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Books about the real James Bond, owls, eagles, and more

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Bald Eagle. Photo by Scott Zimmermann
A Bald Eagle is featured in Suzie Gilbert’s book Unflappable: A Novel. Photo by Scott Zimmermann

The “Bookshelf” section of our July/August 2020 issue reviewed eight books, including one on the real James Bond, a collection of essays from President Theodore Roosevelt, a celebration of Blakiston’s Fish-Owl, a novel featuring a captive Bald Eagle rescue, and more.

Vesper FlightsVesper Flights, by Helen Macdonald, Grove Atlantic, 2020, hardcover, 272 pages, $27.

Helen Macdonald, author of the widely acclaimed H is for Hawk, says the subject that underlies everything she writes is a “love for the glittering world of non-human life around us.” This new collection of her essays proves her right.  She explores topics such as captivity, freedom, and flight while describing, for example, her observations of the massive migrations of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, the strangeness of birds’ nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

Fellow Madavor Media brand The Writer also featured Vesper Flights on its list of nonfiction books for the fall of 2020

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Theodore Roosevelt: Naturalist in the ArenaTheodore Roosevelt: Naturalist in the Arena, Edited by Char Miller and Clay S. Jenkinson, University of Nebraska Press, 2020, paperback, 264 pages, $24.95.

The April 2003 issue of this magazine included the story “A Life with Birds,” a profile of Theodore Roosevelt, our nation’s first green president and one of the only birdwatchers ever to occupy the Oval Office. This book, a collection of essays about Roosevelt’s many encounters with the great outdoors, argues that in the history of American birding, TR is as important a figure as John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, Second EditionPeterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, Second Edition, by Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, hardcover, 520 pages, $29.99.

Generations of birdwatchers have relied on Roger Tory Peterson’s field guides, so it is great to see his work carry on, long after his passing. This new edition of his bird guide updates the text and range maps, and much of the art has been touched up to reflect current knowledge. Most notable is that for the first time, the guide includes the birds of Hawai‘i. No fewer than 50 pages of the book are devoted to the birds of the 50th state, including its endemic, introduced, and extinct species. 

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Unflappable: A NovelUnflappable: A Novel, by Suzie Gilbert, Perch Press, 2020, paperback, 328 pages, $19.99.

If you like well-told fiction that is grounded in the real world — especially the world of birds, wildlife refuges, and wildlife rehabbers — then you’ll enjoy Suzie Gilbert’s debut novel. She takes readers on a wild, comic, and sweet ride. The story follows 25-year-old Luna Burke, who is licensed to take care of injured and orphaned wildlife, as she smuggles a live Bald Eagle from her billionaire husband’s private zoo in Florida to an eagle sanctuary in Canada. The situations she encounters along the way will keep you flipping the pages.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest OwlOwls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl, by Jonathan C. Slaght, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020, hardcover, 368 pages, $28.

After a chance encounter with a Blakiston’s Fish-Owl, the world’s largest owl, Jonathan C. Slaght soon began a five-year journey, searching for the enormous, enigmatic creature in the lush, remote forests of eastern Russia. Despite a wingspan of 6 feet and a height of over 2 feet, the fish-owl is highly elusive. Slaght’s story celebrates the owl and highlights the everyday work of field science and conservation in an unforgiving landscape.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

In Search of Meadowlarks: Birds, Farms, and Food in Harmony with the LandIn Search of Meadowlarks: Birds, Farms, and Food in Harmony with the Land, by John M. Marzluff, Yale University Press, 2020, hardcover, 352 pages, $28.

Feeding Earth’s ever-growing human population has vast implications for wildlife conservation. In this new book, wildlife biologist John M. Marzluff takes a personal approach to sustainable agriculture by traveling to farms and ranches from Montana to Costa Rica. He argues that agriculture and wildlife can coexist if we reward farmers for conservation action, cut back on meat consumption, and improve food production.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The Real James Bond: A True Story of Identity Theft, Avian Intrigue, and Ian FlemingThe Real James Bond: A True Story of Identity Theft, Avian Intrigue, and Ian Fleming, by Jim Wright, Schiffer Publishing, 2020, hardcover, 144 pages, $24.99.

The whole world knows that James Bond is 007, the fictional British spy. The real James Bond, however, was an ornithologist and an expert on the birds of the Caribbean.  In this biography, Jim Wright tells the real Bond’s story, from his privileged yet tragic childhood to his early interest in birds to his travels throughout the West Indies. And we meet Ian Fleming, the novelist who appropriated Bond’s name for his iconic character. 

Enjoy this interview with author Jim Wright

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Flights of Passage: An Illustrated Natural History of Bird MigrationFlights of Passage: An Illustrated Natural History of Bird Migration, by Mike Unwin and David Tipling, Yale University Press, 2020, hardcover, 288 pages, $40.

Before the late 19th century, humans could not conceive of birds’ migratory journeys. People believed birds hibernated in crevices or in the mud of ponds — or changed into other species. We know better now, and in this gorgeous book, celebrated nature writer Mike Unwin and award-winning photographer David Tipling share the latest science and capture the absolute wonder of the phenomenon. The authors focus on 67 bird species and how they make their way in the world.

Enjoy this slideshow featuring a few of Tipling’s images in Flights of Passage: An Illustrated Natural History of Bird Migration.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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