Fly away with these 9 books about birds

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Every so often, I’ll notice a string of books with a niche theme or a sudden proliferation of books on an unexpected topic. Thus the inspiration for today’s post: books […]

The post Fly away with these 9 books about birds appeared first on Modern Mrs Darcy.

Every so often, I’ll notice a string of books with a niche theme or a sudden proliferation of books on an unexpected topic. Thus the inspiration for today’s post: books about birds. Birdwatching surged in popularity beginning in the pandemic, and the number of related books has likewise proliferated. In the past year or two, I’ve noticed more and more books about different kinds of birds and birders. I did not see it coming but I like it!

Today’s list is an interesting mix of memoir, true crime, nature essays, and fiction. Some are pre-pandemic releases; others are quite recent. Whether you’re an ornithologist, aspiring birder, or just appreciate a nerdy deep dive into a specific subject you didn’t even know you wanted to read about, I hope these books offer a dash of the unexpected to your reading life.

9 books about birds and birding

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A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
A quiet novel about birding and romance. Mr. Malik has just gathered enough courage to ask Rose Mbikwa to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball when his intellectual rival arrives and immediately—and inconveniently—falls for Rose himself. Since Rose leads the East African Ornithological Society, the two men agree to a bird-identifying competition in order to determine who will ask her to the ball. Hijinks ensue. More info →
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H Is for Hawk
Author: Helen Macdonald
This 2014 nonfiction work was a global bestseller and won a slew of literary accolades, including the prestigious Costa Book of the Year award. After Helen Macdonald’s father dies, she stumbles upon a unique way to assuage her grief: she purchases and attempts to train an English goshawk with the deceptively quaint name Mabel. McDonald had been a falconer since she was a child, but her hawk is wild, unpredictable, irascible—as is her grief. Part memoir, part nature story, the result is moving, poignant, and surprising. More info →
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The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird
Author: Joshua Hammer
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a man walks into an airport with a suspicious parcel…that turns out to be fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs. Over the course of two decades, Jeffrey Lendrum smuggled endangered raptors for the black market. The birds and their eggs are worth millions on the street, never mind the penalties—both to nature and from the law—for removing them from their natural habitat. Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit pursues Lendrum in this gripping true crime tale of greed, danger, and falconry. More info →
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Brood: A Novel
Author: Jackie Polzin
Will and I thought about getting chickens for years but never went for it; it turns out chickens are really hard to keep alive. The nameless main character of this quirky 2021 novel manages to care for her brood of four chickens through a Minnesota winter, a summer tornado, and the random ailments that strike chickens down without explanation or warning. While pouring herself into her new hobby, she’s also coping with heavy grief and disappointment due to a recent miscarriage and the possibility of a cross-country move. If you’re in the mood for a quiet, introspective book that’s on the shorter side, this might be right for you. More info →
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Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder: A Memoir
Author: Julia Zarankin
“To be among birds is to be constantly learning.” Lit professor Zarankin, who describes herself as a serial enthusiast and novice naturalist, was as surprised as anyone when she fell head-over-heels for birdwatching at the age of 35—years before the hobby zoomed to popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. In this memoir, which I included in the MMD 2021 Summer Reading Guide, she interweaves stories of the birds she’s logged with tales from her childhood in the Soviet Union, her subsequent moves to Paris and the U.S., and current Toronto-based birdwatching community, which has become her surrogate family. A natural choice for nature-lovers and those eager to enjoy the thrill of vicariously stumbling into a new hobby. Audiophile alert: this is lovely on audio, as read by Nan McNamara. More info →
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Migrations
For those of you who like to know my husband Will’s reading recs: this one’s for you. McConaghy’s U.S. debut is set in the near future, when most wildlife has become extinct. Franny Stone arrives in Greenland to follow the last Arctic terns on their likely final migration to Antarctica. She finagles a spot on a fishing boat and develops a found family with the oddball crew. As they set sail, Franny learns there’s no hiding from her past—including a love affair and a crime. The story alternates between her quest and her history, exploring climate change, redemption, and the persistence of hope. More info →
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The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year
Author: Margaret Renkl
In this fall 2023 release, Renkl brings readers to her backyard in Tennessee, sharing observations of the flora and fauna she finds close to home. There are 52 chapters, one for each week, moving us through the seasons as the birds and other animals come and go, flowers bloom, and trees shed leaves. She also shares the way her personal life mirrors the lives of the birds, with her grown children making their own migration. A beautiful reflection of nature, accompanied by artwork drawn by her brother Billy Renkl. More info →
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Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World
Christian Cooper became a household name in May 2020 while birding in Central Park after he requested a white woman leash her dog and she made racist threats instead; the video of the encounter that he took for his safety went viral. That encounter serves as a launching point for a tale that is about birding and so much more. Combining memoir, birding tutorial, and travelogue, Cooper takes us inside his life as a Blerd (Black nerd), sharing his upbringing and how he began birding first in NYC and then around the world. He also reflects on how his interest in birds helps him navigate life as a gay Black man. More info →
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The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature
Author: J. Drew Lanham
A lyrical memoir about growing up in rural South Carolina with essays on nature, belonging, and identity, first published in 2016. Lanham, a Black ornithologist and professor, fell in love with the natural world as a child in the 1970s. Often the only Black person in a white-dominated field, he explores why so few people of color study natural sciences and what can be done to foster a stronger connection to land and the birds and animals that live there. More info →
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Do you have any favorite books about birds? Please share in the comments.

P.S. 15 absorbing nonfiction fiction books to inspire your inner scientist.

Fly away with these 9 books about birds

The post Fly away with these 9 books about birds appeared first on Modern Mrs Darcy.

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