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Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year Hardcover – September 27, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kenn Kaufman wrote the wonderful Kingbird Highway (1997) about his attempt at a “Big Year,” an effort to find more birds in one calendar year than anyone ever had before. Pyle, author of the equally wonderful Chasing Monarchs (1999), in which he followed the migrating monarch butterflies, decided to try a butterfly “Big Year” and the present book is his delightful travelogue of butterfly hunting around North America. True to his other inspiration, Pyle’s paean to the mariposas (Spanish for butterflies) is as much about the people he met and the places he chased his sometimes elusive prey as it is about butterflies. Pyle keeps things low-tech: Marsha, a cottonwood-limb butterfly net; his 35-year-old Leitz binoculars; and a bunch of field guides, maps, notebooks, and mechanical pencils. Many pints of beer (all mentioned by name) are consumed; many fellow naturalists met up with; and many insect bites, minor injuries, vagaries of weather, and car repairs are dealt with, until by the end of the year Pyle had seen 477 species, all of which are listed in the appendix. This one is great fun. --Nancy Bent


“Toss out any notion you might have had about butterfly watchers and meet Bob Pyle: scientist and daredevil, philosopher and magician, pioneer and rebel, and the finest of companions for a vagabond journey. Follow him down the rip-roaring Mariposa Road and you’ll never look at a butterfly, or the world, in the same way again.”—Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway
(Kenn Kaufman 2012-09-07)

“Lepidopterists will appreciate Bob’s sightings, chases, and captures, and natural history remarks on species both familiar and unknown. A reader with only a general interest in natural history can vicariously join Bob on his “rays,” enjoying the adventures, learn much about regional biotas, and either elect to look up specific butterflies in a field guide or choose not to. There is much for anyone among a wide readership to consume and ponder.”—Michael M. Collins, author of Moth Catcher
(Michael M. Collins 2012-08-29)

Mariposa Road is at one and the same time both a serious endeavor in consciousness-raising in conservation biology, and a set of deeply personal reflections based on a lifetime of commitment to the conservation of invertebrates and butterflies in particular.”—Francie Chew, Tufts University
(Francie Chew 2012-08-29)

“In Mariposa Road we’re invited along as Bob Pyle crisscrosses the country on a yearlong hunt for butterflies.  He writes of the land and the creatures in it with such extraordinary vividness and grace—describes his adventures and unexpected challenges with such good humor—that we are borne aloft, we can see it all and love it, as he does.  You’ll never have so much fun armchair traveling!”—Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses
(Molly Gloss 2012-08-29)

“What Roger Tory Peterson was for birds, Bob Pyle is for butterflies—their most impassioned advocate and ceaseless popularizer. From the dusty heat of Texas and the tropical lushness of Hawaii to the legendary outhouse of the Midnight Sun in the Alaskan Arctic, Pyle is a traveling companion who never grows dull.”—Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather and Return to Wild America
(Scott Weidensaul 2012-08-29)

“A charming book, emanating from the traveling naturalist tradition of Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher’s Wild America, and Edwin Way Teale’s four volumes on seasonal change of nature in America”—Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C.
(Thomas Lovejoy 2012-08-30)

“Armchair travelers who love a good yarn will find Pyle’s exuberance catching.”—Seattle Times
(Seattle Times)

“Robert Michael Pyle’s expansive knowledge of the natural history of North America shines through.”—Orion

“For the seemingly ever-growing number of Americans who are just beginning to watch, photograph, and keep life-lists of butterflies, this book will be a revelation of how deep this passion can run.”—Wall Street Journal online
(Wall Street Journal online)

"Mariposa Road is a mighty slice of North America, seen through the eyes of one of its most eloquent naturalists. During this Butterfly Big Year, Bob Pyle introduces us to the wonder of 478 species and with each encounter we get a unique insight into the places and people that make up modern America. For those of us in Britain, with a mere 57 species to tick, it is a real treat. This is extreme butterflying at its best, I wish I could have been with him."--Martin Warren, Chief Executive, Butterfly Conservation, Wareham, Dorset, U.K.
(Martin Warren 2012-08-23) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 10 edition (September 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618945393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618945399
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on September 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In birdwatching slang, a Big Year is a year in which one sets oneself the goal of seeing as many distinct species of birds as one can. Naturalist and author Robert M. Pyle, a butterfly fancier from way back, got the idea of doing a Big Year for butterflies, and in 2008 he did it. Mariposa Road is the story of Pyle's Butterfly Big Year, in which he travels the United States (including Hawaii and Alaska) with the goal of seeing at least 500 different species of butterflies. On the way he is assisted by numerous butterfly lovers who support his goals, and by any number of regular citizens whose many kindnesses he documents. Does he succeed in reaching the magic 500? You'll have to read the book to find out, but if you care, you're missing the point -- Pyle's real goal is to celebrate the love of nature and butterflies: his own, and in general.

This book recalls Pyle's picaresque classic Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage, in which Pyle wrote of his adventures trailing the monarch butterfly's annual migration from north to south. There as here, his gentle observations about the people and places along the way and his low-budget travel (mostly with the same decades-old Honda Civic) blend with enthusiastic descriptions of his time in the field and the lovely insects he finds there. But at over 500 pages, Mariposa Road is a lot longer than Chasing Monarchs. While both books are basically chronological accounts of various events that happen until the end point is reached, but Chasing Monarchs seemed pleasingly digressive and as Mariposa Road goes on, the same charming style begins to make the book seem shapeless.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I can't resist a good road trip saga. It's better if there's a purpose to the trip, rather than just rambling around. Naturalist and Kenny Rogers lookalike Robert Michael Pyle embarks on a yearlong journey all over the United States to spot as many butterfly varieties as he can.

Now, butterfly spotting sounds like one of those activities that is a lot of fun to participate in, but not quite as fascinating to watch or hear about, like fishing or golf. So I decided up front that I would not hesitate to skim over parts of Mariposa Road if I felt like it. It would be like taking a nap in the back seat every now and then while the road trip continued.

At over 500 pages, there was still a lot of road trip to enjoy even without the butterfly details. Pyle knows people all over the country and used his tight budget as an excuse to drop in on many of his friends, relatives, and friends of friends. He documented his microbrewery intake nearly as faithfully as his butterfly sightings. No lite beers and very little fast food, not when there are hole-in-the-wall diners and one-of-a-kind pubs all across this vast nation. But how to keep to the budget? Easy, my friends - camping. And this was not renting a cabin at Yosemite type camping, no sir. Pyle slept in his ancient hatchback, parked in WalMart parking lots, and cleaned up where and when he could. Sometimes he couldn't, like the time he traipsed the outback of Alaska, and was counting on grabbing his first shower in a week just before he boarded a plane back to Washington. But it didn't work out that way, to the likely dismay of his seatmates on the flight.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a wonderful book--filled with the wonder (and delight) of a man in love with butterflies and nature in general, who spends as much of a year as he can traveling around the country spotting as many species of butterflies as he can.

That may sound like a very specialized book, but although I'm a nature lover I don't know much about butterflies and I had very few mental images when he'd mention a new species. I don't think you need to be a lepidopterist to enjoy the book--the author also tells about his travels and meals and beers and encounters with friends and lawmen (when sleeping in his car). And he tells his story with obvious intelligence and dry wit, with many music references and passing thoughts which will make you laugh if you catch their meaning.

It is certainly a long book since it covers a year's worth of travels, but it's not as if there is a complicated plot or a lot of characters you have to remember. You don't have to read this nonstop, and I suspect it's more enjoyable if you don't. As the author did, take some time off between trips and appreciate them more. The world needs more people like Mr. Pyle.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've never collected butterflies and don't know much about them but I like getting books on unfamiliar topics; it's like opening up to a new adventure. First I was surprised at the length of this book, over 500 pages. I looked forward to reading it.

I kind of got the idea that this book would be more about the adventure of catching butterflies from the author's perspective rather than the subject of butterflies itself. While I respect the author's passion and knowledge regarding butterflies, it became monotonous reading about all the little details of his trip.

I'm sure there are others who love butterflies who would enjoy reading about the author's road trip. But at over 500 pages it was a bit too much for me. I wasn't interested enough to read about all the nuances of his long trip.
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