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The Running Sky: A Birdwatching Life Hardcover – 1 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st edition (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224081985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224081986
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 22.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 328,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`Lyrical...he possesses an awareness which makes this a touchingly human document.'
--Daily Express

"What makes his book wonderful - is his passion... He captures the thrill and puzzlement of watching birds" --The Sunday Herald

'"Serious and playful"... a powerful and intensely poetic paean to what others have called "the wonder of birds".'
--The Saturday Guardian

'in a class of its own ... a chastening as well as an enchanting book'

"Dee's extraordinary, beautifully written account...is a fine addition to the flourishing genre of British nature writing" --Sunday Times Culture

`the best "new age" nature book this year' --Independent

`in a class of its own' --The Week

Book Description

An extraordinary, inspiring book about a lifetime of observing birds

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Nigel J. Roberts on 1 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was attracted by the cover as i waited for my wife in the shop at martin mere. i started to read it as she took her time choosing packs of cards. by the time i got to his amazing descriptions of gannets diving i knew i had to buy this book. Reading it has been an immense pleasure. The prose is fabulous - this is some of the best writing i have read in a long time - and the sense of the world he conveys is miraculous. The book drove me out. each time i finished a chapter i was gripped by a desire to get out into the countryside and watch the skies. but even more than that the book touched on what it means to be human and those insights into his own life added to the whole. I cannot recommend this book enough - it would be a great present to anyone who liked good writing. it certainly is a life worth sharing
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Rob Sawyer on 13 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On a browse through Amazon I chanced upon this book. It seemed something that would interest me as birdwatching is my number 1 hobby and it had (at the time) three 5* ratings - must be good then?

My overwhelming feeling is 'thank goodness I finished this book and managed not to give up on it'. I found it really boring. On the back Susannah Clapp says 'Those who love birds will love this book and envy Tim Dee for both the many adventures his year contained and the grace with which he describes them'.

Well apart from going to Zambia I don't really recall he did much adventuring, and certainly pages and pages about Redstarts isn't exactly an out of this world experience for the reader, well not for me.

Tim Dee is obviously a bright perhaps intellectual guy, far more than me and I am happy to put my hand up and say that perhaps that's why I didn't connect with it, I am too thick. But I am fairly well read and I think masterpieces are those that engage the reader in an enticing way not a flowery over written imagery one - and this is what really got on my nerves. Seldom does a paragraph pass without some simile of overwrought emotion or over description e.g.

'I walked through the fen waiting for it to get darker. The day was reluctant to finish. Two common terns made last flights above the reedy mere white as ice cubes against the green. In a hedge along a dyke, bullfinches piped their embarrassed music, their soft calls of bloodied regret escaping over their blood red breasts.' (Well for a start their breast are pink not red)

He goes off to see a Starling roost (millions of birds) nothing wrong with that.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Tim Dee has produced a book the aim of which seems to be simple. To return beauty and wonder to our understanding of birds. This is a book long on poetry and short on lists, it is long on wonder and short on rarities.

Technical descriptions can provide a picture of the bird as an object, but give no real insight into the actual living bird itself. Using the notes on the plumage of a Nightjar from "Birds of the Western Palearctic" (aka BWP or "The Bible') as an example, Dee suggests that a description that relies simply and only on the physical bird is a "defeat". Through the likes of the BWP you may come to know the bird as an object, but know nothing of it as a living thing, as a real live entity.

The pages of this book are full of references to other ways of knowing the birds you see. Poetry, music, literature. He suggests that many birds exist as an idea as well as an object and that these can often be best grasped through less technical, but no less informative, language. In some cases, such as the Nightingale he suggests, as others have done, that poetry built our image of the bird as much as the bird did itself.
In other parts of the books he describes our lack of contact with the natural world in wonderful ways; "they call to us, but we do not notice" he says.

This is a book of almost spellbinding beauty - not without flaws, or some passages that seem a little self indulgent, but beautiful none the less. The chapter on the ending of the day in a Devon woodland is one of the most evocative I have read. The damp western woodlands that the author so clearly loves flow from the page. As the day dies and the birds fall silent in the Devon woodlands, the end of the book approaches.

If you watch birds for their mystery and charm, rather than as a source of ticks, I would suggest this is the book for you.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's not fair. Over the past few years a rare selection of "country" books have come out, and it seems that each one builds on the last. Was Roger Deakin's "Waterlog" the first? In my mind it was, and still remains the best report of man's relationship with the country. Having said that, there have recently been a number of volumes challenging that masterpiece of which this is the latest I have read. The previous reviewer makes the case for reading this much more eloquently than I can, but if ever a book was more suited to being read next to the statutory roaring log fire, then this is it. (That's quite a pile of books by said fire now, so lets hope for a cold spell eh?)

And jealousy? Well I really envy those authors who have the time, money(!), and opportunity to undertake these projects and then have the gall to write so brilliantly about them. The ability to bring out what should be so blooming obvious as we wander around is a rare gift and Mr Dee accomplishes this so well. As I say, it's not fair!
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