Birdscapes – Birds in our Imagination and Experience By Jeremy Mynott ⎥ 367 Pages ⎥ Black & White Illustrations ⎥ Princeton University Press ⎥ 2009 ⎥ ISBN: 9780691135397

Publishers View: What draws us to the beauty of a peacock, the flight of an eagle, or the song of a nightingale? Why are birds so significant in our lives and our sense of the world? And what do our ways of thinking about and experiencing birds tell us about ourselves? Birdscapes is a unique meditation on the variety of human responses to birds, from antiquity to today, and from casual observers to the globe-trotting “twitchers” who sometimes risk life, limb, and marriages simply to add new species to their “life lists.”

Drawing extensively on literature, history, philosophy, and science, Jeremy Mynott puts his own experiences as a birdwatcher in a rich cultural context. His sources range from the familiar-Thoreau, Keats, Darwin, and Audubon-to the unexpected-Benjamin Franklin, Puccini, Oscar Wilde, and Monty Python. Just as unusual are the extensive illustrations, which explore our perceptions and representations of birds through images such as national emblems, women’s hats, professional sports logos, and a Christmas biscuit tin, as well as classics of bird art. Each chapter takes up a new theme- from rarity, beauty, and sound, to conservation, naming, and symbolism-and is set in a new place, as Mynott travels from his “home patch” in Suffolk, England, to his “away patch” in New York City’s Central Park, as well as to Russia, Australia, and Greece.

Conversational, playful, and witty, Birdscapes gently leads us to reflect on large questions about our relation to birds and the natural world. It encourages birders to see their pursuits in a broader human context-and it shows nonbirders what they may be missing. Author: Jeremy Mynott has been watching, listening to, and thinking about birds-and birders-for much of his life. He is the former chief executive of Cambridge University Press.

Fatbirder View: Just for once, I am not going to offer my view but that of a number of other reviewers…

Birdscapes is, for me, the finest book ever written about why we watch birds. Mynott’s lightness of touch, combined with his depth of knowledge, experience and above all perception, create a thought-provoking and compulsively readable book. A witty and insightful analysis that had me enthralled and delighted in equal measure. – Stephen Moss, The Guardian

An astonishing compendium brimming over with bird lore and theory, pertinent quotations and avian miscellany, all of it well-written and much of it amusing – a classic birder’s bedside book if ever there was one. – Peter Matthiessen, author and naturalist

A new classic in a rare genre. – Christopher Leahy, author of The Birdwatcher’s Companion

No stone is left unturned in this fascinating journey through the world of birds, birders, and bird lore. Much like the flight of a migrating swallow, it dips and soars – moving across space, time, and species from the Flannans to Kakadu, Jefferson to Churchill, and red-eyed vireo to cushie doo. Beautifully written and painstakingly researched, Birdscapes is a joy to read. – Nicolas Day, bird artist and ornithologist

This is an absolutely fascinating book, exhaustively researched, beautifully written, both learned and humorous, and endlessly stimulating. – Bryan Bland, Birding World

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