Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: A Year on the Wing

If you could take a year and a lifetime of birding experiences and turn it into an opera, this book is something like that.  It is a bit esoteric and full of abstract thought which doesn't suit everyone.  For those with classical tastes, that have the discipline of mind to relax into the poetic imagery and philosophy, then you'll really enjoy Tim Dee's opus.

Dee takes us on a month by month birding journey in each chapter which takes place mostly in the UK.  Each month focuses on just a few birds, with flashbacks to his past experiences with them.  Thankfully I had my review copy of Birds of Europe to reference each bird Dee mentions, which I felt added greatly to my enjoyment of "A Year on the Wing". 

When I read a book, I want to be able to relate to the author or characters, and I want to learn something new.  Tim includes wonderful anecdotes from his boyhood and field experiences that I could relate to even though my experiences are limited.  When he shares these experiences, his tone and wording is much more colloquial and down to earth.  He takes us down his dark roads in life as well and shows that the birds were always there as a part of each episode.

Interestingly, Dee injects into the narrative reviews of the writings and poetry of great naturalists of days gone by.  At first, these discussions seemed out of place, but when looked at as a whole, they fit perfectly.  While Dee has plenty of scientific bird study in his background he presents the almost hypocritical thought that it is  blasphemous to claim to really know and understand birds.

This is not a book for casual or light reading.  You must be willing to get into Dee's mind and open your ears to hear his aria.

"A Year on the Wing: Four Seasons in a Life with Birds" by Tim Dee is published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.  It lists for $24.00 and is available online new and used at a wide range of prices.

I received my free copy from The Zen Birdfeeder as part of a contest on her blog and provided this review just because I wanted to.

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