cover of book

by George Levine
Rutgers University Press, 1995
eISBN: 978-0-8135-5727-4 | Cloth: 978-0-8135-2202-9
Library of Congress Classification QL677.5.L465 1995
Dewey Decimal Classification 598.07234


In the tradition of Annie Dillard, this book is a set of meditations on nature, in this case specifically on the way birds and birding are entangled with life, with work, family, and friends. While it delicately narrates loving engagement with birds, it is not a field guide. Its author is a birder, not a professional ornithologist. Although the book does in fact offer a surprising amount of detail about birds, it is primarily a consideration of the experience and human significance of seeing birds, rather than of the birds in themselves as objects of systematic study. It attempts to convey something of the extraordinary variety and excitement of birding, the complications and subtleties of bird identification, the implication of birding in the imagination and the world against which it is usually defined.

While one doesn’t have to be interested in birds to read it with pleasure, it attempts to seduce the reader into the birding experience through a series of autobiographical memoirs with birds at their center. It is not meant for experts, except as experts might be interested in how a journeyman experiences their more significantly constructed world. In the end the book is about a lot more than birds. It is about “lifebirds,” with all the many meanings that word might seem to imply.

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