I announced last month that the kind folks at Pantheon Books gave me extra copies of Simon Barnes’ brilliant How To Be A (Bad) Birdwatcher to distribute to readers as I saw fit. Since this book is so transformational, I wanted to make sure that its recipients were truly open to the potentially life-changing influence of birding. So, I asked people to explain why they wanted to become bad birdwatchers, or at least better ones. The responses were extremely persuasive.
I’ll say up front that both books are going to New Yorkers, but this has little to do with my Empire State bias. The two best responses just happened to come from within 200 miles of the Bronx. It must be the water.
Bad birdwatcher #1, who we’ll call Corey, swayed me with a story of star-crossed love and the tension of being caught between conflicting passions. What can I say? I’m a romantic. I’m sure you’ll feel the same once you read Corey’s essay:
Why should I get one of your two copies of How to be a (Bad) Birdwatcher? First off, I am a New Yorker, an upstate New Yorker, but a New Yorker nonetheless. It’s important to show love to your fellow residents of the Empire State.
Second, I am a lifelong wildlife/nature lover who has lately realized that birdwatching is the best way to combine my love of the outdoors with my love of photography. I have plunged headlong into the world of birds and have the insect bites and sunburn to prove it. Since I started keeping track in early May I have managed to spot 81 species of bird.
Okay, I admit the previous two reasons are pretty weak. An accident of geography puts us in the same state, and I imagine that most people taking the time to explain why they deserve a copy of the book probably are into birds themselves. So why pick me?
Well, I have a long-term girlfriend who I love very much. She loves me too, but she doesn’t so much love the birding. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s actually accompanied me on several outings, and I think I caught some excitement in her voice when she borrowed my binoculars and found a pileated woodpecker looking back at her. I just think she needs a little extra push that a book that would cause you to write, “I defy anyone to read it through and not take up birdwatching” could provide.
And, not for nothing, there is some urgency involved in getting her into birdwatching. We are planning an Autumn visit to her sister and brother-in-law in Southern California, a mere 10 minutes from the Salton Sea, which, apparently, is a pretty darn good spot to see some birds. Now I know I’ll be able to convince her to at least do a day trip, but if she were really into birdwatching, well, the sky’s the limit.
So I guess my motive for wanting the book is to turn the love of my life from tolerant of her man’s “quirky” habit into a fellow bird geek. And if 10,000 Birds isn’t about bringing people together in the shared joy of avian adventures then I don’t know what is. So thank you for your time, and good birding.
Corey, I hope you and your girlfriend enjoy your copy of How To Be A (Bad) Birdwatcher. The rest of you should return tomorrow to meet Bad Birdwatcher #2.