Birding Without Borders
Traveling to 41 countries in 2015 with a backpack and binoculars, Noah Strycker became the first person to see more than half the world’s 10,000 species of birds in one year. In 2015, Noah Strycker set himself a lofty goal: to become the first person to see half the world’s birds in one year. For 365 days, with a backpack, binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, he traveled across forty-one countries and all seven continents, eventually spotting 6,042 species—by far the biggest birding year on record.This is no travelogue or glorified checklist. Noah ventures deep into a world of blood-sucking leeches, chronic sleep deprivation, airline snafus, breakdowns, mudslides, floods, war zones, ecologic devastation, conservation triumphs, common and iconic species, and scores of passionate bird lovers around the globe. By pursuing the freest creatures on the planet, Noah gains a unique perspective on the world they share with us—and offers a hopeful message that even as many birds face an uncertain future, more people than ever are working to protect them.  

Birding Without Borders Details

TitleBirding Without Borders
Author
ReleaseOct 10th, 2017
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN-139780544558144
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Animals, Birds, Travel, Environment, Nature, Autobiography, Memoir, Science

Birding Without Borders Review

  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve always suspected I wouldn’t like travelogues, that they’d just leave me feeling jealous. I’m therefore surprised to report that what I really loved about this birding memoir was hearing about the author’s travels. As the author traveled the world to beat a birding record, he stayed with locals, who knew local birds and local customs. It was fascinating to learn about the different locations he visited from this intimate perspective. I generally enjoyed hearing about his interactions with pe I’ve always suspected I wouldn’t like travelogues, that they’d just leave me feeling jealous. I’m therefore surprised to report that what I really loved about this birding memoir was hearing about the author’s travels. As the author traveled the world to beat a birding record, he stayed with locals, who knew local birds and local customs. It was fascinating to learn about the different locations he visited from this intimate perspective. I generally enjoyed hearing about his interactions with people. The help he received was heart-warming and the birding culture was at least as interesting as the culture of any country he visited. The author did a great job compressing his adventures of a year, the highs and lows, to make a fast-paced read that made me feel like I was constantly getting to visit new places. My only complaint is that I would have liked more pictures of the birds he saw, but I suppose that’s what the internet is for. Highly recommended if you have any interest in birding, but also if you’re a fan of travelogues.This review first published at Doing Dewey
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  • Wanda
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this memoir much more than I anticipated. Late last year, I read this author’s Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica, which I enjoyed because I am a penguin fanatic. I have done a fair bit of travel in the pursuit of birds, so I picked up this volume with both hope and reservations.I needn’t have worried. Strycker is a much better writer than many of the folks who pen birding memoirs and I enjoyed seeing places, people and birds that I know through his eyes. I think that was part of I enjoyed this memoir much more than I anticipated. Late last year, I read this author’s Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica, which I enjoyed because I am a penguin fanatic. I have done a fair bit of travel in the pursuit of birds, so I picked up this volume with both hope and reservations.I needn’t have worried. Strycker is a much better writer than many of the folks who pen birding memoirs and I enjoyed seeing places, people and birds that I know through his eyes. I think that was part of the enjoyment for me—getting to revisit some places, remember some birds and say, “Oh, I met that person!” For those of you who aren’t obsessed with birds, a big year is a year devoted to seeing as many birds as possible in a certain area. There’s a certain competitiveness inherent in the practice which you can read about in The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession (or try the movie of the same name, which I enjoyed). As I read TBY, I found myself snorting occasionally as I identified with many of the behaviours described. Strycker takes the Big Year concept a step further as he decides to take his Year global and try to see half of the bird species on Earth (5000 of an approximate 10,000). While having no desire to participate in such an activity myself, it was intriguing to see how Strycker proceeded with the endeavour.What I appreciated the most about this account wasn’t the list of birds. Obviously birds figure prominently in the account, but it was the connections with people, the difficulties faced during travel, and the time spent putting things into perspective—those made the tale worthwhile in my opinion. There was self-reflection here, plus no over-the-top environmental preachiness. I’m unsure how interesting non-birders would find such a book—if any of my non-birding friends choose to read it, perhaps you could let me know?
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  • Gunnar Engblom
    January 1, 1970
    I finished reading Noah Strycker’s Birding Without Boarders an obsession. Noah sets out to do a big year around the world in 2015 and records a mind-blowing 6042 species and shattering the old record.Yet another Big Year book for birders? I am wondering if the literary market is soon going to be saturated with Big Year travel stories. Is it really that interesting to follow someone traveling the world one bird at the time? Your average Joe will not get away with something like this. However, Noa I finished reading Noah Strycker’s Birding Without Boarders an obsession. Noah sets out to do a big year around the world in 2015 and records a mind-blowing 6042 species and shattering the old record.Yet another Big Year book for birders? I am wondering if the literary market is soon going to be saturated with Big Year travel stories. Is it really that interesting to follow someone traveling the world one bird at the time? Your average Joe will not get away with something like this. However, Noah Strycker has proven to be such a fine writer, so at least in this case the book has found validity also for people interested in reading a wonderful travel tale. He already has two books published before this one, and has built a tail of fans. 


The main text of the book covers 257 pages, and 326 in total including index and various appendixes, but not counting the foreword by Kenn Kaufman.I was amazed and flattered to see 33 pages dedicated to the adventures in Peru with me and the Kolibri Expeditions staff. That is 13% of the book. In fairness it should be said that of all 6042 birds that Noah recorded that year, 784 (13%) of them where found in Peru. It is proportional! Peru is that great. 

Noah, has a way of making birding understandable. I recommend the book also to the non-birder, because the quest is interesting and gives a tremendous insight how traveling off the beaten track around the world can look like. You get inside the head of a birder. 
The stories that unfold are a selection of highlights and special quests. They are tastefully decorated with tidbits about conservation concerns, behavior peculiarities, ecology, evolution, dangerous roads, sleep deprivation and lots of interesting people. So in spite of being yet another book on a big year, this is a particularly well written account. The chapters are organized linearly and from the start of each chapter you are thrown into an action-packed quest. Sort of like a well written best seller novel, where you get sucked in at the start of each chapter. There are regressions in each chapter to what has happened in between the scenes and as mentioned many interesting tidbits are thrown in.A longer and more detailed version of this review shall be published on my blog shortly and I'll do a short chapter summary as well. I am also preparing an interview with Noah. Let me know if you have any questions you want to ask him.Here is the chapter summary for the Peru part. You can find a longer excerpt of this chapter on the Audubon website.Chapter 6. Gunning it.Yours truly and Kolibri Staff of Manuel Zamora - Kolibri Expeditions legendary driver - and Carlos Altamirano - young and enthusiastic bird guide put up a tough pace to pack in the birds of Peru in 21 days. Noah could easily done a book only on his Peru experiences alone. There is far more to the story than the book tells, since Peru produced more overall species (784) and more new species (488) than any other country visited and more unique birds for the Big Year (242) only surpassed by Australia (312). This chapter describes the quest for Black-spectacled Brush-Finch in the Satipo Road area, Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager at Bosque Unchog in Central Peru and Marvelous Spatuletail in Northern Peru. Our adventures in Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado did not fit. There is also a fair amount of on the spot trouble solving as it is rainy season and this made road conditions tough on the cars.Have a read! This book is not just another big year account. It is the best - and so much more
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  • Victoria Peipert
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating story! As a very casual bird watcher and nature enthusiast the story in this book intrigued me. It was engaging and was hard to put down since I was dying to know how everything would turn out at the end of the year. -1 star for the editing - it could have been stronger.
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  • Alison
    January 1, 1970
    In 2015 the author traveled through 41 countries and 7 continents on his quest to find 5,000 birds in a year long journey. I have definitely become an armchair birder as I love reading about peoples journeys to track birds, and also watch the ones that live around me. This was a really informative and fun book to read, as it gives us the mindset of a person with a passion to achieve a goal, and not only that of the author, but other birders with as much love of this recreational activity, and wh In 2015 the author traveled through 41 countries and 7 continents on his quest to find 5,000 birds in a year long journey. I have definitely become an armchair birder as I love reading about peoples journeys to track birds, and also watch the ones that live around me. This was a really informative and fun book to read, as it gives us the mindset of a person with a passion to achieve a goal, and not only that of the author, but other birders with as much love of this recreational activity, and what made them get into it.Before the author left on his year long quest, he had a lot of preparations to do, from one way plane tickets, to searching out birders in each place that he was going, for the company and for the knowledge of the areas that these people could provide. He was so grateful for the interest of so many on making his trip memorable. One can feel what a tight group birders are. He had many exciting adventures along the way and he loved to stay as locally as he could to absorb the whole experience of the areas he visited. This is a book that even if you are not a birder you could appreciate, it is a wonderful travel memoir.I would like to thank NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC of this book.
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  • Dennis Winge
    January 1, 1970
    Noah wrote an excellent account of his big year in setting the record for most bird species seen in a single calendar year. He presents a nice overview on his strategy to set the record and then provides a compelling travelogue on his travels and importantly his uses of local birding experts to accomplish his goal. The role these various local guides provide in his quest is incredible and Noah gives them great credit for their guidance. It is impressive to read about an individual who sets a lof Noah wrote an excellent account of his big year in setting the record for most bird species seen in a single calendar year. He presents a nice overview on his strategy to set the record and then provides a compelling travelogue on his travels and importantly his uses of local birding experts to accomplish his goal. The role these various local guides provide in his quest is incredible and Noah gives them great credit for their guidance. It is impressive to read about an individual who sets a lofty goal and then follows a well-honed strategy to achieve it. Noah is an inspiration as he had to move through fatique and illness to achieve his goal. Although the books is about birds, it is also a testimony about the unfolding of one's passion toward achieving a goal. This was an outstanding read. I first learned about Noah when he was the featured guest at the Salt Lake Bird Festival and we heard his presentation on his big year. That captivated me to want to read his book and I enjoyed the book as much as his lecture. One notable aspect is his humility and clear acknowledgement of others. Great job Noah!
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  • Viva
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a backyard birder and I quite looked forward to this book. Unfortunately it's hard to read. I feel bad for my rating, I commend this guy on writing a book on what he loves and I want him to succeed. But I don't think he's a natural writer and he might need a good editor.It says on the back "this is no travelogue or glorified checklist". Funny but I think it would have been better for the reader if it had been either as those were the parts I liked. His travel anecdotes were amusing and there I'm a backyard birder and I quite looked forward to this book. Unfortunately it's hard to read. I feel bad for my rating, I commend this guy on writing a book on what he loves and I want him to succeed. But I don't think he's a natural writer and he might need a good editor.It says on the back "this is no travelogue or glorified checklist". Funny but I think it would have been better for the reader if it had been either as those were the parts I liked. His travel anecdotes were amusing and there is a species checklist with date and location on the back! For the rest, some of it was just boring and some meandering and it's not pieced together well. This book is best read piecemeal, looking up passages on the birds or countries you are interested in. In any case, my best wishes for him and his hobby. The 2 star rating according to GoodReads = it was ok and I felt this was an ok book for me. I got this book as a free ARC.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    This review appeared in edited form in the June 2018 issue of Birding magazine. Copyright David W. Liebmann and Birding.Noah Stryker’s new book takes on four ambitious goals: immersing his readers in different landscapes around the globe, introducing us to fellow birders of many nationalities, detailing encounters with over 6,000 avian species, and sharing a world record pursuit. Any single goal could be its own compelling book, but the strength (and slight weakness) of Birding Without Borders i This review appeared in edited form in the June 2018 issue of Birding magazine. Copyright David W. Liebmann and Birding.Noah Stryker’s new book takes on four ambitious goals: immersing his readers in different landscapes around the globe, introducing us to fellow birders of many nationalities, detailing encounters with over 6,000 avian species, and sharing a world record pursuit. Any single goal could be its own compelling book, but the strength (and slight weakness) of Birding Without Borders is that Strycker, always up for a big challenge, takes on all four simultaneously.Strycker begins his quest on new year’s day aboard a bobbing Antarctic research vessel turned ecotourist cruiser. It’s a memorable way to begin a global Big Year, and it signals that not only will adventures be had, but there will be plenty of fun and some humor along the way. “Any global journey that skipped Antarctica,” writes the author, “wouldn’t be as cool.” Nice pun. Strycker and his comrades are searching for penguins in the midnight sun of a southern hemisphere summer, popping champagne corks in an onboard hot tub even while the bubbly instantly freezes. The penguins are nowhere to be found, but his initial bird, a Cape Petrel, is the first domino to fall in a line that will stretch out for another 364 days and take us across seven continents.From the frozen south, we’re off to Argentina. As Strycker chases his computed daily average of 13.7 new species, hoping to break 5,000 total, he explains his approach in ways appreciated by birders and non-birders alike: every bird has to be spotted by at least one other person; companions should be locals and coach-surfing is encouraged; the use of technology to find birds and connect with local birders is a requirement of modern birding. Strycker is a Millennial and turned thirty just after completing his Big Year, and I was struck as a Gen-Xer raised by Silent Generation parents by just how much age played a subtle but notable role in his story. Birding for me remains an offline, “let’s see what I can find” pursuit. I bird in the same slow, often solitary way I learned to do everything outside. Strycker’s embrace of tools like eBird and BirdingPal, which were nonexistent even fifteen years ago, reveal how different birders now approach the game. Technology was integral in Strycker’s quest. He spent months and months planning his route beforehand, connecting with strangers who became close birding comrades to help get him on particular species… and provide local intel or a place to rest his head, albeit briefly, as he dashed from ecosystem to ecosystem and country to country. Strycker birded and traveled ultralight, but his kit included two iPhones and a laptop. I acknowledge that those items aren’t the sole provenance of Millennial birders, but combined with Strycker’s footloose freedom and youthful ease, I vacillated between an irrational envy of his unencumbered pursuits and sentimental recollections of my days as a single guy who could carry almost all of his worldly possessions, including binoculars and field guides, in his backpack and do it all offline. As Strycker notes, “How we spend our days is an ongoing choice. Most of my own life still lies ahead, and I’m happy, at this point, to have pursued this dream when I had the chance.” No regrets for Strycker, who Thoreau-like, goes on to write of his Big Year, “It is worthwhile to do something intensely for a year, to really dig deep and get to the meat of it.” There is a sense that Strycker is aware of his youth and lack of responsibilities and commitments. So my envy aside, I admired Strycker for his willingness to take a big risk and embrace a big adventure. That sense of fun and excitement infused the entire book and made it a non-stop page turner that appeals to birders and non-birders alike.Add a fifth goal to Strycker’s project, one unavoidable for such a reflective person and writer: to think about why we bird at all, and what all those ticks on a list really amount to. Strycker could err on the side of youthful naivete, but he’s proven himself a better thinker and essayist than that (see Liebmann, D. 2015. More than Color and Intrigue [a review of The Thing with Feathers, by Noah Strycker]. Birding 47 (4): 65.). While youthful zeal infuses his Big Year, Strycker reliably takes on the larger issues at hand while not belaboring them. He writes to address the “why” of his project and does so in ways that reveal him to be self aware and a worthy intellectual companion.386 species into his adventure, Strycker sets an approach that continues for the entire book. He’ll take us to a new, exciting, often remote place like the Cerro Negro of Argentina. He’ll arrive with a small pack of gear. He’ll meet up with a local birder, often someone he’s never met before, a friend of a friend of a friend. And he’ll see scores of new birds, many of whose names are as shiny and little known as the far-flung corners of the world he is exploring. I reflected on the pattern and saw it as a necessary formula given the vast scale of the undertaking. Back in the late 80s, I spent six months in the backcountry of the Rockies. There would be no way to convey every experience or what I saw everyday or who I met. I quickly appreciated Strycker’s challenge, then, and admired the deft way in which he compressed 365 days, forty-one countries, and 6,042 species into a coherent narrative of 258 pages. The places and people and birds become a blur, as they were no doubt to Strycker, and would be to anyone in such constant motion. That the writer can recall with detail and clarity what he saw and who he met testifies to his poise as an observer and traveler. The book is raucous and exuberant in that way, a model of a tightly executed narrative even as it does many things at once.Recognizing his readers might not keep pace with his peripatetic journey, Strycker steps aside from his memories to provide excellent historical context for listing in general and Big Years in particular. Chapter 4, “Over the Years,” is one such diversion, sharing for readers of all experience levels quick summations of American ornithological history, field guides, bird quest literature, and listing. Strycker pauses on the literary catalyst of his Big Year, what he calls “that fateful footnote” at the conclusion of Roger Tory Peterson’s Wild America. If a monument to listing is ever built, a bronze plaque thereon should read: “Incidental information: My year’s list at the end of 1953 was 572 species….” As Strycker rightly observes, “In fine print, a gauntlet had been thrown.” Consciously or unconsciously, those thirteen words gave rise to the ABA, to Kingbird Highway, to a global Big Year, to birding’s Everest. What’s exciting for Strycker and for birders in general is the fact that the number is there at all. Can it be bested? By whom and how? For how long? In Strycker’s case, the world record he set on September 16, 2015 stood for a mere fourteen months when it was broken. And that latter record will no doubt be broken again.Strycker takes on the question of whether a record that includes dashing around the planet on jetliners is ethical in a time when global warming should be on everyone’s minds. He believes that through carbon offsets and the positive benefits of ecotourism and habitat protection that comes with it, his Big Year meets a reasonable standard. I would tend to agree with him, but I also think it might be thin ice. Perhaps it’s better to bird local and protect ecosystems closer to home. For a variety of reasons, my birding skews that way. But I have to admit that Strycker’s checklist, which runs a full fifty page appendix, lays out an enticing temptation: there are thousands of species I had never heard of and will likely never see in countries that I didn’t consider as great birding locales. And then I caught myself and saw his point. Strycker saw them and Strycker wrote about them, and maybe that nourishment for my imagination is, on balance, an acceptable trade off. Maybe Strycker’s birding abilities and facility with words and images makes his journey more of the stuff of inspiration and healthy dreaming than my world encompassed before I picked up his book. That giant list also solidified my appreciation for just how good a birder Strycker must be. I know when I’m in a new locale birding new species how rich and demanding that challenge can be. New birds, new field marks, new trees, plants, sounds, smells, light. Those are some of the many compelling reasons we bird away from home. But like travel in any new environment, all that newness can be mentally taxing if not down right exhausting. Strycker pushed through that day after day all the while learning new birds and allowing experience to lead him along. Like the London taxi drivers whose brains grow in certain regions in response to learning different routes around that city, I imagine an MRI of Strycker’s brain before and after his Big Year might tell us something. We all know “bird brain” is a rather poor and inaccurate turn of phrase. I’d wager all the more so in Strycker’s case. Any birding neurologists or neuroscientists out there want to pursue that research project?Strycker’s work deserves a place on the shelf of books that are exuberant romps: fun, well-written, and enriching reads about things and places most of us will never see. There is a need for books like that in a time when species and ecosystems are threatened and when the world is changing ever more quickly. They remind us of what is possible, where our imaginations lead, what is out there, and what wonderful places and people big dreams can show us. It’s the kind of book a child, seeing a Snowy Owl or Merlin for the first time, might some day come across and find inspiration in. Or an experienced birder might pick up and then find themselves asking, “Well, why the heck not?” In Birding Without Borders, there is something for all readers.David Liebmann– David Liebmann undertook his initial ornithological training at Chewonki in Wiscasset, Maine, where Roger Tory Peterson began his Field Guide to the Birds. Liebmann writes about birds and birds in literature on the occasional break from being Head of Glen Urquhart School, north of Boston.
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  • Bookslut
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fantastic reading experience. I had a friend once tell me that I wring the most I can out of every book. I thought they was a really neat idea. If there are books that are well-suited to be wrung, this one provides a particularly rich example. Noah Stryker designed an unbelievable modern-day heroic quest, and the main thrust of the book is following his journey. However, the book is not a simple travelogue, because it is replete with background information about a dozen interesting to This was a fantastic reading experience. I had a friend once tell me that I wring the most I can out of every book. I thought they was a really neat idea. If there are books that are well-suited to be wrung, this one provides a particularly rich example. Noah Stryker designed an unbelievable modern-day heroic quest, and the main thrust of the book is following his journey. However, the book is not a simple travelogue, because it is replete with background information about a dozen interesting topics linked to his main idea. I got to learn about the history of birding, the intricacies of several ecosystems he visited, strategic travel, psychology, human-environmental relations in developing countries, and a lot about birds. I unrolled our world map almost every day while I was reading this book, and hugely improved my geography. I even tried looking up all of the birds on his Big Year list, but what he did in real life, I couldn't even keep up with on paper. Midway through South America, I realized trying to see all the birds was bogging me down. I can't imagine how grueling it was to travel for an entire year, and almost entirely in the developing world. He says, at one point in the book, that you're always thinking so much about 'can I use the water from the tap to brush my teeth, where will be my next access to clean water or electricity or toilet paper', and that was very much my experience traveling in the developing world for ten days--the marvels you see are bedfellows with wearying calculations of that kind. Compound that with the length of time, the sheer amount of travel, and the constant re-orienting in new locations, and this must have been so demanding. And you can tell this guy is the Real Deal, who just loves birds and the hunt. He broke the world record because he likes lists and records, but his clear primary satisfaction was reaching his own goal, and because he loves birds and travel. **spoiler**. Speaking of, there was some giant jackass that used all the hindsight of Strycker's triumphs and failures and gunned for his record the very next year, and he got it from him, just eleven months after it was set. Strycker did it in a way that had never been done before, and beat the previous record by almost TWO THOUSAND species of bird, and this guy just followed his blog posts like a map, made small alterations for improvement, and stole it right out from under him. I'd be bombing that guy's house, but Strycker was very gentlemanly about the whole thing. You could tell he was ticked, but he tried to see the positive side of it--that more people would see more birds because of what he'd done.
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    Really interesting! Not just for bird nerds. :)
  • Liesleest
    January 1, 1970
    Ik heb niets in het bijzonder met vogels kijken. Toch is dit boek een aanrader. Passie en vriendschap, die verleggen grenzen.
  • Jane Greensmith
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this book—great adventure, seeing the world, following a passion, making friends with fellow enthusiasts, loving this beautiful planet Earth.
  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    Loved it! This is a fantastic complement to the blog Noah wrote while on his global Big Year, and it adds more about the many local people he met along the way and the situations he found himself in. I'm so impressed that such a brilliant birder also has such super writing skills. It's a page turner.
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  • Esther
    January 1, 1970
    One of the best birding travel books I've read!! I appreciated the stories of searches for birds with local people.
  • kglibrarian
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this! So many fascinating details about his time exploring different countries and their birds. As a casual bird watcher I’m now determined to get a pair of binoculars and take it to the next level.
  • Erika
    January 1, 1970
    AwesomeI've read a lot of birding narratives, and this one is a must have. With exquisite attention to detail and the people he travelled with, Noah Strycker takes birders on a whirlwind tour of the globe's best birding locations. "But I read the blog about his trip on Audubon," some say. Me too, but this book pulls it altogether beautifully, including a great deal more detail and reflection. When I try to explain to someone new why I love birding, I'm going to recommend this book.
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  • Rob Neyer
    January 1, 1970
    In 2016, Noah shattered the all-time record by seeing (or hearing) 6,042 different bird species. Necessarily, this book covers a tiny percentage of all those birds. In fact, whole countries are essentially skipped! For example: the 104 species Noah ticked in Norway? The country itself gets one sentence, and not a single bird is mentioned. Which is frustrating for someone like me who wants to learn about all the birds. But there just wasn't anywhere near enough room in this 300-page book for anyt In 2016, Noah shattered the all-time record by seeing (or hearing) 6,042 different bird species. Necessarily, this book covers a tiny percentage of all those birds. In fact, whole countries are essentially skipped! For example: the 104 species Noah ticked in Norway? The country itself gets one sentence, and not a single bird is mentioned. Which is frustrating for someone like me who wants to learn about all the birds. But there just wasn't anywhere near enough room in this 300-page book for anything except the highest of high points, which is to say the best birds, the milestone birds, and Noah's most interesting travel stories. For a fuller accounting, there was Noah's blog, which he updated essentially every day throughout 2015, even though he was sleep-deprived nearly all the time.I've read a lot of books like this and enjoyed nearly all of them a great deal. I suppose I'll just say Noah's entry in the genre takes its proud place among the other classics.
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  • Aubrey
    January 1, 1970
    Engrossing at the start, became repetitive near the end, but a fun read regardless. My main criticism is the book didn't feel complete, that it got cut short for some reason - I would have enjoyed reading more travel stories.
  • David Holtzclaw
    January 1, 1970
    This is a delightful account of Mr. Stryker's journey & record breaking bird count. Even if you're not a birder, this is totally enjoyable & makes me want to buy some new binoculars to hit the trail.
  • Stacey Lunsford
    January 1, 1970
    I've read several books about birding that were more humorous than this one. At first I thought this seemed a little like a listing of, I went here, I saw these birds, I met these people, NEXT! I went here, I saw these birds, etc. It turned out to have some interesting stories about the countries he visited and the opportunities to see birds in their natural habitats, unlike the stories of people doing Big Years in North America, where they have to race around the country to see rare birds that I've read several books about birding that were more humorous than this one. At first I thought this seemed a little like a listing of, I went here, I saw these birds, I met these people, NEXT! I went here, I saw these birds, etc. It turned out to have some interesting stories about the countries he visited and the opportunities to see birds in their natural habitats, unlike the stories of people doing Big Years in North America, where they have to race around the country to see rare birds that are in places they aren't usually found. I would have enjoyed a few more photos of the birds, particularly the ones he mentioned specifically in the text as being exceptionally rare or significant in some way. I realize I could look them up online but it's nice to flip to the picture as you read about them, knowing that it was exactly that bird that he saw. But again, I've read several birding books so I have become a bit picky, I suppose.
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  • Clare O'Beara
    January 1, 1970
    A lively account of a birder's Big Year. Plotting out his trip with care and offsetting carbon, Noah yet got scammed out of travel funds and made minimal or no contact with some guides he tried to depend on, proving that the more and better arrangements you make at the outset the safer. I really enjoyed the meetings with bird scientists and observers, who sped Noah through birds plentiful or rare. Seeing birds in their wild environment, and the people who care about them or make a living from th A lively account of a birder's Big Year. Plotting out his trip with care and offsetting carbon, Noah yet got scammed out of travel funds and made minimal or no contact with some guides he tried to depend on, proving that the more and better arrangements you make at the outset the safer. I really enjoyed the meetings with bird scientists and observers, who sped Noah through birds plentiful or rare. Seeing birds in their wild environment, and the people who care about them or make a living from their upkeep, was fascinating. By the end Noah was jaded and getting ill and going through the motions, but persevered. We have to admire him. He writes soberly of hazards birders face in undeveloped countries. To my mind the best spotting was the harpy eagle. If you are not into birds this is not the book for you, but those who like to read unusual travelogues will be well pleased. I downloaded an e-ARC from Net Galley and Fresh Fiction. This is an unbiased review.
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  • Chelsea
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 StarsThis found its way on my list because I love vicarious travel, and I have a casual interest it birds. Noah Strycker is clearly very passionate and a bit obsessive about birding, so he presents an interesting perspective as he spends one full year doing nothing but birding all over the world. He accomplished this by connecting with tour guides and fellow enthusiasts native to the various places he visited, and one of the nicer parts of the narrative was his willingness to occasionally t 3.75 StarsThis found its way on my list because I love vicarious travel, and I have a casual interest it birds. Noah Strycker is clearly very passionate and a bit obsessive about birding, so he presents an interesting perspective as he spends one full year doing nothing but birding all over the world. He accomplished this by connecting with tour guides and fellow enthusiasts native to the various places he visited, and one of the nicer parts of the narrative was his willingness to occasionally turn the spotlight on them.Strycker's narrative was mostly serviceable and occasionally immersive. I understand that a year makes for a lot of anecdotes and you can't share them all, but I would have liked more. There were times when it felt like we skipped ahead, or something was mentioned in one sentence that may have merited a few pages. I wonder if this was due to editing, or if the author was in too much of a rush to take things in and give sufficient description later. Either way, the stories he did choose, the birds, and as mentioned the people, were fascinating.My other qualm? Question, criticism? I'm not sure Strycker is entirely aware or admitting of what an enormous privilege one must enjoy to be able to cast aside all other life concerns for a full year. Granted, he seemed to do it as cheaply as possible, staying in some shitty living situations and packing very lightly. I would have let it go for that reason, but for the fact that he tossed out a line about how this only cost like $60k (which I think came from his book advance), see reader, world travel is totally feasible! Bro. No. I digress. What did I learn? Birding is a crazy involved and potentially complicated hobby (career? For this guy, career). Surprisingly popular too, if the number of people Strycker connected with are anything to go by. It takes some science and a study ahead of time, and a hefty dose of patience. I can completely understand the appeal. This book doesn't take the time to dwell to much on teaching about the birds themselves; that isn't the purpose. But it might spark interest to seek the information elsewhere. I definitely googled a lot of bird pictures.
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  • Rebecca Howe
    January 1, 1970
    Noah Strycker and the concept of a “Big Year” aren’t well known outside of birding circles, which is a shame. Noah’s book is a heartening travelogue of ecosystems and cultures that highlights how people around the world can come together to share their passion. A Big Year is a year that a birdwatcher tries to see as many individual species as possible in 365 days, and in 2015 Noah broke the world record for most species seen. He travelled through 42 countries and across all seven continents to u Noah Strycker and the concept of a “Big Year” aren’t well known outside of birding circles, which is a shame. Noah’s book is a heartening travelogue of ecosystems and cultures that highlights how people around the world can come together to share their passion. A Big Year is a year that a birdwatcher tries to see as many individual species as possible in 365 days, and in 2015 Noah broke the world record for most species seen. He travelled through 42 countries and across all seven continents to ultimately see more than half of all known bird species.Despite this book and his travels being a testament to Noah’s love of birds, what stands out most are the people who guided him along the way. Using personal contacts, the internet, and several birdwatching communities he organized meetups with locals in every country instead of expensive guided tours. That decision gave his trip a deep sense of community and enthusiasm that no guided tour could recreate. It is wonderful to see that everywhere in the world there are individuals who are deeply passionate about nature, and it makes me feel hopeful for the future of conservation.Noah is an inspiration to many birders, including those attempting to break his record. The blog he maintained throughout his travels had an avid following, and he continues to be a prominent figure in the birdwatching community.I really enjoyed this book, and it’s added several birding locations to my bucket list! I found myself grabbing my phone to Google species several times, eager to see these beautiful creatures for myself. The inclusion of photos of important events and species was a nice touch. However, after leaving the Americas it felt as if he skimmed over the events of several countries, and I wished the same level of detail was paid more to Europe and Africa. I was intensely curious what his gear for this trip was, as he travelled light, and was pleasantly surprised to find it listed at the end of the novel.If you’re passionate about birds or passionate about people following their passions, this is a good read.
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  • Steven
    January 1, 1970
    I'd read Strycker's The Thing With Feathers a few years back and I enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give this book a chance. Even better!As a person who likes working through lists yet likes to have some measure of control over his surroundings (okay - a LOT of control), the idea of seeing as many species of birds as possible in a calendar while birding, travelling, sleeping and eating in the company of new strangers every few days is both terrifying and exhilarating. Strycker dives right in, though I'd read Strycker's The Thing With Feathers a few years back and I enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give this book a chance. Even better!As a person who likes working through lists yet likes to have some measure of control over his surroundings (okay - a LOT of control), the idea of seeing as many species of birds as possible in a calendar while birding, travelling, sleeping and eating in the company of new strangers every few days is both terrifying and exhilarating. Strycker dives right in, though, and it's quite a whirlwind trip.His passion for birds is infectious, and while he totally nerds out about some of the species he encounters, he also peppers the narrative with discussions of habitat loss, the idea of lists in birding, the history of bird guide publication and the personal stories of the many fellow birders that, well, took him under their wing. Although there are some good color plates in the center, I of course would have loved a picture of each species he saw, an impossible feature that would have required multiple volumes. But he does include the list of birds he saw, starting in Antarctica on January 1st with a Cape Petrel and ending near sunset on Dec. 31st in India with a Silver-breasted Broadbill. The complete list of birds and where he encountered them is included in the back of the book, along with corresponding page numbers if that species was mentioned directly in the book. Great feature! Proudly, he saw 62 of the species on his list (a mere 1% of his total!) in Texas. Also, the endpapers feature a map of his route, which I also liked.If you're interested in birds or birding, or just a great narrative of someone following his passion, you'll enjoy this.
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  • Paulette
    January 1, 1970
    If you love birds and you love adventures, this is the book for you. Noah Strycker spent a year of his life to see if he could see half of the world's species of birds. From Antarctica to Argentina to Africa to India to Taiwan, etcetera, etcetera, Noah with the help of international fellow bird lovers met his goal and then some. I found his narrative very interesting and was glad it was not a diary day by day overdetailed account. He comments on issues along the way, all to do with birders, the If you love birds and you love adventures, this is the book for you. Noah Strycker spent a year of his life to see if he could see half of the world's species of birds. From Antarctica to Argentina to Africa to India to Taiwan, etcetera, etcetera, Noah with the help of international fellow bird lovers met his goal and then some. I found his narrative very interesting and was glad it was not a diary day by day overdetailed account. He comments on issues along the way, all to do with birders, the companionship and friendships he formed over his months nation-hopping...He mentions the logistics of his travels ($2,000 on visas alone!) And his book lists all the guidebooks he had scanned to take with him on an e-reader, and all the equipment he took with him--he traveled light, to say the least! My only minor criticism is that I would have liked to read more details about more birds. Clearly he could not go into details on all 6,ooo+ birds he saw, but I would have liked to learn more specifics about some of the unique creatures he encountered, to include the Harpy Eagle and the Flame-Crowned Flowerpecker. There were some photos in the book, but I wanted more, especially of the birds. I mean, he saw over 6,000! What is in this book hardly makes a dent! I am hoping this birder will follow up with another book, focused entirely on those lovely creatures he visited all year. I do recommend reading it, for both bird lovers and for those who just love to read about adventures in nature.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed reading this. The scope of Noah Strycker's accomplishment (seeing/hearing over 6,000 birds in one calendar year) is so large, that it is impossible to cover it all in the length of a book. Where the book does succeed: Strycker incorporates travel experiences with birding accounts, and I liked reading about the people and places, as well as the birds. He selects meaningful bird encounters to highlight in the book (impossible to describe them all), and makes a cohesive narrative out of a I enjoyed reading this. The scope of Noah Strycker's accomplishment (seeing/hearing over 6,000 birds in one calendar year) is so large, that it is impossible to cover it all in the length of a book. Where the book does succeed: Strycker incorporates travel experiences with birding accounts, and I liked reading about the people and places, as well as the birds. He selects meaningful bird encounters to highlight in the book (impossible to describe them all), and makes a cohesive narrative out of a these select experiences. I appreciated his life observations, as well, particularly in the last couple of chapters. Appendices at the end include info on his gear for the year-long journey, and the comprehensive list of the birds he encountered. Because it is part travelogue, part birding book, it maybe isn't as in depth as some would like in either category, but I thought the author did a good job blending his experiences into the narrative. There are photos in the book (wish there could have been more!). Strycker also includes a fair amount of factual information about bird watching, places, etc. At the beginning, I found some of his included material to be a little dry, but for me, the book became stronger the further I read. This book is a decent read for the fan of travelogue, and an even better read for those interested in birds. It is also a good choice for those who enjoy "year of" themed books.
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  • Eliza
    January 1, 1970
    As I read BWB, I kept thinking to myself: why am I loving this story so much, when my birding skills extend no further than identifying a robin and a bluejay?! But that is the charm and skill of Strycker's memoir of a year traveling the world, creating a "Year List" of as many distinct species of birds as he could cram into 365 days. On one hand, the guy seems a bit loony (SWIDT?!)--the journey was in many ways exhausting, grueling, and, well, really?. But on the other hand, Strycker is so earne As I read BWB, I kept thinking to myself: why am I loving this story so much, when my birding skills extend no further than identifying a robin and a bluejay?! But that is the charm and skill of Strycker's memoir of a year traveling the world, creating a "Year List" of as many distinct species of birds as he could cram into 365 days. On one hand, the guy seems a bit loony (SWIDT?!)--the journey was in many ways exhausting, grueling, and, well, really?. But on the other hand, Strycker is so earnest, so authentic, so humorous, so sane, and such a clear and thoughtful writer, that I was drawn in. By the end, I definitely wanted to know more about all the birds (and animals, and plants) that surround us. But more importantly, I wanted to have the kind of passion that would send someone around the world--making new friends, discovering places and cultures and people, and learning about myself--the passion that Strycker has. His focus not on every bird (though there are a lot of them!) nor on the details of travel or the competitive nature of the hunt (though those are there too), but on the wonders of exploration, the excitement of new and fascinating places, and most of all the generosity and openness of all the birders who help him everywhere he goes, make this a joyful, optimistic, and reassuring read. Loved it!
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    By necessity, a Big Year is a cursory affair. Seeing as many species as you can means spending as little time as possible on each one. Writing about a Big Year is likewise a practice in preterition. Noah couldn't possibly fit everything in - exotic locales that would make destinations in their own right get only passing mention. Even if he were only to mention all the birds he had seen, name by name, that would take some 12,000 words.Appreciating these constraints, which dictate that this is lit By necessity, a Big Year is a cursory affair. Seeing as many species as you can means spending as little time as possible on each one. Writing about a Big Year is likewise a practice in preterition. Noah couldn't possibly fit everything in - exotic locales that would make destinations in their own right get only passing mention. Even if he were only to mention all the birds he had seen, name by name, that would take some 12,000 words.Appreciating these constraints, which dictate that this is little more in substance than the play-by-play account of an extraordinary journey, it's a fun read. The prose is lively, with a writer's thoughtfulness, and Noah makes a sanguine guide and narrator. Awash in the foreign names of birds and people and places, you quickly content yourself to going along for the ride, and by the end you're left with the same enthusiasm, and hunger for birds, that Noah has.Speaking as someone who's spent his last few years birding locally, this bird rekindled the excitement I once had when, newly converted, I realized that there was a whole world of birds out there to discover - in shapes, sizes, and colors I hardly could have thought up. It's been a while since I experienced the kind bewilderment Noah describes on arriving to Africa - a foreign continent. After reading this book... I'm thinking it's time I resdicovered that feeling.
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  • Nance
    January 1, 1970
    I have long been interested in taking up birding as a hobby. Since I retired our two backyard feeders have increased to six, and the binoculars and field guides on the windowsill are getting more use. My husband was at our local bird store and purchased this book to give to me for Christmas. I truly enjoyed it, and it has inspired me to get more serious about birding . . . I have started a "Life List", put the Audubon Birds app on my phone to help with identification, and am following eBirds on I have long been interested in taking up birding as a hobby. Since I retired our two backyard feeders have increased to six, and the binoculars and field guides on the windowsill are getting more use. My husband was at our local bird store and purchased this book to give to me for Christmas. I truly enjoyed it, and it has inspired me to get more serious about birding . . . I have started a "Life List", put the Audubon Birds app on my phone to help with identification, and am following eBirds on Facebook.I admit I was surprised at how interesting the book was. This young man had quite the world adventure in pursuit of achieving his goal! As I was reading it I would Google birds as he mentioned them to see pictures and videos. Some my more "spectacular" favorites were: Fiery Throated Hummingbird, Superb Bird of Paradise, King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, Lyre-tail Nightjar, and Marvelous Spatuletail. His writing style was engaging, I was anxious to get to each new chapter.In the course of reading the book I discovered the author lives in our area. While reading the book I received the local public library e-newsletter and learned he would be speaking at our library this month!
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  • Ben
    January 1, 1970
    A fun travel adventure. Strycker starts on January 1 in Antarctica, and spends 2015 heading up South America to the US, then around the world: Europe, Africa, India, East Asia, then Australia. His goal is to spot (or identify by sound) as many birds as possible. Shenanigans ensue, and in the end he sees more than half the world's bird species. The story is not blow-by-blow, but only covers the highlights, the most special species and special people he met along the way. It is an excellent advent A fun travel adventure. Strycker starts on January 1 in Antarctica, and spends 2015 heading up South America to the US, then around the world: Europe, Africa, India, East Asia, then Australia. His goal is to spot (or identify by sound) as many birds as possible. Shenanigans ensue, and in the end he sees more than half the world's bird species. The story is not blow-by-blow, but only covers the highlights, the most special species and special people he met along the way. It is an excellent adventure travelogue, along the way finding the opportunity to discuss all sorts of topics, from individual birds, to modern birding, to self reflection. I am not a birder myself, but Strycker does an excellent job explaining the ins and outs of his obsession, and he describes the birds well enough to make me sympathetic to the hobby. But he never spends too long on any one subject; the book is very well edited. He kept a blog during the year ( http://www.audubon.org/features/birdi... ). The blog is better illustrated than the book, but also is too detailed for me.
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