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Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds
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July 2016: Biography Memoir > Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds. 4 stars

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LibraryCin | 8940 comments Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds / Olivia Gentile
4 stars

Phoebe Snetsinger grew up in the mid-20th-century, and wanted to be a scientist. She received a good education, but in the 1950s, women (whether or not they had an education) got married and stayed home with the kids. Which is what Phoebe did. But, she was bored, so when she discovered birds when the kids were a bit older, she became obsessed. She spent most of the rest of her life travelling (and when not travelling, she was researching), so she could add as many of the 9,000 (ish, the number changed over the years) species of bird to her “life list” of which birds she'd seen. In 1981, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 1 year. She lived for many more years and, after her diagnosis, upped the frequency of her birding trips. In addition to ending up in many dangerous situations in her travels, her birding obsession came with a cost to her relationships with her husband and children.

I really enjoyed this. I became interested in birds after purchasing a bird feeder many years ago as entertainment for my two inside cats. So, the bird information (and a few drawings) was very interesting to me, though much of the book also focused on Phoebe's obsession, travelling, and how this affected her relationships and the rest of her life. This was very good.


message 2: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6289 comments When we first moved to our home I became obsessed with birds as well. Not to the extent that I would travel or aspire to a life-list, but I definitely spent lots of time at my kitchen windows, looking over the garden / bird feeder / bird bath ... with binoculars and my Audubon Bird Book handy. I kept a list each year of which birds visited our yard.


message 3: by Anita (new) - added it

Anita Pomerantz | 6674 comments Definitely want to read this one! Like BC, I've been pretty interested in my backyard birds. My sons say my favorite things are books, birds, and baseball. Not necessarily in that order.


Jgrace | 3065 comments Anita wrote: "Definitely want to read this one! Like BC, I've been pretty interested in my backyard birds. My sons say my favorite things are books, birds, and baseball. Not necessarily in that order."

I'm a fairweather birder and I cultivate my backyard habitat. But I found this book disturbing. Interesting, but disturbing. Too me, it seemed to be a study of a woman with an unhealthy obsession. It might even qualify as 'dark' if we end up with that tag.


LibraryCin | 8940 comments Oh, it was definitely an unhealthy obsession. The book was as much about that (or more) than about the birds. Maybe I should have made that clearer in my review.

BC, I don't have an "official" list. I have one small bird book that has a checklist at the back that I have used.

I also did an organized birdwatching day with someone who knows birds (technically, she was doing a population count at the same time) a month ago when I went home to visit my parents. They handed out a list ahead of time with photos, but mostly those were just the waterbirds. As I was chatting with one of the other women with the organization that organized the outing, she said they had a list of all the birds they saw on that day the previous year and asked if I'd like a copy, so I got a copy of that and checked off the ones we saw this time, as well.

In the book Phoebe only added birds to her list if she saw them clearly and could recognize them herself (as opposed to someone telling her what it was). I started off doing that, but I think I ended up checking off some of the others. I think I didn't check off the one I wouldn't have recognized, nor can I remember which one it was thinking back.


message 6: by Denizen (new)

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments I tend to build my vacations around birding but, in the birding world, I am more in that middle ground. If I had a year to live, I would go for an Amazon River cruise to see as many birds and other wildlife possible.

Indigo buntings are fairly common in rural Indiana. They are not as easy to spot as it would seem because of their irridescence. Although I love to bird, I have never been drawn to books about birders - which often seems to go hand-in-hand with obsessiveness - such as this one and H is for Hawk (based solely on reviews.)

@ Judith, do you have Lazuli buntings?


LibraryCin | 8940 comments Denizen wrote: "I tend to build my vacations around birding but, in the birding world, I am more in that middle ground. If I had a year to live, I would go for an Amazon River cruise to see as many birds and other..."

Oh, that would be cool!


LibraryCin | 8940 comments I actually haven't really checked out H is for Hawk, though I've seen plenty of reviews. Maybe I should...


Jgrace | 3065 comments Denizen wrote: "I tend to build my vacations around birding but, in the birding world, I am more in that middle ground. If I had a year to live, I would go for an Amazon River cruise to see as many birds and other..."


I don't have Lazuli's in my backyard, but I see them where I usually walk my dog and day hike. Unfortunately, that area is in the middle of a raging brush fire at the moment. I've got my bags packed in case the wind shifts in my direction.


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