401 pages, no illustrations
Early in 2013 Neil Hayward was at a crossroads. He didn't want to open a bakery or whatever else executives do when they quit a lucrative but unfulfilling job. He didn't want to think about his failed relationship with "the one" or his potential for ruining a new relationship with "the next one". And he almost certainly didn't want to think about turning forty. And so instead he went birding.
Birding was a lifelong passion. It was only among the birds that Neil found a calm that had eluded him in the confusing world of humans. But this time he also found competition. His growing list of species reluctantly catapulted him into a Big Year – a race to find the most birds in one year. His peregrinations across twenty-eight states and six provinces in search of exotic species took him to a hoarfrost-covered forest in Massachusetts to find a Fieldfare; to Lake Havasu, Arizona, to see a rare Nutting's Flycatcher; and to Vancouver for the Red-flanked Bluetail. Neil's Big Year was as unplanned as it was accidental: It was the perfect distraction to life.
Neil shocked the birding world by finding 749 species of bird and breaking the long-standing Big Year record. He also surprised himself: During his time among the hummingbirds, tanagers, and boobies, he found a renewed sense of confidence and hope about the world and his place in it.
"[...] Lost Among the Birds is the perfect title for this book. It reflects the fact that, for the vast majority of the year, Hayward was indeed out among the birds. But ‘lost’ also reflects how the author viewed his place in life. His big year was remarkable for the number of birds he saw. However, the changes it wrought in his outlook on life (along with the help of medicine and the support of an unbelievably patient partner) were of even greater consequence. That story, told in an entertaining, witty style (I can’t believe this is Hayward’s first book!), make this a most pleasurable read, even for those who aren’t hard-core big year listers. [...]"
– Grant McCreary (08-09-2016), read the full review at The Birder's Library
"As we follow Hayward from Key West to Vancouver, the Pribilofs to Texas, we are treated to his trenchant observations of the human worlds he encounters along the way, a wonderful leavening of avian tidbits, and sheer wonder at some of the species he sees [...] Readers will be intrigued and inspired."
– Booklist, starred review
"Written in Hayward's self-ironic yet disarmingly friendly style, this is an absorbing memoir and Big Year book. Hayward smartly re-crafts the birding adventures related in his Accidental Big Year blog to create a different kind of narrative [...] The book tells about these quests within the framework of Hayward's personal journey [...] and the surprising ways in which his birding obsession made his life whole."
– 10,000 Birds
"Inherently interesting and impressively well written, organized and presented, Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year is especially recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community library collections."
– Midwest Book Review
"[T]he birding tales are very good – exactly the kind you want from a book like this [...] Most of us will never attempt a Big Year; Lost Among the Birds will make you glad that Neil Hayward did."
– Hipster Birder
"Neil Hayward's prose is disarmingly honest – I found it piercing and fascinating, with its seamless blend of memoir, gentle wisdom and bird-revelations. This is a nature cure for bird-geeks: a hilarious adventure that reignites the will to live, to love and to follow the bird-balm of The Big Year."
– Miriam Darlington, author of Otter Country
"Hayward is a remarkable observer – not only of birds and landscapes, but also of human nature. His keen insights and candid introspection, with a fine balance of humor and poignancy, elevate this story to something more than a mere birding tale, and you don't have to know a thing about birds to love this book."
– Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway
"It's a delight to join brilliant, witty Neil Hayward on this year-long, madcap dash through some of America's weirdest, wildest places. And while chasing rare birds yields excitement aplenty, his story shares even more: these are transformative journeys. The author's feathered quarry give his broken life wings"
– Sy Montgomery, author of Birdology
"A quirky, entertaining and often surprising account of how one man pitted himself against the ultimate North American birding challenge – and won!"
– Stephen Moss, naturalist and author of Birds Britannia
"Birders and non-birders alike will relate to his search for fulfillment and his delight in "the simple joy that comes from seeing the unexpected. A dryly witty account of one birder's quest for a record-breaking Big Year, and the simple joy it afforded him."
– Shelf Awareness for Readers
"Lost is the best Big Year story I've read, a blend of a man trying to find birds and his emotional footing."
– Everett Herald
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