A classic in the making—an account of the biggest year in bird-watching
In the USA, some 50 million people lay claim to being
bird-watchers or “birders,” spending billions of dollars on birding-related
travel and membership fees every year. A select, and utterly obsessed, few
compete in one of the world’s quirkiest contests—the race to spot the most
species in North America in a single year. And 1998 wasn’t just a big year. It
was the biggest. The Big Year is
Pulitzer Prize-winner Mark Obmascik’s account of what was to become the greatest
birding year of all time.
It was freak weather conditions that ensured all previous
records were broken, but what becomes clear within the pages of this classic
portrait of obsession is that while our feathered friends may be the objective
of the Big Year competition, it’s the curious activities and behavioral
patterns of the pursuing “homo sapiens” that are the real cause for concern. It
is a contest that reveals much of the human character in extremes. Such are the
author’s powers of observation that he brilliantly brings to life and gets
under the skin of these extraordinary, eccentric, and obsessive birders while
empathizing with and eventually succumbing to the all-consuming nature of their
obsession. The result is a wonderfully funny, acutely observed classic to rank
alongside the best of Bill Bryson.
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