A new, notable anthology
Here at BirdWatching, we get a lot of books — nonfiction, memoirs, photography, guides. And, like many of our readers, our bookshelves are overflowing to the point where we’re beyond alphabetizing or using the Dewey Decimal system. We just hope to keep the books off the floor.
So it’s not big news when we receive a review copy of a birding book. However, one title that caught our eye was the new anthology Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White, a follow-up to the 2007 Good Birders Don’t Wear White, in which noted birders and authors wrote about their lifelong love of birds. Priced low and in small paperback format, the original was a big hit among birders and was reprinted several times. The sequel features 37 new essays from acclaimed birders such as Richard Crossley, David Lindo, and Noah Strycker, as well as BirdWatching’s own Kenn Kaufman, Pete Dunne, and Chuck Hagner. On page 28 of this issue, you can read two of the essays from the new edition: Hagner’s “Why I’m a Patch Birder” and naturalist Jen Brumfield’s “Chasing Jaegers.”
The creative vision behind the series, editor Lisa White of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, told me that the idea (and titles) for the books came from an essay by hummingbird expert Sheri Williamson. At a 2005 birding festival in Cape May, New Jersey, White and her colleagues “started talking about what a book called Good Birders Don’t Wear White would be,” she explains. “We [talked] about getting different writers to write little essays. On the plane home I was thinking about it and started making a list of possible contributors, and by the time I got home I had more than 50 writers whom I could approach.”
Originally, White and her team were going for humor, but they quickly realized that comedy is hard. “We switched the theme to light, not laugh-out-loud funny,” she says. “That’s why we got to that artist, Robert Braunfield, because we were specifically looking for more of a cartoon style to go with the light and fun tone of the book.” Indeed, you can see for yourself his whimsical style on page 33.
Not every book has a larger purpose, but this one surely does. “What we really wanted to achieve,” White says, “was to have active avid birders express or get at the heart of what it is they love about birds — why they devote so much of their time and energy to this hobby, with the aim of helping others to understand the lure of it for them.” She could just as well be stating our goal with this magazine.
Lee Mergner, publisher
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