Saturday, June 4, 2016

Book Review - Listening To A Continent Sing

Sorry folks, the blog is still mostly out of action. The evil little beast that wormed its way into my system two weeks ago has landed me with a bout of viral myalgia, not the best condition for walking the sea wall at Pilling. I’m taking the pills and with luck I should be back in full song soon. 

Meanwhile I’ve been “Listening To A Continent Sing”, a new and unusual idea for a bird book, and one just published by Princeton University Press. 

It’s a tale of a 10 week bicycle based birding journey through 10 states of the USA, coast to coast. The teller of the story is Donald Kroodsma an Emeritus professor of Ornithology at the University of Massachusetts, a man with half a lifetime study of birdsong to draw upon. 

This celebrated ornithologist chronicles his 10-week, leisurely cross-country cycling/birding trip with his 24-year-old son. It’s a journey taken at a relaxed pace and one which draws the reader in to join their periodic stops and take in not simply the birds but the landscape they pass through and the people they meet along the way. There are delightful black & white sketches throughout the book, vignettes which portray a part of each of the thirty plus chapters by way of the birds encountered, the journey itself or even the characters met along the way. 

Hence we are amused but understanding of the bicycles dripping in the rain as our intrepid duo wait for the storm to pass from the dry of their tiny tent. In Virginia we meet The Cookie Lady, a hero of hospitality to cyclists from 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, and in Colorado we learn that “If it’s Tuesday, it must be BINGO”.

In Virginia father and son stop to gaze upon the killing fields of the American Civil War where 80,000 Union and 80,000 Confederate troops fought each other and where Field Sparrows and Yellowthroats offer their laments to ancestors who bore witness to the senseless moods of man. 

Our twosome cruise through the Rockies, arms held high to the sheer majesty of the mountains and the reader is lifted again by the author who hears Fanfare for the Common Man as his bicycle steers itself downhill. There are lots of such moments in this book. The author may be first and foremost known for his ornithology but he is also a man of words, and Listening To A Continent Sing” is an accomplished travelogue written with great style which makes for an enjoyable and highly entertaining read. It is a book to be enjoyed by birders or non-birders alike. 

Throughout the text are QR codes where the reader can break off and link to one of the 381 birdsong audios described during legs of the journey. I found this to be impractical, probably as a result of becoming engrossed in the story and the evocative writing and thereby missing the relevant code. I found it much more satisfactory to visit the accompanying web site Listening To A Continent Sing  where I could choose to listen by number, listen by state, listen by species, or my particular favourite, and a valuable learning tool, listen to the dawn chorus. 

This hardback book from Princeton University Press is now on general release and priced at $29.95 or £22.95 and I recommend it to readers of Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blog.


eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! A great book review! I would not mind a cross country trip and listening to all the birds. Just not on a bicycle. I hope you feel better soon! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy weekend!

Margaret Adamson said...

Sounds like a good read PHil. Hope you will pop in to see mine today, and have a WONDERFUL week ahead.

Lea said...

Hope you are well soon!

Linda said...

Such a great review, Phil! Thank you so much for sharing.

Adam Jones said...

Great review Phil.

Frank Boxell said...

Thanks for the review Phil, the website is definitely an excellent resource.

Hope you kick the infection soon.

Anni said...

I will....I WILL get this book come hell or high water. Well, hell at least...I'm already sitting in high water from the continual deluge of storms.

Thanks so much for this review/critique. I'm headed out to amazon as soon as I publish this comment.

Hope you're feeling better soon. A good shot of tequila? That'll fix what ails you. *kidding

Lowcarb team member said...

Your book review was excellent.

So sorry you are still under the weather - get well soon.
Here's to a better week.

All the best Jan

David Gascoigne said...

Kroodsma = excellence.

Nora said...

Hope you feel better soon. I enjoyed the book info. It is hard to find a good book these days!

Anni said...

PS...well, I DID order the book. To arrive on the 10th. Anxious to get to reading it all. Thanks again Phil...and thanks for linking in at I'd Rather B Birdin'

David Gascoigne said...

Hmm...I have never heard a continent sing. Gotta check that one out. Have maybe heard incontinent people sing - or was that screech? Another great book by the same author is "The Singing Life of Birds." Comes with a CD. I recommend it.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Great review, Phil.

Get well soon!

Jo said...

Hi Phil, I've just seen the link to the book on Anni's blog. Thanks for the great review.

Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Great book review! I am sorry about your pain...I do hope it goes away soon. I hate being trapped in the house, especially when the weather is nice. Feel better soonest!!

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