I was immediately attracted to this book because the title pretty much defines me. I was raised by an avid birder and my older brother might rival author Eli J. Knapp for obsessive birder behavior and my own children might think of me as too obsessive for their tastes (if they only knew…).
I am a little conflicted on this book. It is presented as a book-length work of non-fiction, and judging by the title, about family birding and the struggles (or “delightful horror”) of birding as a family. The non-fiction part is correct.
The book reads as though it is a series of essays, all about various aspects of a personal experience birding, and then loosely connected to make one long narrative. At first I found this jarring … wondering how we got from story A to story B, but once I decided to read this like a series of individual essays, I found the reading easier because I wasn’t always trying to connect the different people in a story.
But as to the ‘family’ part … I guess, if you roughly consider your family a wider audience – particularly, say, your students if you are a university-level teacher – then maybe yes, we can find some family birding here, but this title implies something that really isn’t delivered.
And, again looking at the title, I’m not quite sure where the ‘delightful horror’ is. Is it because I am also a birder (though not nearly as obsessive) that I don’t see the horror? Or is it because there really isn’t anything horrific here and it’s just hyperbole to sell the book? I am not sure.
To the stories themselves … Knapp is a delightful storyteller and he clearly understands that his passion is on the obsessive side and pokes a little fun at it. Occasionally we get some good information about some specific birds that Knapp is chasing in one of his essays. For the very casual birder, I think these little scientific insights are good, but for the more faithful, these might be superfluous.
At times this is clever and entertaining and I know birders who will recognize themselves here at various stages and I was really hoping I might find a book that I could share with some birding friends, but as my reactions is a shrug of the shoulders and an “eh” this turns out not to be a book that I’d eagerly give to fellow birders.
Looking for a good book? The Delightful Horror of Family Birding by Eli J. Knapp has a misleading title, but the series of essays within may appeal to some and dedicated (i.e. “obsessive”) birders will recognize themselves herein.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Delightful Horror of Family Birding
author: Eli J. Knapp
publisher: Torrey House Press
paperback, 200 pages