278 pages, illustrations
There are nearly 10,000 known species of bird on the planet and Richard Koeppel has seen over 7000 of them. But what drives a man to travel to sixty countries and spend a fortune to count birds?
Because the price he paid was more than just financial. His relentless pursuit of birds was cause and effect of a failed marriage, the breakdown of his relationship with his son, and obtuse career decisions.
Koeppel's obsession began at the age of eleven in Queens, New York, when he first spotted a Brown Thrasher and jotted down the sighting in a notebook. It became the first bird on his 'life list'. Several decades later, he added an astonishing 517 birds to that list on a single trip to Kenya. And that was when the list really took over.
He ended the last romantic relationship he would ever have, scaled down his medical practice, and decided to see every bird on earth. In doing so he became a member of a sub-culture of competitive bird-watchers all pursuing the same goal.
To See Every Bird on Earth explores the thrill of the chase, the all-absorbing crusade at the expense of all else, and travel to places exotic, dangerous and commonplace. It's also the story of obsession and how it defines us. But most of all, it's the story of a father and son and of how the very thing that pushed them apart also provide the route towards reconciliation.
"[...] Birds play a prominent role in this book, but it is really more about the father-son relationship between the author and his listing-obsessed dad. This focus, and the great lengths taken to explain much about birding and listing, perhaps makes this one of the best “bird books” for non-birders. However, it is written well enough to keep the interest of even the most bird-obsessed of readers (of which I’m probably one)."
- Grant McCreary (23-09-2008), read the full review at The Birder's Library
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Dan Koeppel is a well-known outdoors, nature and adventure writer who's been published in The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Audobon, Popular Science, and in National Geographic Adventure, where he is a contributing editor.