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After stumbling upon a book of photographs depicting extinct animals, B.J. Hollars became fascinated by the creatures that are no longer with us; specifically, extinct North American birds.
How, he wondered, could we preserve so beautifully on film what we've failed to preserve in life?
And so begins his yearlong journey to find out, one that leads him from bogs to art museums, from archives to Christmas Counts, until he at last comes as close to extinct birds as he ever will during a behind-the-scenes visit at the Chicago Field Museum.
Heartbroken by the birds we've lost, Hollars takes refuge in those that remain. Armed with binoculars, a field guide, and knowledgeable friends, he begins his transition from budding birder to environmentally conscious citizen, a first step on a longer journey toward understanding the true tragedy of a bird's song silenced forever.
Told with charm and wit, Flock Together is a remarkable memoir that shows how "knowing" the natural world – even just a small part – illuminates what it means to be a global citizen and how only by embracing our ecological responsibilities do we ever become fully human. A moving elegy to birds we've lost, Hollars's exploration of what we can learn from extinct species will resonate in the minds of readers long beyond the final page.
B.J. Hollars is an assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. He is the author of numerous books, including This Is Only a Test, From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us about Life, Death, and Being Human (2015), and Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America.
"A finely crafted and often profound memoir."
– Geoff Kronik, Colorado Review
"An insightful memoir."
"While world travelers gain a broad picture of our planet, Hollars illustrates the world of information and interest within a few feet of our front door."
– Bill Schwab, E Missourian
"A wonderful read [...] It reminds us that while we need to strive and protect species that are at risk, we must also place value on keeping common species common."
– Tianna Burke, Canadian Field-Naturalist
"You'd think that nonfiction about extinct birds would be a trip into the void, but not in B.J. Hollars's capable hands. Hollars takes us from specimen cabinets to his own backyard in a ceaseless pursuit of birds. They become a kind of compass for human morality in Flock Together. Lest that sound too heavy, be assured there is joy here too, in the very act of being attentive."
– Christopher Cokinos, author of Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds
"This book should appeal to anyone with a curiosity about the world of nature. The topics, writing, and appealing voice of the author make this volume a most engaging read."
– Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction
"Flock Together is the highly satisfying tale of a fledgling birder. Hollars conveys an infectious sense of awe and excitement for every bird he spots. Yet this is so much more than just a catalog of sightings. It is also about the author's entry into a community of intriguing characters – some brilliant, some eccentric, yet all bound by their fierce love for birds."
– Justin Hocking, author of The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld?