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Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 31, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Except for one thing, this book would rate as a great adventure novel and fictional psychological portrait, about a woman's obsession with bird-watching, its effect on her relationships with her husband and her four children, and the horrifying mishaps that she survived on each continent--until the last mishap. But the book isn't that great novel, because instead it's a great true story: the biography of Phoebe Snetsinger, who set the world record for bird species seen, after growing up in an era when American women weren't supposed to be competitive or have careers. Whether or not you pretend that it's a novel, you'll enjoy this powerful, moving story."—Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse
"[A] fascinating biography … a beautiful story of intellectual passion, love of nature, self-education, self-reinvention, and high adventure." —Slate
“Gentile’s tale of a desperate but determined housewife with a passion for birds and adventure is engrossing, sharp, and affecting—a touching portrait and great read.” —Susan Orlean, author of The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup and The Orchid Thief
"Gentile tells Snetsinger's staggering story with clarity and verve. She reflects incisively on the shadow side of Snetsinger's quest—the perverse metamorphosis that turned a liberating passion into a devouring addiction, and perceptively elucidates and celebrates her accomplishments. A remarkable woman of tenacity, courage and transcendence, Snetsinger leaves a profound legacy, which will now be more fully appreciated and treasured thanks to Gentile's enthralling, provocative and inspiring biography." —Chicago Tribune
"After she heard about the Snetsinger legend, Gentile spent eight years pursuing Snetsinger as earnestly as Snetsinger pursued birds. The result is a wonderful book … Snetsinger's story is an adventure story, a psychological drama, a tragedy—and a triumph." —Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Riveting." —New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Compelling … [A] fascinating portrait of a woman torn between her obligations to her family and her life's passion: birds.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[Gentile does] a masterful job of investigating and vividly describing the personality, the extreme will to achieve, and the previously unknown life of Phoebe Snetsinger, the famous first lady of world birding ... absorbing and informative.” —Surfbirds
“As much about meaningful living as about sparrows and chickadees, this intimate piece of reportage follows Phoebe Snetsinger, a housewife who in the 1960s takes refuge from banality in bird watching. Gradually sacrificing family ties and personal safety in her quest to see 8,000 birds before dying, she becomes a mythic figure among birders and leads Gentile to ruminate on how obsession with the natural world—so often touted as a scientist’s best asset—can be destructive as well as fulfilling.” —Seed
"Lively biography of intrepid, world-traveling ornithologist and cancer survivor Phoebe Snetsinger ... the prose delightfully conveys Gentile’s engagement with her subject. Compassionate and comprehensive." —Kirkus Reviews
"[A] stirring account of an intriguing woman and the life she led." —Booklist
"Gentile's in-depth research and lovely prose is accompanied by 16 equally lovely watercolor bird drawings by Rebecca Layton."—Austin American Statesman"Diagnosed in her late 40s with incurable cancer and less than a year to live, [Phoebe Snetsinger] threw herself into birding, traveling worldwide, ignoring injury and danger to work on her life list for another 18 years ... Gentile’s ambivalence, celebrating Snetsinger’s 'having lived so fully and with so much spirit' but noting that 'she had lost the capacity to take into account her family, her health and her safety,' adds a reflectiveness that Phoebe herself may have avoided in life." —Publishers Weekly
“Olivia Gentile’s Life List is the remarkable story of Phoebe Snetsinger, a woman trapped by her life as homemaker, who found liberation in bird watching. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, she began traveling the world, not seeking a cure, but in search of rare birds—becoming a kind of ornithologist's heroine, and living another eighteen years. Gentile’s journalistic temperament lures you in, whether you like birds or not (frankly I kind of hate them). The result is a beautifully revealing, sensitive exploration of Snetsinger’s singular obsession. The story slips under your skin—you can’t help but keep reading.”—A.M. Homes, author of The Mistress’s Daughter and This Book Will Save Your Life
"An intriguing portrait of one of the best-known birders of the modern age. I couldn't put it down!" —Peter Kaestner, America’s top living bird lister
"Phoebe Snetsinger lived a life of high adventure and exotic travel familiar to 19th century explorers - except that she was a 1960s Midwestern housewife who was supposed to be dying of cancer. How she became the world's most driven, globe-trotting birder, what she gained and what she sacrificed to see three-quarters of the Earth's birds, makes Life List an unusually compelling story." ̵...
Top Customer Reviews
Any biography of Snetsinger has to be measured against her own, posthumously published journal, Birding On Borrowed Time. Olivia Gentile had access to many of Snetsinger's family members, most of her papers, and many of her friends and birding companions. She had all the resources. Does she bring anything new?
Gentile makes some excellent points, but the best are left for the reader to glean, not the ones that Gentile forces on a reader. It's hardly news that birders can be obsessive. The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder and To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime Obsession are just three examples of the subgenre. What Gentile does establish is that Phoebe Snetsinger was among the very best amateur birders of the 20th century. She was much more than one of those birders who tick them off a life list, after a glimpse or a party member's report; she scorned that kind of birder. And Gentile also establishes effectively that for Snetsinger - at least perhaps until the last few years - the birds were the goal, to be savored and appreciated; not the number on a list.Read more ›
Let me state that I am a birder and have been for well over 50 years now. And yes, I admit to being a "lister" I also must confess that I suffer (If suffering is what you want to call it), with a bit of an obsessive personality. My obsessions are not all directed toward my birding, although there is that aspect too, but I most certainly understand where Phoebe was coming from.
This book was of interesting to me on several levels. Mrs. Snetsinger came to birding rather late in life, and when she was diagnosed with cancer in her late 40s with a very, very poor prognosis. Birding became the center of her entire life. She became a world traveler; an obsessive traveler focusing almost completely on her birding. She was most certainly a "lister" and in the end her "life list" included around 8,500 birds. Folks, that is a lot of birding!
In writing this book the author had almost full access to Phoebe's personal papers, journals, interviews and cooperation with family members and friends. The author has drawn much from these sources and the results are a very well documented account of this fascinating woman's life. The book is extremely well written using simply syntax which is presented in a rather detached manner. I feel it was very important that this work be written in this style as the author has obviously gone out of her way to be strictly nonjudgmental for the most part.Read more ›
Phoebe Snetsinger comes to life in this book with all of her delightful charm as well as her rough edges. And all within the context of birds, birds, birds. What a wonderfully balanced fabric is created between the avifauna of the world and the world of this woman.
I think Olivia Gentile does a marvelous job of telling a complex and detailed story in a way that never bogs down, yet never feels rushed or shallow either. At the end of the book I felt like Phoebe was a friend, someone I knew. And I'm sorry I didn't know her on a birding tour.
The birding tales are fantastic and inspired me to get more serious with my birding.
And my own writing!
Just an excellent read!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book about a fascinating women. I liked that the author presented her as a complex personality, faults and all, with lots of detail on her many adventures and her personal... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Kathleen Hodge
Why this book is categorized under birdwatching or birding is a misdirection. It's really a biography about Phoebe Snetsinger's life, her trials and successes, and how driven,... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Paula Cappa Reviews
A fascinating account of the life and obsession of Phoebe Snetsinger - the first person to see over 8000 of the world's bird species. Not a book just for birders. Read morePublished 28 days ago by W. J. Cayless
Perfect book for birders! This is a great collector's item to have and story.
A lot of us birders try to see as many birds as we can in our life to add to our "Life... Read more
Unless you are into birding this woman's obsession is probably not understandable as her quest for her bird count is extreme. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jann B
An interesting story - particularly to me as an avid birder myself. Fascinating background to this remarkable figurePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
The author's primary concern seems to be that we do not gather too positive an impression of Phoebe Snetsinger's life: no chance is missed to describe what the author considers a... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Happy Camper
I was greatly disappointed by this book. I felt as if it only dealt with the subject on a very superficial level, and thus she came across as terrifically unlikable. Read morePublished 3 months ago by ccu resident
Well researched biography of Phoebe Snetsinger, the all time greatest woman birder. While the book gives a detailed account of the birding of Phoebe, the author has managed to... Read morePublished 8 months ago by K.Koshy