The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology
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The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  252 ratings  ·  40 reviews
From Bernd Heinrich, the bestselling author of Winter World, comes the remarkable story of his father's life, his family's past, and how the forces of history and nature have shaped his own life. Although Bernd Heinrich's father, Gerd, a devoted naturalist, specialized in wasps, Bernd tried to distance himself from his “old-fashioned” father, becoming a hybrid: a modern, e...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Ecco (first published 2007)
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Beth Maddaus
Up until December, 2007, I thought that the blogosphere was a place for people to discuss their political interests or their health concerns and since I had neither, I had never ventured in. But, a conversation one night at a dinner party with Amity peaked my interest. The next day, I discovered that I could search for blogs through igoogle using keywords. Well, I had just finished reading The Winter World for the third time and decided to search blogs using the author's name. I typed in Bernd H...more
Beth
Memoirs don’t usually strike me as fast paced and action packed, but this one was. From stories of specimen collecting in Africa to the account of two women’s flight from the Red Army after WWII with two toddlers in tow, this story is breathtaking. I found it difficult to put down.

I initially picked up this book after reading The Mind of the Raven by the same author. It left me intrigued about Bernd Heinrich’s story — what sort of person spends his life studying wildlife with such intensity — ev...more
Linda
So engrossing that I've already ordered two other titles by Bernd Heinrich from the library: "Mind of the Raven," and "Ravens in Winter." And so engrossing that I finished all 461 pages (including every footnote and reference, cutline, intro and epilogue) in four nights of staying up late reading.

Bernd Heinrich's memoir combines high drama with astute observation and attention to detail, especially in the natural world. It's ostensibly the story of his father's charmed life on an almost magical...more
Michael
Heinrich's memoir provides a fascinating perspective on the lives of ordinary Germans caught up in the extraordinary events of the two world wars. It also chronicles the transition from traditional taxonomy to the world of evolutionary biology, with the author's father (an autodidact with an expertise in ichneuman wasp taxonomy) representing the disappearing world of collecting and describing species based on appearances and with the formally educated author representing the new experimental bio...more
Joanna
This is an amazing book. It covers a lot of ground, and does so thoroughly. I enjoyed reading about the author's father's coming of age and history, and learned a lot about World War I while doing so. I learned a lot about taxidermy, and natural history, and wasps, and Expeditions. Then we moved into the story of the family, and as Bernd was growing up I was fascinated by the experiences he had as a young boy growing up in as an immigrant American. It was especially fun to read about Maine and V...more
Eleanor Lux
This is my most favorite book in the last 5 years by my most favorite writer. I have loved all his books about animals and nature but this one also brought in another view of personal history I had never been exposed to.
Paula
Jan 25, 2009 Paula rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: intelligent beings.
This is the reality version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Page-turning fairy tale of real life.
Sandy
I picked this up because Heinrich was the commencement speaker at my son's graduation this year. I didn't know who he was so I figured I ought to read something by him (for the record, he is a better writer than commencement speaker). It's taken a while -- this is not a short book. It's a fascinating read though it tends to drag toward the end.

It's a memoir -- both a biography of Heinrich's naturalist father, Gerd, with whom he has a contentious relationship, and an autobiography of Bernd himse...more
Nola
The writing is wonderful. Heinrich is very readable. The subject matter, on the other hand, is some of the most amazing characters, feats, and ideals of which I have heard. Heinrich discovers some of this history of his family himself for the first time,which heightens the emotional pull of the book. The history includes both the tragedy of war and the self-inflicted hardships of years of specimen collecting in distant, disease-plagued areas. The latter were undertaken when communication and tra...more
Karen
Aug 18, 2008 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who enjoy nature and scince in general
Recommended to Karen by: found it on the book shelf
Picked this one up because I thought I would find out who wrote a book I studied in a college class, but alas twas not Herr Heinrich or his father. I related very well to Bernd. Our family was fascinated with nature and the outdoors. My brother and I spent hours watching ant lions, climbing trees to look for things. Bern had a hard life with his stern "prussian" father yet he did flourish. His parents were a product of their culture cast adrift in a foreign land and it bore no resemblance to the...more
Alison
Jun 12, 2011 Alison added it
Shelves: birds
A memoir by biologist/environmental ecologist/writer Bernd Heinrich, best known for his books on raven behavior. It follows the history of his German-Polish family, especially the life of his father Gerd, through two world wars and over to America. Gerd was a specialist on the taxonomy of ichneumon wasps (look them up) and a collector of museum specimens (mostly birds and small mammals), two pursuits (really obsessions) that took him on many expeditions all over the world. Bernd reflects on how...more
Art
This is the family history of my favorite non fiction authors written as a autobiography. Bernd writes about his father's life and his own life as his father raised him to appreciate natural history while living through WW1 and WW2 and then fleeing the Russians after WW2. His father's life and Bernd's own life has been a fascinating journey from Germany and then to America and traveling around the world collecting animals for museums and furthering human knowledge about our fellow inhabitants of...more
Tom
This book left me very satisfied. I received it for a gift. My sister-in-law told me she thought I'd relate to it, being a Polish outdoor type. Yup. Normally, I don't find reading history interesting, but this thing pulled me in, mostly because it was a familiar back story, one of displacement, of people fleeing the country for their lives, and of contact with the natural world. That's part of my generation's Polish heritage. I knew that Heinrich had written about ravens, and that he lived in Ma...more
Jeanne
His father's story is quite interesting. Then he goes into his own story, which is good. But then I found myself wondering when it was ever going to end. At that point, I realized I was no longer enjoying it and decided not to finish it.
Phayvanh
Jul 29, 2007 Phayvanh rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history and nature lovers
There are those people in the world from whom, after hearing their true story, you develop a different outlook to world and a deeper appreciation for the person. I never knew Bernd Heinrich, but if I had, I would have felt this way after reading his memoir, The Snoring Bird.

Not only did the author write his own story about his coming of age in a time of war, under the critical eye of his naturalist father, but he also tells his father's story, upon which so much of it depends.

A father-son tale w...more
Misty
I am loving this book - but I love everything Heinrich writes. He is a very comfortable author and has a real passion for field biology and behavior. So I'm a bit biased. But even if you're not a biologist, this is a marvelous story.

addendum - having finished the book, I still think it was marvelous. The first three-quarters told the story of his family in Poland and their survival during WWII; then followed them to the US and their settlement here. All extremely interesting and engaging. The la...more
Chris
I personally found this very interesting not only from a biologists perspective, but as the son of German immigrants. Dr. Heinrich does an excellent job of describing the adventures he and his family experienced as they substantially contributed to the world of science and biology while surviving some horrible life events (i.e., World Wars I and II). Dr. Heinrich is only a couple of years younger than my father. I'm certain they were in Bremerhaven, Germany, at the same time during World War II....more
Jess
What a fascinating, delightful book. Heinrich blends family history (and it's quite a history- involving two world wars, many daring escapes, and plenty of drama) with incredibly vivid descriptions of the natural world on several different continents. There were a few pages here and there where he went into a little bit of detail about his research and it was a bit over my head so I just skimmed over them. For the most part I was glued to the page. I occasionally had to stop reading to share int...more
A.D. Morel
Long an admirer of Heinrich for his research on bumblebees and his insights about ravens, I came to this book late. I liked the cover art, but passed the book up for lighter fare. Finally I picked it up and was so glad that I did. The is a story in which love of wasps helps to save a desperate family from starvation. The enterprise of Heinrich's father in post WW II northern Germany was an inspiration to me. This is not only well-written and entertaining, but a testament of the human spirit and...more
Beth
Fascinating story of a young man's journey from boyhood with an eccentric naturalist father. He started out as a privileged child living on a country estate in pre-WWII Poland and because of the Nazi's his family fled to the US and ended up in rural Maine. Interesting look at how Bernd came to love the natural world and eventually the study and teaching of biology. A look back at a way of life that is perhaps no more and how biological study and research has changed from the going on of expediti...more
Dave Murphy
Teaches how life and learning are intertwined.
Michael Wallace
Fantastic book, full of interesting biology, history, and human interest. The story of the author's complicated relationship with his father was poignant and frustrating in turns.

I came across Heinrich after reading a shorter account of his life in a collection of stories of children who survived the end of WW2 in Germany and realized that he only lived a few miles from me and was an author in his own right. I took a look at his books and saw they were right up my alley. I'm also reading Winter...more
David Mccarrick
I enjoyed this book. It was a little long, but was very fascinating. It described a fascinating father-son relationship. It combined biology, history and psychology into a interesting look at the movement away from the honor-driven taxonomy of Gerd Heinrich to the Americanized biology of Bernd Heinrich.
Tracy Simmons
This was a big read with a little bit of everything... history, science, psychology... history of science. It was a book the kids and I took on as a group read and boy did it generate a lot of discussion. I was looking for a good science read, and it certainly delivered that and more.
Bcoghill Coghill
Feb 28, 2008 Bcoghill Coghill rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Natural History buffs
Recommended to Bcoghill by: the bunyip
My, but his father had a lot of wives. At one time!
Great biography of father and son naturalists. I have been a fan of Bernd for many years. I look forward to meeting him sometime.
This is a very readable book and includes much history of middle europe in a personal sense.
Parker
I have about a foot and a half of Heinrich on my shelf, and this is one of the best. After books about geese, ravens, trees, and honeybees, he takes on his own family, including some explanation for what leads him on to his own research questions.
Kathy
I don't agree with the author on some things that he believes, but this is a very interesting and well written book.
The subtitle is a good description of the book, but truly a very interesting family and the miracles that sustained them.
Nancy
Maybe a little too much describing of academic research but I enjoyed this. An interesting and odd family. I do very much like the author's view of nature and admire the way he has passed that on to his students and his children.
Kate
wonderful memoir; i liked the naturalist/biologist backdrop.i am curious about the natural world, so i enjoyed the author's budding and then maturing curiosity. interesting fellow.
Dan
Wonderful writing as always, but subject matter expands to include World Wars I and II and especially focuses on his family and father. Truly interesting reading on all levels.
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Bernd Heinrich was born in Germany (April 19, 1940) and moved to Wilton, Maine as a child. He studied at the University of Maine and UCLA and is Professor Emeriti of Biology at the University of Vermont.

He is the author of many books including Winter World, Ravens in Winter, Mind of the Raven and Why We Run. Many of his books focus on the natural world just outside the cabin door.

Heinrich has wo...more
More about Bernd Heinrich...
Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds Why We Run: A Natural History A Year In The Maine Woods Ravens in Winter

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