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115 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy at least 2 copies of this book ...
If you don't know what book to buy as a Christmas present for a friend, parent, daughter, son, grandparent, or even your boss, I suggest you get this one. While you're at it, get two copies, because you will certainly want to keep one for yourself. A thoughtful friend gave it to me, out of the blue, and I LOVE it. It is thoughtful, funny, clever, instructive and full of...
Published on 19 Oct. 2004 by I. E. Weiss

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable enough
Simon Barnes is a talented sports journalist who I have been reading for many years. This book does a nice job of describing the enjoyment of becoming a bird watcher, and is interesting and engaging, to a point. It is pretty light fare. Some interesting stories and observations, but no laugh-out-loud moments, and nothing hugely memorable. Not for the first time, I find...
Published on 25 Jun. 2012 by John Baird


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115 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy at least 2 copies of this book ..., 19 Oct. 2004
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If you don't know what book to buy as a Christmas present for a friend, parent, daughter, son, grandparent, or even your boss, I suggest you get this one. While you're at it, get two copies, because you will certainly want to keep one for yourself. A thoughtful friend gave it to me, out of the blue, and I LOVE it. It is thoughtful, funny, clever, instructive and full of surprising facts. Did you know that humans share 98.6 % of their genes with chimps, more than a willow warbler shares with a chiffchaff, which is why birds are so "ludicrously numerous", i.e. have so many different species.
Yes, this book is about birdwatching, but not about the rarefied art of birdwatching that is the realm of twitchers (a form of trainspotter that can be quite snobbish), but about being a bad birdwatcher. Which is neither a hobby nor a profession or a scientific pursuit, but a way of life, and a life-enhancing experience at that. A way of making an everyday occurrence into a rare and uplifting moment. It makes you feel less like Woody Allen who described himself as "at two with nature" and more understanding of our feathered friends. Barnes describes it as one of the most liberating feelings on earth. In fact he describes the purpose of the book as providing the reader with the chance to acquire a new sense - bird-awareness, to no longer be blind and deaf to nature but to actually change your relationship with it and to life.
Simon Barnes, who is an acclaimed and award-winning sportswriter, has written a beautiful book that is not only relaxing and great fun to read, but full of philosophical insight and humanity. He touches on man's fascination with flight, on Freud and dreams, and on why sacred beings in certain religions are equipped with wings. But his main focus is on our affinity with birds, and on evolution, and of course on the necessity of owning a field guide to help you to tell one bird from another and to enter this world of bewildering variety called "biodiversity".
One definition of birdwatching he offers is "not the chasing of the rare but the untroubled contemplation of the special". And of himself he says: "I don't go birdwatching. I am birdwatching." He also pays tribute to his friends and to his father with whom he shared the pleasure of birdwatching and who helped him to become a better birdwatcher, not so much by increasing his knowledge but by helping him to enjoy this most natural experience in the world.
It is also a wake-up call to us all (and to politicians) to become more aware of our environment and of the need for conservation, which is the only way to make sure that our grandchildren still have an environment that has diversity and that's worth living in.
So stop wasting your time with things you don't really want to be doing and start birdwatching - or rather start by buying this book.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book about removing stress from your life, 31 Dec. 2004
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Simon Barnes writes "How to be a Bad Birdwatcher" in part as a dialogue with his own father, trying to convince him of the liberating joys of birdwatching. It's a theme I can understand - I've spent years pointing, saying to my daughters, "Look, that's an ostrich nesting in that tree!", or "There are a couple of dodos swimming over there!"
I've always enjoyed watching birds - and, for that matter, bats. Barnes captures that sense of enjoyment. Bill Oddie might be a passionate television advocate of birdwatching, but Barnes conveys the same sort of excitement on paper ... and it's an excitement of a different variety. Barnes sees birdwatching as important, as a way of making a connection with the world, as a way of understanding place and appreciating the environment. His is an appeal for the city dweller to take time to notice what's around - the city is alive with bird life, and not just the seagulls or pigeons on the station platform.
He argues that you should be a 'bad birdwatcher' - the classic image of the 'twitcher' is of someone racing around, trying to spot the next bird on the list, ticking off numbers, desperate for new sightings. Barnes offers a more relaxed approach - just enjoy the blackbird or the thrush or the robin. Relax. Allow the simple pleasures of watching a bird to deliver a few moments tranquil contemplation and peace. It's a simple step to let your mind and your imagination take flight, to escape earthbound stress and appreciate the beauty around you.
Barnes does offer practical, how-to advice, but that's not really the point. He suggests that it's possible to become knowledgeable about bird life and the natural world without becoming obsessive or competitive. Watching birds should be about relaxation and making a connection, not making a list. This is an excellent, life-affirming book which will bring a smile to your lips and maybe just open your eyes.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fell in love with it, 3 Aug. 2006
By 
Susla (Lully (VD), Switzerland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to be a Bad Birdwatcher: To the Greater Glory of Life (Paperback)
My son-in-law gave this book to me and my husband, as we started birdwatching about two years ago (I can't say we are good yet, but this summer we were overjoyed to realize just how many birds we already "knew", several by their song, or even just by their « jizz »). So I started reading it listlessly, thinking it would be a dry effort of humor about the joys and sorrows of birdwatching. I did not get what I bargained for. What I got was a book that grabbed me by the shoulders and delighted me with unexpected and delectable surprises. It was a book that I couldn't wait to get back to, that I started each new chapter with a fluttering heart, wondering « what next ? ». I definitely fell in love with it. And with Barnes, too, if you want to know the truth.

It is only about birdwatching on the peripheries (and even here, it is not like anything you'd read in a regular bird book, I can guarantee you). In its essence it is about a man whose way of looking at life has changed thanks to these lovely and mysterious creatures of the air, and who would like to let others in on the secret. I know what he means. I have always loved nature, and yet how much more I get from it now that I see (and look for) the birds ! It is like I was only seeing one-half, no, one-third of the picture before. It is also a soul-baring book : to write so philosophically about one's relationship with nature, to then wrap it all up in a veil of humor takes insight and courage. For example, Barnes writes, « My understanding of the tree, the butterfly and the pebble has altered in some cruious way because I know their names. That is because knowing something's name is a highly significant thing. It is the most significant thing you can tell someone about yourself. An American will announce his name with this first breath ; the English prefer to keep people waiting before imparting that treasured scrap of information. »

It is a book of poetry : « But there he was against the cold blue sky, every feather picked out by the low winter sun, and he sang his song of spring and gave it absolutely everything. It was a song that made the whole day better. A common bird : a rare moment. »

So buy it, read it, treasure it. And then go watch birds like your life depended on it. Because more than you know, it really does.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-discover why you started birdwatching!, 30 Sept. 2004
By 
Mrs. E. M. Croft "Lwax" (Kew, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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Whether you are already a bad birdwatcher or a 'very good' one, or simply want to know a bit about birds, read this funny, very personal and touching account of the key moments in Barnes' life and the birds that have been there. He demystifies 'birdwatching', takes a side-swipe at 'twitchers' and argues that to want to know and name the birds around you is as natural as breathing. Barnes takes you 'step by step' through the essentials - binoculars, field-guides, time and places to watch - using anecdotes and personal experiences. He is learned and informative but it never reads like a manual. He also makes an inmpassioned plea for the environment to move up the political agenda. A book to buy for yourself or present to a child, from about age 10, who seems even vaguely iterested in what's flying around her/him.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for all ages, 28 Sept. 2004
By A Customer
I loved this book and so did the rest of my family. Simon Barnes injects just the right amount of humour and enthusiasm into his subject. This is one of those books you could give to anyone. It's beautifully produced with quirky illustrations inside. I never thought I would ever enjoy a book about birds so much.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taken for granted, 5 Oct. 2005
By 
Christopher Morgan (Provence France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Simon Barnes is a very great sports writer by using different observations from those of his colleagues,also his use of beautiful English combined with a wealth of knowledge. He has bough the same technique to this book. He gently chides the reader into being aware of bird life no matter where one is and open to all irrelevant of age or sex. I felt that I must get out quickly in case I might miss something. The most endearing apect is that Barnes chats to you as tho' one was enjoying a pint in a friendly pub. It is the simplicity of the 'bad birdwatcher' yet very clever in describing his art as a wonderful ajunct to life.
5 stars because it is unputdownable. It is a glorious book and at times very funny that acts as a catalyst to remembering that perhaps one has been a very bad bird watcher always and did not realise it. Can't wait to read his current book that I meant to have bought in the first place but made a delightful mistake by buying this first book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the few negative reviews, 10 Sept. 2006
By 
A. Shields (Bucks) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: How to be a Bad Birdwatcher: To the Greater Glory of Life (Paperback)
I've long since been a fan of Simon Barnes' - due to his regular spot in the RSPB magazine. However, the book exceeded my expectations. It seems I've been a bit of a bad bird watcher for a while, but he's unspired me to improve my birding skills without worrying about not being "good" enough. I may be wrong, but I suspect those that found his refreshing humour to be "patronising" are, in fact, "good birdwatchers".
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book about removing stress from your life, 30 Jun. 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Simon Barnes writes "How to be a Bad Birdwatcher" in part as a dialogue with his own father, trying to convince him of the liberating joys of birdwatching. It's a theme I can understand - I've spent years pointing, saying to my daughters, "Look, that's an ostrich nesting in that tree!", or "There are a couple of dodos swimming over there!"
I've always enjoyed watching birds - and, for that matter, bats. Barnes captures that sense of enjoyment. Bill Oddie might be a passionate television advocate of birdwatching, but Barnes conveys the same sort of excitement on paper ... and it's an excitement of a different variety. Barnes sees birdwatching as important, as a way of making a connection with the world, as a way of understanding place and appreciating the environment. His is an appeal for the city dweller to take time to notice what's around - the city is alive with bird life, and not just the seagulls or pigeons on the station platform.
He argues that you should be a 'bad birdwatcher' - the classic image of the 'twitcher' is of someone racing around, trying to spot the next bird on the list, ticking off numbers, desperate for new sightings. Barnes offers a more relaxed approach - just enjoy the blackbird or the thrush or the robin. Relax. Allow the simple pleasures of watching a bird to deliver a few moments tranquil contemplation and peace. It's a simple step to let your mind and your imagination take flight, to escape earthbound stress and appreciate the beauty around you.
Barnes does offer practical, how-to advice, but that's not really the point. He suggests that it's possible to become knowledgeable about bird life and the natural world without becoming obsessive or competitive. Watching birds should be about relaxation and making a connection, not making a list. This is an excellent, life-affirming book which will bring a smile to your lips and maybe just open your eyes.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful book for good or bad birdwatchers, 31 Aug. 2006
By 
Greg Farefield-Rose (Hertfordshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Like many birdwatchers I'm quite a bad birdwatcher. I enjoy watching birds and consciously try to improve my birding skills but can't be bothered with scanning through a flock of 500 gulls to find the elusive white-winged bird or 500 terns to find the one that may possibly be of the rarer roseate variety. Whether you are a good or bad birdwatcher or maybe not even a birder at all, there is plenty to enjoy and discover in this book.

How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher is an amusing book on how to watch birds by journalist Simon Barnes. It serves as a witty introduction to beginners and acknowledges facts to more experienced birders which they had realised inside but never fully expressed or thought through. In the book, the Award-Winning writer cleverly uses simple language and well-reasoned arguments to make fundamental, quite complex points on why we like watching and identifying birds, how to get more involved in birdwatching and much more.

How To Be A Bad Birdwatcher is a delightful, easy-to-read book. It is recommended for anyone who has a vague interest in birds as well as providing telling anecdotes to those of us who are already birdwatchers - good or bad ones.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, fun, a pleasure to read., 26 Feb. 2005
I saw this book in the high street shops before Christmas and thought it would be good to suggest as a present from one of my children either for Christmas or birthday soon afterwards in January. The title appealed - I am undoubtedly a bad birdwatcher, but I must admit to some doubts as to whether I would actually enjoy the read.
The book duly appeared as a birthday present. So did several others! This was the one which held my attention until I reached the end.
No pretensions here - an honest and inspiring description of what it can be to enjoy watching birds, and encouragement for those of us who don't recognise the rarities. The book has a delightful style of informing whilst being honest and fun. I really laughed at times, read sentences out to my tolerant wife, and aligned completely with Simon's approach. Birds and nature are to be appreciated - congratulations to Simon for reminding us in such an engaging way.
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How to be a Bad Birdwatcher: To the Greater Glory of Life
How to be a Bad Birdwatcher: To the Greater Glory of Life by Simon Barnes (Paperback - 23 Mar. 2006)
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