Top positive review
119 people found this helpful
Buy at least 2 copies of this book ...
on 19 October 2004
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.