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The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany Hardcover – October 25, 2005


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The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany + The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Edition edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385514832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385514835
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this intriguing, beautifully illustrated volume, Canadian writer and birder Gibson (Five Legs) employs poems, folk tales, parables, legends, and extracts from the works of naturalists and others to explore humans' relationship with birds through the centuries. Some of the material—Peter Matthiessen's tribute to shorebirds, Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about wild swans, Thomas Hardy's ode to a darkling thrush—reflect the joy many people feel on seeing or hearing a bird. But a number of the pieces, such as Robinson Jeffers's wrenching poem about a hurt hawk, Gabriel García Márquez's story involving sinister curlews and Kafka's threatening fantasy about a vulture, do not make the best bedtime reading. Numerous selections dwell on the human propensity for killing, exploitation and cruelty, as exemplified by a grisly passage describing the slaughter of a flock of terrified birds from Gibson's novel Perpetual Motion. As if to underscore his grim message, Gibson concludes his miscellany with a list of wildlife organizations to join if one is inclined to help avians in peril. The book contains more than 100 stunning full-color images of birds depicted in bestiaries, folk art, ancient sculpture and the works of artists such as Audubon, Lansdowne and Catesby. (On sale Oct. 25)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

What is it about birds that calls to us? Why do humans engage themselves with birds? In an attempt to understand human response to birds, Gibson began to search for texts and illustrations to help explain this fascination. His book is not, as he states, about birds themselves, but rather about the varied relationships humans have established with them. In an eclectic collection of writings that ranges through hundreds of years and across continents, connected by his own essays, Gibson provided glimpses into the bond humans feel with birds. Authors ranging from Ovid to Saki, from Margaret Atwood to traditional tales of the Bahamas, and from David Quammen to Gabriel Garcia Marquez write of birds--as parables, as natural history, as allegory, and as mythic guides. This is a book to dip into during those spare minutes, and the reader will be well rewarded by these glimpses into avian-human relations. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
I've found myself coming back to this book time and time again, just to open at random.
KHL
Poems, stories, journal entries and reveries about birds are complemented by strikingly beautiful, extraordinary, rich artwork.
The Chatty Raconteur
If you like birds, you should have this book (but please wait until I buy another one, gave the first to a friend).
Thomas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Addison Phillips on March 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this book in the gift shop of the Point Reyes National Seashore visitor center on a recent trip to Inverness and had to own it.

As an artifact it's quite beautiful: the illustrations and text and heft of the volume is sumptuous. This is, as the name says, a bedside book; a substantial hardcover with a creamy, coated-stock dustcover instead of a slick and glossy coffeetable book. The point of it is to open the volume and read.

Many such books are just random tidbits that catch the collector's fancy or have some private meaning to the person pulling the work together but which don't form a larger, coherent work. Somehow, though, this book seems to have an ebb and flow that seems natural, as if Gibson himself it taking ownership of the words, the images, the flavors here.

I bought the book for feel and flavor, but am pleased to note that it is worth owning as a volume in its own right, a perfect bedside companion. Highly recommended.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on January 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a sumptuous, lusciously illustrated homage to birds of all sorts.. common and exotic. It is printed on rich, delicately tintured stock, which frames the splendid artwork that accompanies each contribution. It is composed of poems, meditations, folklore, sagas, journal notes, involving birds, from people who've been inspired.. or irritated by them. The artwork includes famous Audubon watercolours, oils, aboriginal renditions in sculpture or stone paintings, statuary, mobiles and all sorts of depictions.

Gibson is a lifelong birdwatcher and collector of arcane literary and artistic tomes on birds. Birds have always been providential for man, omens of good or evil tidings. Creation stories are replete with birds, they are clarions of peace, of messianic proclamation or of disaster. They include the dove, clasping the olive branch to the raven, the trickster, the wolfbird, harbinger of bad times. They can be objects of veneration, of beauty, of song.. or they can be pest birds, that could ruin a crop, or spread disease in overcrowded cities.

Modern man's relationship with the bird has always been ambiguous. It is shot for sport, roasted for his plate, it is adopted as symbol for nations, it is a muse for writers and artists. They represent characteristics of fierceness, nobility, piety, beauty, purity.. or connivance with dark forces.

Gibson relates the story of the 19th Century Lutheran Pastor in Dresden who called for the extermination of the sparrow for its incessant chattering and scandalous acts of unchastity during service. Or of the adventurer, who having killed what was likely the last of the Dodos, lamented only that he had not saved the beak and skull for posterity. The book is chock full of the mundane, the profound and the mythical.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By M. Rolfe on January 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is among the most beautiful books I have ever owned. An exquisite collection of poems, stories, journal entries and reveries about birds that is complemented by extraordinary, rich artwork throughout. Graeme Gibson's careful choices bring out the intrigue, the mystery, the beauty and mythical qualities of birds throughout the world. A lavishly published work of the highest standard, I didn't think books like this were still made. I've ordered more copies to give to friends because I really haven't seen anything else like it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Rohrbaugh on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Very, very few books this physically beautiful are published today. This is a true gem! The author has collected poems, short stories, etc. from authors worldwide which concern or include birds. The numerous illustrations are classic-looking drawings similar to Audubon and that style of drawing. There are no photographs of birds. The paper is of unusually weighty quality and the binding is first class.
This is a book that the avid bird-watcher can hand down to a younger generation. Makes a wonderful gift!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By KHL on June 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've found myself coming back to this book time and time again, just to open at random. I would recommend this book without hesitation.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David V. Axford on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book as a gift for my Aunt Jen, to whom I am deeply grateful for instilling in me a love of the outdoors in general and a love of birds in particular. She is now mostly confined to a bed and I wanted to get her a book on an outdoor subject she loves which she can enjoy while indoors. Before sending her the book I was able to get a good look at it and I feel confident she will enjoy it. The book is beautifully illustrated and the stories are well-written. All of them are interesting, some are humorous. I highly recommend this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By JSpangler on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A beautiful book, excellent for a gift as well as for one's own library. The illustrations are many, varied, and lovely. The text is engrossing.
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