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The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 19, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this eloquent book, Rosen—a novelist and editorial director of Nextbook, which promotes Jewish culture and literature—meditates on the fact that technology enables us to preserve wildlife and at the same time contributes to its demise. He laments that no sooner had he discovered bird-watching than he realized that nature has become a diminished thing, as Robert Frost put it in his poem The Oven Bird. Everywhere he looks—from a Louisiana swamp to the Israeli desert—he finds a paradox: we are attempting to preserve nature at the same time that we are destroying it. Cars, trains and planes, Rosen writes, have enabled us to find the birds of America for ourselves, even as these inventions have contributed to the fragmentation that endangers them.Birds sing back to us an aspect of ourselves, Rosen says, harking back to Audubon, and he confesses that this is why he came to bird-watching, making it even more poignant that so many birds are close to disappearing forever. Rosen's wide-ranging intellect (he is also the author of The Talmud and the Internet) flits gracefully from nature to history to poetry, and gentle meditations can be spiked with barbs ( 'Collecting' is the ornithological euphemism for killing). This beautifully written book is an elegy to the human condition at a time when wilderness is becoming a thing of the past. Illus. (Feb.)
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“Like millions of people, I take a curious pleasure in staring at birds, but never knew why. Thanks to The Life of the Skies, I now realize that I am not just indulging a compulsion to classify. In this illuminating and charming book, Rosen shows us the poetry, the philosophy, and the history—natural and human—of the strange modern pastime of bird-watching. You’ll never a see a waxwing in the same way again.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Stuff of Thought
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Top Customer Reviews
Rosen is no avid bird lister who tries to reach new heights in chalking up new birds. He is instead a rare bird- the bird watcher who thinks in terms of art, philosophy, religion and history, as well as science. One can, of course, go too far down that road and in the process loose the science, but, from my point of view, Rosen never does this. He instead has produced discussions of birds and bird watching in relation to Audubon, Whitman, Thoreau, Frost, Theodore Roosevelt, E. O. Wilson and many others, weaving the mix into a intricate tapestry that both enriches the birding experience and places it into a human context. His on and off search for the ivory-billed woodpecker is both hopeful and painful and emphasizes the paradox of man (both destroyer and protector) and nature (not always kind itself). In short, it was very easy to read this book, but very hard to put it down. At the end, as in all good books, I was left wanting more!
This is a book to take on a trip on an airplane, bus or train, or to read in bed. Unless you have no interest in the subject at all, you will not be bored.
This book is enlightening! "Life of the Skies" will advance your knowledge and make your thinking modern.
Though the title is depressing--and true--the book is not. A little philosophy, a little autobiography, and
a lot about nature.
Author Rosen's central view is that humans need to affiliate with the natural world to be happy and fulfilled: "More and more I realize that to be bored with birds is to be bored with life. I say birds rather than some generic `nature,' because birds are what remain to us." He makes the point that birds are the only truly wild creatures most of us see.
Many of the pages include interesting history. The chapter about the ivory-billed woodpecker describes how after Alexander Wilson, the father of American ornithology, captured one in the 18th century, he noted that its cries sounded exactly like "the violent crying of a young child."
A must for anyone who loves birds, "The Life of the Skies" will make its reader want to go outside and look up.