TO SEE EVERY BIRD ON EARTH: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession

Dan Koeppel, Author . Hudson Street $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59463-001-9

For some people, bird watching is a compulsion that can become more important than friends, family or career. Richard Koeppel is one of those obsessive birders, and in this candid book, his son shares his story, painting his father as a tragic figure who passionately wanted to become an ornithologist but became the doctor his parents wanted him to be instead. Not surprisingly, Richard's medical career never satisfied him, and he gave it up to become a "Big Lister," one of a group of highly competitive birders who travel the world making lists of their sightings. Over the years he spotted more than 7,000 different species, a number achieved by fewer than a dozen others. Nature writer Koeppel fleshes out his account of Richard's 50-year bird-watching odyssey with facts about this ritualized, expensive sport, including its history, the rules and technicalities of listing, the people and organizations devoted to making the lists, and questions of taxonomy. His hope, he writes, was to forge a closer relationship with his father and understand the "nearly unquenchable" drive that ruled Richard's life, ruined his marriage and made it impossible for him to be close to his children. But in the end, despite trekking alongside his father on birding expeditions, he still can't quite understand it. His book, then, is more poignant than revelatory. Agent, Laurie Liss . (June)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
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