Brew up a pot of tea and get ready to settle in with some terrific reads. 2017 was a wonderful year for new books about birds and the people who love them. These eight are our top picks to entertain, relax, and inspire you. Peruse a unique take on Audubon’s life, learn what it’s like to see more than 6,000 bird species in a year, and read about all the reasons people just plain love birds. It’s time to hit the bookstore or your local library and start reading!
1. Birding Without Borders (Noah Stryker)
Why we love it: Author Noah Stryker set an incredible goal for himself in 2015 – to see half the world’s bird species in just one year. He broke birding records by seeing 6,042 species and traveled the globe to do it. In his book, he tells the tales behind the sightings, sharing his highest highs and lowest lows. Part travelogue, part birding book, and all fascinating, this is a must-read for anyone who loves our avian friends. (Hardcover and eBook)
Opening Line: On New Year’s Day, superstitious birdwatchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future.
2. Audubon, On the Wings of the World (Grolleau/Royer)
Why we love it: Perhaps the most unique of 2017 books about birds, this is John James Audubon as you’ve never seen him before. If you’re new to the idea of graphic novels, you might flip open this tome and think, “A comic book about Audubon?” Dig deeper and you’ll find a beautifully-illustrated story about the famous ornithologist and his life and travels, including controversial topics like the number of birds he killed as he explored. This is no children’s picture book, but instead an immersive experience where the artwork helps you understand more about the story as it unfolds. (Hardcover)
3. The Wonder of Birds (Jim Robbins)
Why we love it: Birdwatchers already know that birds hold a special fascination. They’ve inspired people throughout the centuries, influencing the Wright brothers as they created their first airplane and drawing millions of people out to explore the natural world. Robbins explores both scientific and cultural impacts of birds in this book, drawing connections to our daily lives and showing how birds have much to teach us about ourselves even as we strive to learn about them. (Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook)
Inspiring Lines: One of the most important things birds do is remind us of our deep and abiding emotional connection to nature. In Washington, D.C., I witnessed Harris’s hawks and bald eagles turn drug dealers and high school dropouts into passionate falconers. What is going on in our hearts and brains when we observe these creatures?
4. Birds Art Life (Kyo Maclear)
Why we love it: During difficult times, many people turn to the solace of nature. So it was for author Maclear, who found the joys of urban birding to be a balm during a challenging year of her life. In this intimate work, she tells the story of her year exploring birding in depth for the first time, and reflects on the life lessons found therein. (Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook)
Opening Line: One winter, not so long ago, I met a musician who loved birds.
5. Birdmania (Bernd Brunner)
Why we love it: Quick – aside from Audubon, how many other well-known ornithologists can you name? Drawing a blank? That’s OK, because Bernd Brunner’s book will quickly fill in the gaps for you. Brunner relates the fascinating tales of birders throughout time; some have made important contributions to our scientific understanding of birds, others dedicated their lives to conservation, and a few simply became obsessed with the birds they loved. The book is beautifully decorated with paintings, illustrations, and other artwork to enhance the reader experience. (Hardcover, eBook)
The Author Says: This book is about people who have been involved with birds in myriad ways… You find people who love birds no matter where you look, and it is my pleasure to reacquaint you with some you will already know and introduce you to others whose stories you may seldom – or perhaps never – have heard.
6. One More Warbler (Victor Emanuel)
Why we love it: Author Victor Emanuel is one of the country’s leading birders, and his birding tours have attracted celebrities like Prince Philip and Laura Bush. In this volume, Emanuel recounts his stories one bird at a time, starting with the male cardinal that first caught his eye when he was just a boy. He shares tales of his mentors and epic adventures of birding around the world, each vignette sparked by a bird that helped to shape his life. You may not be able to take a birding tour in person with this charismatic man, but his book will let you travel right along with him. (Hardcover, eBook)
Fun Fact: Former President George W. Bush credits Victor Emanuel with teaching him to enjoy looking at birds instead of just “shooting ’em.”
7. Mozart’s Starling (Lyanda Lynn Haupt)
Why we love it: Even the most passionate birders tend to dislike invasive starlings at their feeders. Lyanda Lynn Haupt is out to change your mind, though. While raising a tiny baby starling of her own, Haupt learned that composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once kept a starling as a pet and muse. She was inspired to write this book, in which she explores Mozart’s starling’s story and shares her own as well. This book will enthrall lovers of birds, music, and unlikely friendships. (Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook)
Opening Line: This book would have taken me half as long to write if it were not for one fact: most of it was composed with a starling perched on my shoulder.
8. Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White (ed. White / Gordon)
Why we love it: If you’ve ever enjoyed a chat with other folks who love birds, this book is for you. Dozens of avid birders share what makes birding special to them in this follow-up to the original Good Birders Don’t Wear White. Birding guides, bird photographers, museum curators, and many more relate their experiences with birds in short essays that will make you smile, laugh, and perhaps even cry a little. Illustrated with the charming line drawings of Robert A. Braunfield, this is one of those books about birds that has a little something in it for everyone. (Paperback, eBook)
Best Essay Title: I Love Birding Because It Gets Me Closer to Tacos
Looking for more great reads? Take a look at our 2016 guide to bird and gardening books.