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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a life worth sharing
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...
Published on 1 Nov 2009 by Nigel J. Roberts

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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Running Away!
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...
Published on 13 Jan 2010 by Rob Sawyer


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a life worth sharing, 1 Nov 2009
By 
Nigel J. Roberts (leicestershire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Running Away!, 13 Jan 2010
By 
Rob Sawyer (Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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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. When he gets back he writes down 35 things that remind him of Starlings (4 pages) from Bertolt Brecht to Laurence Styerne to Coleridge to Yeats and John Clare (whom he is obsessed with). It is not really what reminds me of Starlings more like let me show off how much I know.

I imagined going birdwatching with him and decided that you just couldn't walk 2 yards without some literary quote. Look it's a Skylark, (ah yes Shelley said...) it's a Carrion Crow (ah yes Shakespeare) shall we go in this hut (ah yes it reminds me of a Canaletto) - arrrggghhhh!

In an excellent example of 'less is more' he waxes lyrically about the plumage of a Nightjar (nothing wrong in that, lovely birds) and then compares them to moths - okay....and then mentions that moths have interesting names and illustrates this with not, say, two or three, but 47 names - please!!

One bit that did make me laugh, was when he described meeting Peter Scott. He had won a competition and the great man was presenting the prizes. Tim says 'I disliked his paintings they seemed catastrophically lurid - it was always dawn or dusk with wild purple skies doing far too much...' - sounds like his own prose to me, doing far too much, or perhaps trying to do far too much.

I feel guilty only giving this 3*s after the other reviews although in truth I 'ummed' and 'ahhed' whether to give it two.If you are looking for a book that will take you out birdwatching then read, Alex Horne, Bill Oddie, Mark Cocker or (and I recommend this highly) Charlie Elder's 'While flocks last'. If however you want some over written prose with tons and tons of imagery about birds and more famous authors' quotes than you can shake a stick at then this is for you.

And finally, something that always irritates me, there's some nasty typos in it, but nice cover I must say.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Between brilliance and annoyance, 12 April 2010
By 
D. Armson (England) - See all my reviews
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Tim Dee has undoubtedly written a beautiful book with some awe inspiring paragraphs that lift your soul and have you rushing to get outside to experience just a little of the world that Tim writes about. However, and I have to say it's a big however, at times I found the book repetitive and just plain boring, too often there seemed to be pages of endless descriptions that left me far from inspired and more than a little frustrated.

The book is divided into sections defined by the twelve months of the year. In each section the author writes about his bird watching travels or his recollections from his life full which is obviously been full of birds. Each of these sections gave me some insight into Tim Dee's own personal life or gave some unknown fact about birds or the world they inhabit. But again, often these points were not just one of those quick facts that you end up telling everyone about, but rather a long draw out monologue of endless wordiness. I constantly felt like the book was somewhere between a birdwatcher story and a long piece of romantic poetry.

All this left me rather confused about my feeling towards this book by the time I finished reading it. On one hand, the author writes some glorious pieces of descriptive poetry that had me racing home to dictate sections to my wife, on the other hand I had long periods where I just wanted to leave the book alone and start something a little less laborious. While I love Tim Dee's descriptions of how birds have "bought a little bit of the sky down with them" or how he felt when he was out among the bird ringing them, I found it far more infuriating reading many pages worth how Redstarts are his favourite bird or about the mystery of the Nightjars call for the third time in one book. All in all I'd say read this book if you love `nature writing' and have a bit of time to invest, but not if you just want a book you can just pick up and have a quick read of.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jealousy!, 27 Oct 2009
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful, 25 Jan 2010
By 
Stewart M (Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
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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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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 26 Sep 2009
By 
This is a book that is lived in every word. It is as if, when reading it, you are borrowing another man's life. That is its governing quality: a quivering exposure of things, a depth of knowledge, an overwhelming affection for the phenomena of life, a precision and a melancholy and the authority which an unbroken tenderness gives it. There are all sorts of visionary moments: the feathers of a woodcock considered as 'a book of browns', the distant impenetrability of a bird's eye seen 'as if realness was reserved for them alone', the endless rippling intersections of human and avian, as if each were the other translated into other bodies and minds.

This is, in the end, a magnificent, multi-dimensional reporting of a life always alert to the presence of the wild around us, an entire sensibility transcribed on to the page. Anyone who wants to know what it means to be fully alive should read it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has that feel-good quality ...., 4 Dec 2009
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I had a big disappointment last year when I started to read a birdwatching book by a very well-known TV personality .... I just gave up in annoyance at the lack of depth and description..it read like a hastily-written money-spinner, but THIS book is wonderful. The author's love of what he does just shines through and you are taken along on a journey of wonderment and appreciation for what he has witnessed during his years of birdwatching. A must-have book for any birdwatcher.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-indulgent and self-regarding, 1 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life (Paperback)
I only made the start of the third chapter before hurling it with some force against the wall. The inappropriate adjectives, the redundant metaphors, the flights of fancy!!! Just unbearable, and all too typical of the latest trend in nature and travel writing where tottering towers of self-indulgent verbiage replace intelligence, empathy and observation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure...., 6 Jan 2014
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I must confess I was influenced by the five-star ratings when buying this book. Clearly opinions aare personal and this book has been enjoyed by some readers. For me, it was not to be.

On the positive side, the author clearly has a very detailed knowledge of birds and the detailed and descriptive text very successfully and imaginatively conveys a sense of the birds and their environment.

The problem I had is that the book, whilst being detailed and descriptive, seemed to lack any sense of enjoyment or wonder from experiencing wildlife and the countryside. The frequent extracts of poetry and quotations quite often seemed inappropriate to the body of the text. I couldn't help feeling that the undelying theme of the book was depression and melancholy and perhaps the author was exorcising a few demons in writing the book.

For me, the measure of a good (i.e. enjoyable) book is asking yourself the question would you read it again. My answer would be "no". I had a sense of relief when I finished the book, and perhaps a sense of achievement that I got there in the end.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See more through your binoculars, 30 Oct 2009
By 
Simon Roberts (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I hesitated to read this book, having been on the outskirts of Tim Dee's life for the last decade or so. I had thereby borne distant but still uncomfortable witness to the family upheavals which took place as he set out to write it.

I was also intrigued - probably for much the same reasons. But I am a birdwatcher (though what Simon Barnes would recognise as a bad one). And I had benefited more than once from Tim's superb birdwatching skills and knowledge, readily shared (I can still recognise the call of a nuthatch). So I wanted to know what he could do in print.

And what Tim can do in print is immerse you completely in his emotionally charged experiences of encountering birds in places both exotic and mundane, in situations both sublime and ridiculous. The rich, poetic weave of his descriptions of birds and their birdwatcher lets you share his vantage points and see far more than you would have seen through your own binoculars. And his sharing of formative moments from his bird-watching life (or, really, his life - there is no dividing line) helps to explain why these experiences are so emotionally charged for him.

This is a great book worthy of the praise it has received from those better placed to judge its literary merits. For me it has refreshed and recharged my own relationship with birdwatching - and added something extra to my binoculars in the process.
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The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life
The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life by Tim Dee (Paperback - 3 Jun 2010)
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