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The Meaning of Birds

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  128 ratings  ·  28 reviews
One of our most eloquent nature writers offers a passionate and informative celebration of birds and their ability to help us understand the world we live in. As well as exploring how birds achieve the miracle of flight; why birds sing; what they tell us about the seasons of the year and what their presence tells us about the places they inhabit, The Meaning of Birds muses ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by Pegasus Books
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Average rating 4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  128 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Birds are all around us, they are the wild creatures that we encounter every day. They have fascinated us for millennia with their mastery of the air and ability to produce the most beautiful songs. In this book, Barnes wants us to pause and consider just how much we rely on them and them on us. Covering all manner of topics, from the way that their feathers enable them to fly, how they define the seasons, their ability to navigate huge distances across the planet and how they have fed and ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, 5-stars
"Without the wild world we are less than ourselves."

To me, Simon Barnes is a sports reporter and it has taken a while for me to get used to him also being a wildlife writer. I still think of him writing about football or cricket, but he has crafted a book here that is a delight to read for anyone interested in birds. He has a lifelong interest in birds and is passionately knowledgeable about them. He is also a talented writer.

But it is about more than birds. Barnes uses birds as a launching pad
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: birds
Well-written, engaging, full of fascinating points. Each chapter had a central theme, but the focus would flit around a bit from paragraph to paragraph, sort of like a bird hopping from branch to branch. This style would be perfect for reading a paragraph or two in the evenings, but it was hard me to keep up with.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting, packed full of bird facts and anecdotes, and well organised.
Nadia A
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Delightful read about birds
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not a birder, but a recent NYT book review intrigued me. I was well rewarded. I saw the world from the perspective of this author who clearly and deeply adores birds, and it is infectious. I’ve taken birds for granted and hope that I’ve now learned not to.
For some reason it seems pointless to describe the organization of this book. It is beside the point. The take away for me is appreciation I want to go out and observe these guys to share in the joy that birding brings.
I have a number of
Boria Sax
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Simon Barnes is a devoted bird watcher, who has practiced, and thought intensely about, this activity for decades. He is sort of like a garrulous dinner guest who, though he has interesting things to say, is unable to pace himself, let alone respond to others. The chapters are very short, but, even so, they are only precariously unified and, so far as I can tell, in no systematic order. At times, he will abruptly change the subject, with no transition, from one paragraph to the next. This lack ...more
Gwen Vandendriessche
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
I really enjoyed reading "The Meaning of Birds"! The author is really enthusiastic and writes very well about just how much birds mean to him.
Christie Bane
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the great joys in life is finding a new author to love, the kind that immediately sets me on a quest to read everything else by that author. Sometimes I suspect just from reading the description of a book that I’m going to love the author, and other times it’s a complete surprise. This book is in the second category. I went to the Madison Heights library to renew my card. (I’m moving out of Michigan. But I still want to be able to check out ebooks for another year.) While at the library ...more
Julie Stielstra
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: birds, nature
A rambling, friendly, engaging celebration of birds: their flight, their colors, their feathers, their songs, their history, their places in the world and why some of us love them so. Even - and perhaps especially - when we cannot own or possess them, and don't even want to. Did you know that a wren sings 103 separate notes in an 8-second song? Or that in early medieval New Zealand there were no native mammals (not even us) except three species of bat? And when the humans finally got there, it ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, nature
Barnes has crafted a rich overview of birds in all their dimensions, from feathers and songs to our propensity for killing them in great numbers--and conserving them too. Anchored in Britain, the stories have a global reach, just like their subject, extending to African plains and the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

A blend of the personal and the universal, "The Meaning of Birds" is deeply felt, offering thoughtful takes on how we interact with birds and draw inspiration from them. Each chapter
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Whilst learning the names of the birds and reading the Collins guide I was in part secretly looking for something just like this! This must be what Joanna Newsom read to weave the birds into her songs unfalteringly and with sincere purpose!!... It's so erudite but unaffectedly enthusiastic ! Only there are some typos and it is not the most lyrical writing... it's not very nuanced and sometimes paced strangely.. but this is good in some ways, because he seems to be caught up in the expression!! ...more
Baj Noelle
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I like the theme of the book, sorta. However, I have the constant stereotypes used throughout the book. I’ve made it to page 100 and to be honest I’m not thrilled . The main character seems flat. Like she doesn’t have much personality and she’s not that well described . When I try to picture the main character all I see is a blank canvas with a short hair cut. Also, some of the dialogue is cringe worthy. Like the characters are reading from a script the whole time.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway, non-fiction
Thank you Pegasus Books for sponsoring the giveaway for this simply marvelous book. Anyone who enjoys bird watching should pick up a copy. What can I say? It was a delight to read and the bird engravings were lovely. Heads up to the American crowd, the author is British and the majority of his writing is geared towards the Brits and those who vacation there. However, conservation is a world wide concern and Mr. Barnes addresses this with wit and a light hand. I plan on sharing my copy.
Dani C
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and thought-provoking look at the relationship between birds and humanity throughout history and today. Truly fascinating and I would recommend not just to those interested in birds, but to anyone interesting in the state of the world today, and in the natural world and the way we have shaped it.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fine and very informative books about birds. The author keeps in compact, packed with information. He does a great job of comparing birds to other creatures and to humans and demonstrates how remarkable they are. If you are a birder, or just interested in the living creatures with which we share this planet, you will want to read this one.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book, told in a conversational style with beautiful prose. I could almost hear David Attenborough narrating as I read. Birds are such a varied and fascinating part of the animal kingdom, I'm so glad I read this and I learned many things.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow. What a charming book. Barnes covers the mechanics of flight and feathers, myth- and symbol-making, human language and birdsongs, migration, extinction and conservation, evolution and more. I learned quite a bit about birds and have been talked into buying a nice pair of binoculars.
Ruth Brumby
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very well written and structured. Each chapter covers a different aspect of the relationship between people and birds, including selected information in an entertaining way. The whole builds up to a plea for people to recognise that they need birds for a wide range of reasons.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book: very informative, well written, and great drawings.
Robyn Obermeyer
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The thoughts and history behind birds is cool! I often wonder where birds go and how they survive and this book helped me understand!
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book - full of passion and very engaging.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is structured such that each chapter can be read on its own. It had excellent facts and stories about birds, and was a great book to keep on the coffee table to read a little at a time!
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a pleasure to read! The author has such knowledge and respect for birds and all of the natural world. And he shares it in such a delightful way.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-nature
Loved this book. It explores intersections between humans and birds. The illustrations are lovely, but I kept my iPad handy so I could hear and see the birds that occur throughout
Jan 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting almost essay-like chapters showing how birds have shaped our lives.

I do wish there would have a few more illustrations, and although I know that the author is British, perhaps included more than a handful of birds that exist outside of the UK.
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Oct 20, 2017
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Jun 30, 2018
Anni Blomvall
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Jun 21, 2018
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