The Big Year
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik Free Press 2005 ISBN 0553815512
I have reviewed dozens and dozens of books on birds and birding and have to say this is the best written so far. I guess this should come as no surprise as the author is an award-winning journalist – he should be able to write popular books with style even for what might appear a relatively esoteric and dry subject. Esoteric it may be but this unique treatment certainly stops the subject being dry.
‘The Big Year’ follows a successful attempt to break the record for year-listing in North America – but uniquely it follows the ‘race’ by covering three people all of who manage to break the 700 bird target. Mr Obmascik turns the chase into a thriller using all the techniques of a good thriller writer to get us on board rooting for our favourite character, or even all three characters as there is no villain here just three determined men from very different backgrounds and resources chasing the same target, - all are driven, obsessive characters with seemingly boundless energy and great birding skill.
I don’t think just any journalist could have written this book, even an award-winning one, the writer just has to be a birder too, someone who can understand and appreciate the obsession and all the unwritten rules of birding. There is no other ‘sport’ in the world that runs totally on trust… albeit that the participants do often get others to vouch for their observations but such checks are not mandatory.
I really wanted to know who would win, but, at the same time, and this is the yardstick of a good read, I didn’t want the tale to end. It was much more akin to a good novel than to non-fiction as it was written with pace and verve, humour and built each character carefully to win the reader’s support and sympathy.
When I say that this is the best-written birding book I have read, let me clarify. I have read more lyrical birding books, more erudite and more learned ones but never one more entertainingly written – it’s a classic in subject but also in style. The content is fascinating but the medium gives just as much pleasure. I give it two thumbs up, a loud cheer and broad grin!
Buy this book from www.nhbs.com
Created: 13th Apr 2008