From Publishers Weekly
For some people, bird watching is a compulsion that can become more important than friends, family or career. Richard Koeppel is one of those obsessive birders, and in this candid book, his son shares his story, painting his father as a tragic figure who passionately wanted to become an ornithologist but became the doctor his parents wanted him to be instead. Not surprisingly, Richard's medical career never satisfied him, and he gave it up to become a "Big Lister," one of a group of highly competitive birders who travel the world making lists of their sightings. Over the years he spotted more than 7,000 different species, a number achieved by fewer than a dozen others. Nature writer Koeppel fleshes out his account of Richard's 50-year bird-watching odyssey with facts about this ritualized, expensive sport, including its history, the rules and technicalities of listing, the people and organizations devoted to making the lists, and questions of taxonomy. His hope, he writes, was to forge a closer relationship with his father and understand the "nearly unquenchable" drive that ruled Richard's life, ruined his marriage and made it impossible for him to be close to his children. But in the end, despite trekking alongside his father on birding expeditions, he still can't quite understand it. His book, then, is more poignant than revelatory. Agent, Laurie Liss
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Birding has become one of the most popular outdoor pursuits. What do you get when you combine birding with competition, obsession, and the sheer love of counting? You get a Big Lister, a person who aspires to see every bird species on Earth. The author's father is among the 12 or so birders to have seen 7,000 birds or more, and this is his story. When 11-year old Richard spotted a brown thrasher in a Queens woodland, and then found out how to identify birds from a local bird club, he promptly started a list. Battling with his parents (who drove him into the practice of medicine but were unable to squelch the growing obsession with birds), Richard tried and failed at marriage (though produced the book's author) and ultimately traveled the world in the elusive desire of seeing every species. The psychology of Big Listing--birds becoming a means to an end--is sensitively portrayed. The subtext of listing's effect on the relationship of the author and his father provides immediacy. Nancy BentCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved