's kind of weird and fascinating, and the competitive lister birdwatchers help push the science of ornithology in interesting ways. To get the interesting stuff out of this book though, like John Audobon being kind of a loser for most of his life, or how and why his father became such a driven birdlister, you have to wade through semi-crummy slow-moving writing that kind of makes you feel like a jerk for judging the way this guy writes about how he sees his dad's life. I didn't finish it but I keep telling people stories from it.

  • molly
    2019-04-18 18:23

    Interesting introduction for me, a wannabe birder, into the world of big listers. I'll never reach the level of obsession Richard does but I could still relate to him in a number of ways. I found him much more interesting and likable than his son and the author of this book. I don't blame Richard for keeping a distance from his son, I would too if my son  were as emotionally needy as Dan comes across here. I wouldn't complain if all parts dealing with their family life and Dan's persistent  unhappiness about it were chucked. Though my reading this wasn't a complete waste, I did learn some things about birds. I especially liked the brief mention of George Archibald and Tex, a further exploration into their relationship I found very much worthwhile. 

  • TheRealMelbelle
    2019-04-09 16:37

    I read Koeppel's book, Bananas, before I read this one. Koeppel learned his father's detailed systems of record keeping when he was trying to understand his father's obsession and detailed listing of birds throughout his lifetime as he quested to record as many bird species as he possibly could. That training must have been very helpful in researching the Banana book.Koeppel is a good writer and just about when I had read more detail than I could take then he would turn both books toward the personal and very good story telling. This book is highly personal as he explores the pain in his family and how birding served to both separate, and eventually, bring Koeppel closer to his father.Interesting book.

  • Emilia P
    2019-03-22 20:19

    You know, I really thought I'd give this book a chance.But probably listening to it didn't help - I missed the dry explanation of different bird-counting methods and so was confused about that through the whole book. The memoir part of it was good for a while - the author's father's childhood in New York and the stories of his parents in turn were very nice, but as it got farther into his life, and it got to be less about the discovery of a wonderful hobby and more about obsession, it just got kind of boring.I think looking at birds is pretty nice, and would like to do it once in a while. I think trying to see every bird on earth is pretty crazy and takes the joy out of it. But. To each his own of course!

  • John Geary
    2019-03-26 17:31

    This book is not just about traveling around the world looking for birds and adding them to a list. While that particular activity does form thread that connect all the events, it really is a memoir of the author and his father,about growing up and getting older, about finding a way to connect with each other and then finding a way to make peace with each other and the world. It touched me on many levels, first as a lover of nature, someone who loves to see birds; and, more deeply, I could relate to many of the things the author went through growing up, trying to forge a relationship with his father – much of his background and his father's growing up reminded me of some things I went through growing up.

  • Charmaine
    2019-04-05 21:23

    Enjoyed this book far more than I expected. It took me a little while to read the book, but every time I picked it up I enjoyed it. For an amateur birder it is a dangerous book and could give someone ideas of becoming a big lister. While that isn't feasible anytime in my near future, it has definitely given me a renewed interested in birds and has also given me insight into the world of birders that was quite fascinating. I'm not sure if this book would appeal to someone who doesn't already have an interest in birds. I can't decide if I liked it so much because of the writing or because I enjoyed hearing about all the birds Koeppel's father and other saw. I am disappointed to be finished reading the book!

  • Kayla
    2019-03-31 15:17

    I will gladly read any book having to do with birds, so it is not surprising that I enjoyed this. The author took a different angle than I was anticipating (It was more of a biography/memoir than a nature book), but I still found it interesting. Overall, it served as an intriguing look at the sport of birding, family dynamics, dreams vs. duty, and the line between passion and obsession. However, something about the described 'big listers' and their motivations saddens me. Of course, the author does share a (kind of) similar stance, and I appreciate his willingness to dig deeper to try to understand the nature of obsession.