The Bird Meme: Day 14

Day 14: Favorite book by your favorite birder

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Alas, during yesterday's prompt, I kind of cheated myself out of today's prompt. By choosing my father as my favorite birder, I prevented myself from having an answer ready for today, seeing as how Dad has never written a book. So far as I know, he has no plans to write one, but if he did ever opt to write a memoir, I would urge him to call it Driver's Education, because there's no question that a lot of it would involve his experience behind the wheel. I suppose he might prefer to focus on the issue of college admissions, since that's the field he explored professionally for over three decades, in which case I would push him to title the book ADMIT/REJECT.

The two topics above actually merge in of my favorite stories about Dad's days at the UNC admissions office. He never actually did so, but he claimed he was sometimes tempted to get vanity plates for our two cars. One would say ADMIT and the other would say REJECT, and he would spread the rumor that his admissions decisions on any given day were based on which car he drove to work. Alas, he never bought the plates, let alone spread the rumor, but I admire his imagination.

Still, the lack of Dad-penned books leaves me with little choice but to look over the birding authors I mentioned yesterday and recommend my favorite book by each of them, so here goes:

I mentioned it yesterday, but let me reemphasize my love for this thick volume, in which Dunne lovingly lists everything he knows about every American bird species so that you can just about see it in front of you even if it isn't. Far too voluminous to carry in the field, this is a book you want to have in the car so that you can research any troubling sightings after you get back from the trail. Dunne's prose is so descriptive, so full of precision, that you can't help but feel he's looking at exactly the bird you saw--or that he most certainly isn't, which is often just as good. I loved his essay collection Small-headed Flycatcher. Seen Yesterday. He Didn't Leave His Name, but if you own only one Pete Dunne book, make it the EFG.

Tim Gallagher: The Grail Bird 
This was a tough call. I was fortunate enough to be in Ithaca while Tim was working on Imperial Dreams, his often terrifying account of searching for the Imperial Woodpecker in the drug-infested highlands of Mexico, and since I was his intern, he let me look at some early drafts, which a) filled me with smug glee, and b) just about curled my hair. I could easily have picked that as my favorite Gallagher, but I'm going with the book that introduced me to him. Literally. Our books were both reviewed in the same article back in 2005, and I pushed the reviewer for an intro so I could gush at Tim directly. If you're a woodpecker fan, you'll want to savor every detail of his hunt for the Ivorybill.

Kenn Kaufman: Kingbird Highway
The definitive road book for birders, this is an account of the first recorded Big Year by the guy who did it in his teens and went on to become the author of field guides galore. For a reader like me whose geekery includes both birds and geography, it's like crack. Enjoy!

As if Marie couldn't make a beautiful photo out of mundane ingredients already, she turns her eye to the fantastic landscapes of Mono Lake. It's like a Pink Floyd album cover come to life on every page.

Ursula Vernon: Castle Hangnail
Okay, I recognize that this is not a birding book, but dammit, when you find a wise, funny, fantasy/horror novel for young people--and one with both beautiful illustrations and a wonderful flawed heroine at the center, at that--you don't ignore it just because it's not as heavy on birds as you might like. You read it and you love it and you follow the author on Twitter and enjoy yourself when she starts threads critiquing the often-bizarre animal husbandry theories in Swiss Family Robinson. You just do.

And one to grow on: due in 2018, look out for Rosemary Mosco's Birding Is My Favorite Video Game. You'll definitely want to check that one out. I know I will.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on September 27, 2017 5:19 PM.

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