cover image The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year

The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year

Margaret Renkl. Spiegel & Grau, $32 (288p) ISBN 978-1-954118-46-1

New York Times columnist Renkl (Late Migrations) invites readers along on a year of loving outdoor observations in this gently moving memoir. In 52 essays—one per week—Renkl reflects on what she saw and experienced in her Nashville garden over the course of 2022, ruminations that sometimes give way to sense memories of urban parks, a borrowed cabin, and her childhood home in Alabama. Balancing lyrical descriptions of unusual insects and bird-feeder maintenance (“The only thing to do when a Cooper’s hawk stakes out a feeder is to take the feeder down.... The hawk and the owl must eat, too, I know, but I don’t wish to make their bloody work any easier”) with rigorous environmentalist queries, she nudges readers to interrogate their place in the natural world. Quandaries abound: Are people more important than the wild foxes made ill from poisons set out to kill their prey? Should people interfere to rescue a baby bird or let its natural predators claim it? Rather than answer those questions, Renkl lets them hang, leaving readers to think them through for themselves. This gorgeous reflection on humanity’s symbiotic relationship with the outdoors will transform the way readers interact with their own backyards. Agent: Kristyn Keene Benton, ICM/CAA. (Oct.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly suggested that the author owned a cabin.