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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  473 ratings  ·  74 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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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  473 ratings  ·  74 reviews

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Beth Maddaus
Feb 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
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
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brown
When reading "Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death", one of Heinrich's earlier books, he mentions in passing things he saw or did in the forest shortly after World War 2, when his family was living there and had to scavenge food. He does not elaborate, as his topic then was more nature and less humanity. But, it did pique one's interest. Here he gives us the rest of the story, and it is a whopper.

Heinrich begins near the end, with a visit to his mother ("mamushka"), living alone as an old l
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
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There has not been a Heinrich book I’ve read that I was totally captivated by it. This book is certainly no different though quite different in the nature of its subject from his other work.

This book deals with two subjects, his father’s life and how he himself became the writer and scientist he is. Both are fascinating stories in themselves.

Gerd Heinrich was born in 1896 in Berlin. His father was a physician and his mother the heiress to a 3300 acre farm in Borowke, Poland. Borowke was a beauti
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jeff DeRosa
Jul 30, 2016 rated it liked it
My three star rating is a bit misleading because The Snoring Bird is written in two parts; and part one is a very different book than part two. Part one of this book is outstanding.

Part One, "The Old World," details the author's family history that led toward emigration to America. This journey spans two world wars from the perspective of, as the author says, "the losing side." The result is a fascinating mix of natural and political history that should not be missed. If this book concluded aft
Nov 07, 2014 added it
Shelves: library-book
Fascinating and wide ranging. Natural history, WWII Poland/Germany, growing up in Maine, studying the temperature regulation of bees, the cataloging of wasps, running for 24 hours. So much.

I do wish I could find a recording of the "distinctive seven-note Heinrich whistle" that the family used as signal when separated in the woods - it intrigues me.
Bill Yates
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started the book yesterday and finished it this evening. That says more than any words I can write. I was carried along by the fascinating biographical details, the firsthand account of the horrors of World War II, and by the interesting descriptions of nature and the inhabitants of the natural world.
Eleanor Lux
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dennis McDonald
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review of Part 1

I'm almost finished with Part 1 of this fascinating book. It is one of the best example of a "true life adventure" I have ever read.

The scope of the tale is very broad and at times reads like fiction. The author describes his family's origins as well-off but hard-working landowners in rural Poland. Part one focuses on his father's experiences as an amateur and then professional biologist, as a lover of multiple women, as a world traveling naturalist, as a soldier, and as a leader
Dennis McDonald
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review of Part 1 (published July 15, 2017)

I'm almost finished with Part 1 of this fascinating book. It is one of the best example of a "true life adventure" I have ever read.

The scope of the tale is very broad and at times reads like fiction. The author describes his family's origins as well-off but hard-working landowners in rural Poland. Part one focuses on his father's experiences as an amateur and then professional biologist, as a lover of multiple women, as a world traveling naturalist, as
Jun 09, 2011 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
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Anna Mussmann
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
This memoir tells multiple stories. The first (and, for me, by far the most fascinating) is an account of the author's family history. His grandparents were owners of an estate in a part of Prussia that was given to Poland after World War I, became German again during World War II, and was transformed into a communist collective after the Yalta Conference. His father was a World War I flying ace (invited to join the Red Baron's squadron), a naturalist and fiercely intrepid explorer, and an autoc ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
This book is not for everyone. I am interested in natural history, and birds in particular, so this was in many ways right up my alley. I found that there were areas where the book really lagged, and at over 400 pages, I felt that it could have used extensive editing. I was glad I persevered through the early history of Bernd Heinrich's family and country, because the story really took life once the author was telling his own story, as he actually remembered it. Things again lagged when Heinrich ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bernd Heinrich is one of my favorite authors so I was excited to find he'd written another book. This one incorporates his love of the natural world with the story of his family (mainly his father during the first part of the book) in war torn Europe during WWI and WWII, and then the family's immigration to the US later. His rather eccentric father collected animal specimens throughout the world for museum collections in order to support his passion--collecting and classifying ichneumons (type o ...more
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Hooray! I finally finished this tome. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, particularly the history told through the story of one family's experience. The biology was not quite as interesting as I had hoped (insects aren't my passion so it was hard to relate). The author supposedly writes about his family's journey, but the book really centers on his relationship with his father. I would have loved to hear more about his mother. What woman gives birth to children and then lets them be raised by her love ...more
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-read
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
Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I would say this is right up there with the books I've loved most in my life. I have read a lot by Bernd Heinrich, and I read this book eager to know more of his life. It's a fascinating life, and then, amazingly, in the middle came a story that was almost exactly a story from my own life---Heinrich wanted to go to several colleges he was accepted at, but couldn't afford them, and so went to the University of Maine at Orono, and realized it was a wonderful place. When he talked about his early d ...more
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Read this for my bird club book club. Otherwise, I would have never picked it up and would have missed a great book. Heinrich's life and his father's spanned both Europe and the U.S. with collecting trips to many other spots. Both collected amazing amounts for natural knowledge in quite different ways. Bernt was obviously a fine scientist in his own right, and I was surprised by how much time he spent of the issue of pleasing or not pleasing his father. The role of women in this book was quite i ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dale Levy
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding and completely in grossing

This book was recommended to me my one I admire enormously. And you know what: she was right. It is not only an amazing read but so chalked full of facts and thoughts that while reading it, I would find myself still wondering where it was going and how the people involved related to one another. One really interesting quality of the book was how thoroughly the writer read his subjects, even when they seemed to me so difficult as parents.
or how incredibly in
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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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 Emeritus 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 w
“Hitler had achieved popular support, and then seized power, by draping himself in the flag of the country the people loved, and the veil of the church they worshipped.” 0 likes
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