The Meaning of Birds

Simon Barnes. Pegasus, $26.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-68177-626-2
British novelist and nature writer Barnes (How to Be a Bad Birdwatcher) infuses this playful, conversational exploration of the relationship of birds to humanity with a sense of well-informed wonder. He demonstrates patient attention to the world around him, combining thoughtful scholarship with a skill for conveying particulars in accessible language. At the book’s core is Barnes’s belief that “you impoverish yourself if you accept only science, just as you impoverish yourself—perhaps more greatly—by ignoring science.” Barnes covers a mix of bird-watching topics, including song and coloration; functional topics in human-bird interaction, such as the development of falconry; and more metaphorical topics, including musings on birds as symbol or as markers of time and place. He also ably shares personal experiences without moving the lens too far from plumage to person. Barnes doesn’t present any individual profiles, seeing fellow bird watchers as a collective even while thinking of songbirds as unique personalities. Chapters about extinction, conservation, and species diversity express a mix of optimism and pessimism, but Barnes’s mood remains one of profound, though not overbearing, appreciation for his avian cotravelers. Line drawings from 19th-century birding guides give this book a contemplative feel. This is a generous volume in which Barnes unabashedly shares his affinity for “anyone with birding in the blood.” Illus. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/06/2017
Release date: 01/02/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-68177-695-8
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-64313-139-9
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