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Corvus: A Life with Birds Hardcover – April 14, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shortly after settling with her husband and two daughters in a rambling Edwardian house in Aberdeen, Scotland, the gift of several pairs of doves inspired UK novelist and nature writer Woolfson to convert her new coal shed into a dovecote. The doves were followed by housebirds: a cockatiel for their daughter, a flightless rosella parrot the pet store couldn't get rid of, and a succession of unfledged birds rescued by neighbors. Woolfson learned how to care for everything from infant birds to elderly parrots with dysfunctional backgrounds; the menagerie eventually includes a swearing starling, a young rook named Chicken, and Spikey the magpie. Describing how her birds communicate (nearly all the house birds talk), she reveals distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies; she also discusses birds in the wild and natural history, and her neurologist husband is particularly keen on bird brains. The highly intelligent Corvus genus, including crows, magpies, rooks and ravens, fascinate Woolfson the most, and she transmits their appeal with startling clarity. Additionally, Helen Macdonald's beautiful illustrations add resonance to each chapter's subject. A satisfying read from a masterful stylist, this will appeal to any fan of nature writing or personal essays.

About the Author

Esther Woolfson was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University. Her acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies and have been read on Radio 4. She has won prizes both for them and for nature writing. She has been the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council Travel Grant and a Writer's Bursary. She lives in Aberdeen. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582434778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582434773
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Traynor on August 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely brilliant. I got this after seeing Esther talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival and it's got to be one of the best non-fiction books this year. I have to admit, I have never been interested in birds, and knew absolutely nothing about them, but the book really opened up the subject of such a fascinating family of birds - the Corvids - being both informative and entertaining at the same time. Esther's own personal tales of a life shared with various birds - Chicken the rook, Spike the magpie and Ziki the crow - intertwine with histories of our perception of blackbirds to paint a hilariously interesting account of these birds' intelligence and personalities.
A must read for anyone interested in birds, nature, or just good story telling!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author captured me from word one. She weaves animal anecdotes and bird facts into interesting and touching stories of her family and their daily life in Scotland. Her love for birds and nature in general is evident in every sentence. This is a delightful book. She describes the birds she cares for in anthropomorphic terms, but that doesn't bother me - I do the same when asked to describe our resident household birds and the birds I've cared for temporarily with animal rescue and rehabilitation. The book is easy to read and very uplifting.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved reading this book and have gone on to buy several more copies to share with family and friends. Rarely do I read a book that I think, this has changed or truly enhanced my life. After reading Corvus, I see so many birds differently and appreciate them far more. As I read the book I thought also about the author and how lovely she must be.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is a dance of two partners, one being intellect, the other experience circling the subject matter of life with birds, particularly Corvids.

The author winds herself and the reader up with flowing forays in avian knowledge garnered from her personal studies to then compare them with her own experiential observations not as a researcher but rather as a family member and caretaker of her avian home-mates.

I like the book in it’s entirety particularly the wit and humor inherent in the author’s perspectives. Though like her described rook who soaks his dry food in water, the book does feel like it could use a bit of the same treatment in one or two of the intellectual passages. But the avian experience pieces, often including broader thoughts and themes are precious enough to more than compensate.

Some more scholarly perhaps will see her views to be flawed, heretical even, but it would not be surprising to see science in it’s slow crawl towards enlightenment discover what is already in these pages.

Well written, enjoyable, caustically humorous in parts, and well worth the read.
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Format: Hardcover
Just started Corvus: A Life With Birds and can't put it down! The writing is rich, as if Esther Woolfson is having a conversation with the reader or telling an engaging story at a garden party. Information about animals is secondary to her description of their personalities; both done very well.
Great read!
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Format: Hardcover
Esther Woolfson has long been fascinated with corvids, the bird family including crows, rooks, magpies and ravens. Her family includes several corvid pets. Here she discusses her pets and the corvid family in general, offering views of an unusual bonding process and different insights into the natural history of the corvid. Perfect for any collection strong in accounts of pets and wildlife.
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Format: Hardcover
Once in a blue moon I find a book that I love for an obvious connection (I admire and appreciate the corvids), but for many other reasons as well. Corvus has much for the observer of crows, ravens, magpies and other members, but also philosophy, general bird behavior, human nature, and history. Esther Woolfson makes this family almost seem an adjunct of the human species with her detailed, delightful stories about the foibles and frolics of those she adopted (and many others she viewed over decades in the wild), accompanied by the wry observation by Henry Ward Beecher "If men had wings and black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows." This is an utterly delightful book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author narrates her history with keeping birds starting innocently enough with doves, continuing through a few parrots and going on to include wild birds brought to her for 'saving'. She discusses bird evolution, the possible covert evolution of thought and intelligence between humans and birds and describes the love/hate natural history of the UK with the corvus family of birds.

Well written, very factual, descriptive and interesting account of a dedicated birdkeeper which also gives a glimpse into life in Scotland in an upper class family.

Very much enjoyed the book.
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