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Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird Hardcover – October 6, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Many people consider the ubiquitous rock dove, better known as the pigeon, a "rat with wings." But as Blechman demonstrates in his enjoyable and informative book, this much maligned bird has served humans well for thousands of years, carrying messages informing the ancient Egyptians about flood levels along the Nile, bearing news of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and saving thousands of soldiers' lives during the two world wars. Today pigeons are found everywhere, from the queen of England's luxurious racing pigeon lofts to the garbage-strewn streets of every large city. Pigeons—gregarious, easily domesticated and capable of flying for hours at speeds of more than 100 mph—are interesting in their own right, but Blechman writes not so much about the birds themselves as about the people who either love or hate them. These include members of a Newe York City homing pigeon club who dedicate themselves to raising and racing pigeons; Queen Elizabeth's royal pigeon handler; breeders who spend years perfecting champion birds for show; gun enthusiasts who participate in brutal live pigeon shoots. Many of these people are eccentric, and while Blechman's book won't convert pigeon haters to pigeon lovers, it does make for entertaining reading. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Domesticated, docile pets or dirty, disease-ridden hangers-on? Pigeons are not a neutral subject. They have lived in unison with humans since ancient Egyptian times, a relationship that historically was productive but sadly has deteriorated into a fine mess. Pigeons routinely went to war as messengers; their dung was used as fertilizer for farmers or manufactured into saltpeter, an ingredient in gunpowder. Since the Industrial Revolution, these birds have clustered in urban areas. With an easy food supply and ample shelter, their populations have soared, as has the desire to trap and shoot, poison, and relocate them. Blechman introduces readers to their many advocates and adversaries. His whimsical style and the colorful cast of experts on either side of the debate make this exhaustive study enjoyable reading. Teens don't have to be particularly passionate about pigeons to pick up this book for social-science, scientific, or literary inquiry.—Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st edition (October 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802118348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802118349
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #845,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

He thereupon gives us a recipe for pigeon pot pie.
R. Hardy
The author's ability to combine factual information with humor, as well as its conversational style, made this read a very pleasant surprise.
John Cutspec
The book was so incredible I have bought numerous copies for my family and friends.
Karen L. Marts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By J. Jessup on October 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Hi Andrew

My name is Jessie and I wanted to take a moment to write to you to thank you for the inspired poetry and lunacy related to your delicious book about pigeons.

I opted to post an open letter via Amazon because I want the whole world to know about your extraordinary book. I have never read anything as weirdly wonderful as this.

Finding your pigeon was a bit of kismet as it sort of snuck up on me in the book store. I was on my way to the check out counter with a biography of the Red Baron, a history of gunpowder and another book about the men who created alternate and direct currents when I saw a pigeon staring at me from the side.

It looked odd next to the other books whose covers were dull by comparison...when I saw the title next to the bird my inner teenager thought "NO way, Jose"....but sure enough it was exactly what the title implied and then some.

I love love LOVE some of the characters you met in your travels and found myself envying the fun you must have had in meeting such an eclectic group of pigeon enthusiasts and pigeon haters.

Though I must also confess that the revolting chapter related to the gutting and lung-ing of squabs elicited a whole series of voluminous UGHS! and BLECHS! The mental picture you provided was gruesome enough to force me to consider going totally vegan.

The man who wrote his doctoral thesis on spider hearing was intriguing, can you write his biography too?

And you also left me wanting to know more about the man who wrapped himself in tinfoil to keep himself warm. Sally Bananas was fascinating and I was riveted by the chapter devoted to Mike Tyson. Despite never meeting him you captured something NO ONE has ever done before...
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on October 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Who would have thought pigeons could be so interesting? Blechman brings the history of this bird and society's sometimes strained but never dull relationship with it to life. His style is fluid, humorous and endlessly engaging, making this a real page-turner. Blechman has found a hidden gem in this topic and his account of the bird does not disappoint. Where Blechman shines is not only in bringing the facts about pigeons to life but in describing the people who have devoted their lives to racing, breeding, cooking, or exterminating them. This book will make you laugh out loud, it will provide you with a history and a context, and it will also make you think. I can't recommend it more strongly!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Oko on January 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pigeons is true to its title. This is one fascinating book. It is both an informative and fun read, and the writer's passion for both prose and pigeons shines through. I highly recommend this book for anyone who cares about birds... and for anyone who just loves a good, rich narrative.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeanette D. Maguire on December 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Who knew there was so much more than meets the eye to the park bench

pigeon? I didn't even care about pigeons until I picked this book up

by chance. And I'm glad I did. This is not a treatise or an advocacy

book -- it's a delicious and entertaining romp through the world of

pigeon obsession. Kings, queens, rural racists, Charles Darwin, Mike

Tyson, Julius Caesar, Julius Reuters, Noah, the shadowy "pro-pigeon

underground" ... they all share an unusual historical and emotional

fixation on what I used to think was a stupid little bird.

I laughed out loud and couldn't put the damn thing down. Like I said:

Who knew? And who wouldn't want to know more about something we see

everyday but hardly notice? I love books like that, and this is the

best of the bunch. I for one will never look at a pigeon the same way

again!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Marjie Bershad on January 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Blechman succeeds in bringing what may appear to be ordinary subject matter to life and does so with great finesse. One needn't be an ornithologist or birdwatcher to be completely enthralled by this amazing creature and the very fascinating and significant stories Mr. Blechman chooses to share with us...Enjoy!!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What is the difference between a dove and a pigeon? Probably you have some warm and peaceful feelings toward the former, and possibly you agree with Woody Allen's definition (in _Stardust Memories_) of the latter as "rats with wings". There isn't really much difference, though: "Pigeon" is merely a French translation of "dove". Pigeons deserve all the respect that doves get (and are even being renamed "rock doves" by some ornithologists), according to Andrew D. Blechman, who has written the surprising and entertaining summary _Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird_ (Grove Press). After all, pigeons have been domesticated since ancient Egypt, and they served in both World Wars. They are athletes, winning prizes of millions of dollars. They taste good. They like us; they are very easy to domesticate, and if you hold one in your hands, it will not peck, fight, or bite. Blechman's book won't convert those in the diehard "rats with wings" camp, but even they are going to have to admit that there is lots more to feel about these common birds than just disgust.

First of all, the birds are darned good fliers, "a feathered rocket built for speed and endurance". A pigeon can reach a peak velocity mere seconds after launch, and maintain it; one was recorded flying at 110 miles per hour for several hours. The speed and ability to fly account for the bird's attraction as racing animals, and they are trained like fighters. It is a serious enough sport that some races require the pigeons to be tested for steroids and other doping. The enthusiasts, almost always men, are often obsessive, manifesting a "neglect for all things deemed tangential to winning, such as maintaining the semblance of a normal family life.
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