I know this isn’t how you’re supposed to judge, but this book has a cover photo of a Jackdaw chowing down on chips* and a blurb by Jamie Oliver. In some ways, this particular cover can let you extrapolate everything you need to know about the whole gosh-darn volume.
1. It is very, very British. Although much of its advice – from the importance of looking up to the ins and outs of digiscoping – could apply anywhere, at its heart this is a London book by a Londoner, focused on the Song Thrushes and Wheatears and Blue Tits of a very particular island. If you missed the cover somehow, you’ll know when you get to the completely unironic sentence “Everyone loves starlings.” As such, some of the details – like the lists of native plants suitable for the wildlife garden, and of course the entire section of species accounts – may be unhelpful, even confusing, for particularly literal beginning birds in other locales.
2. It is very, very enthusiastic. Lindo’s personality, often slangy and joking, shines through on every page, and he sometimes repeats himself in his urgency to get his message across. Since his message is “look how awesome this is! And it’s right in your backyard!” this is hard to begrudge. More experienced birders, though, may find themselves skimming.
3. Linked to #2, it is very, very much for the beginner, the ornithology equivalent of the person who has decided that their children shouldn’t be eating nothing but crisps for lunch but who doesn’t quite know what to do next. This book is for people who have noticed a Robin or a Wood Pigeon or a Mute Swan and want to know more. It contains the obligatory explanations of optics, field guides, appropriate clothing, and birding etiquette that we all needed starting out, but for many readers of this blog will now feel like second nature.
For its target audience, however, this is a handy compact volume of highly useful tutelage.
How to Be an Urban Birder by David Lindo, Princeton University Press, $18.95