Saturday, September 13, 2008

"To See Every Bird On Earth" By Dan Koeppel (audio version)

One drawback of riding the bus to work each day is that it takes longer than if I were to drive my own vehicle.

Listening to music on my mp3 player helps me pass the time but I can only listen to so much music before I need a break from it. I also like to read, but reading in a moving vehicle gives me motion sickness. That wouldn't be fair to the person sitting in front of me. I don't read as much as I would like to at home either. If I have free time on my hands, I would rather be outdoors doing something active like hiking or birding, for example. When I do finally find time to read, I'm usually tired and reading makes me even more tired...zzzzzz.

Recently, I've started to listen to books on CD while riding the bus. It's a great way to make use of my traveling time. On average, I'm able to go through about two books a week.

Last week as I was searching through our local library's audio books, I came across an audio book titled "To See Every Bird On Earth" by Ted Koeppel.

This is the story about Richard Koeppel as told by his son, Dan Koeppel. Richard's life ambition was to become an ornithologist but he ended up becoming a doctor in order to satisfy his parent's expectations. Richard went on to get married and raise a family but he never lost interest in birds. Much of the book is about the personal experiences of the Koeppel family. Dan writes about the family's Jewish heritage, his father's disappointments in life, his mother's infidelities, his parent's divorce and Dan's desire to have a closer relationship with his father. All of this is woven in between the birding-related portions of the book which follows Richard from the time he saw his first Brown Thrasher to the moment he reached -(and exceeded)- his 7,000th species.

The reading is done by John Mcdonough whose voice reminds me John Houseman or David Attenborough. He enunciates each word clearly, making it easy to hear him even if there is a lot of background noise on the bus. His scholarly reading style works well when he is describing circumstances surrounding the sighting of notable species as well as colorful details about the birds themselves. I thought the most interesting part of the book was reading about the personalities of the big listers-(birders who are obsessed with seeing and listing as many species as possible)- and the intricate rules that they have to follow.

I would have preferred that this book would have focused a little bit more on the birding. The portions which dealt with the family gave the book an overall somber tone. Still, I don't imagine that it's easy to write this type of book and it did keep my interest throughout. If I wasn't interested in birding, I'd probably rate this book about 5 out of 10. Since I am interested in birding, I'll give it a 7.5 rating.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Thanks for the interesting and thorough book review. I've been looking for books to put on my iPod and I did see this title on my library's list too. I'm a big reader too and usually prefer to have a book in hand but there is something special about listening to the words.

RuthieJ said...

Good for you Larry! I'm glad you're still riding the bus AND making good use of that time.

Jayne said...

Books on tape are a wonderful way to pass the time when in a car or on a bus. :c) Glad you have found a way to "read" more Larry!

Lana Gramlich said...

Books on CD are not only wonderful...through your local library, they're FREE too! Sometimes we do get things right in this country!
Cool review. :)

Ruth said...

Thanks for the review. I like personal stories and the birding parts are a great bonus. I will have to look for it at our library.

Amila Salgado said...

I have heard about this and find your review useful.

I know two worldlisters; the no. 2 and no.4 in the current 'world rankings' respectively with 8423 and 8189 as per Surfbirds!

They have amazing stories to tell but neither of them have got around to doing a autobiography. That is because they are too busy birding!

Larry said...

Larry said...
Lynne-I think in this case I preferred the audio over the hard copy.

ruthiej-I don't mind riding the bus but I'm glad that the travel time is not wasted.

jayne- I'll go though more books in one year than I normally would in a 5-10 year period.

lana-It's nice have books available at the library at no cost other than our tax contributions.

ruth-I suppose it is difficult to have enough material to make a whole book about birding based strictly on birding.

Larry said...

gallicissa-I'm sure that some of them will eventually come out with their own books and I'll be looking forward to it. There doesn't seem to be enough books on the subject of birding or listing available around here.I really have to dig for them.

Mary said...

Larry, I never read. Well,unless it's necessary - like the back of prescription bottles, recipes, etc. I love to read but I never have time - like you, by the end of the day my eyes are crossed.

I'm certainly glad you don't bring your books on the bus to avoid an embarrassing ordeal :o) Books on tape are good for you.

That guy has seen 7,000 species? My God! He must be exhausted.

Larry said...

Mary-At the end of the book "that guy" was so exhausted that he switched to watching butterflies in his local area.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Another option for your mp3 player are podcasts. There are a bunch of great nature ones out there (check the right column of my blog). I also have a ton of political podcasts on my ipod.

Larry said...

Zen-Yes, I remember you posting about that option some time back.-Thanks for the reminder. I will definitely take advantage of that.

troutbirder said...

Interesting review. Thanks. I find obsessions of all kinds have interesting origins. This bird listing seems fairly harmless

Kathie Brown said...

Hey Larry, thanks for another great book review! I have not heard of that one and I'm interested enough to add it to my list. I didn't even know about listing or the big listers until I read The Big Year by Mark Obmascik. It was a fun read with a lot of info about birding.

Michael said...

I'm a big books on tape "reader" I find it time well spent in the car (I have to drive to work). I find listening to the radio tedious. I started "Every Bird..." But found it slow. I think I will give it another try.
thanks for the review.
If I may suggest. Patrick O'Brian's (the movie "Master and Commander")Series is all on tape and one of the two main charactors is a Naturalist, amoung other things. From listening to the series, Mr. O'Brian also must have been a birder. Enjoy and Cheers, Michael

Larry said...

Michael-I would agree that the book is slow and a bit dragged out. I think the reason I was able to get into it is that I have plenty of time on my hands while riding the bus. I don't have to concentrate on driving a car so I'm able to andle a slow going book.-The second half is more about birding than the first half is.-

Thanks for the tip on that movie/book.-I do need to get my books in cd fo though so I will ask my library about it.

Michael said...


All of the books are on CD, all twenty-two. They are sequential and all take place during the Napoleonic war. You have to like ships, historical fiction, and observations of a naturalest, or you will be bored. I wasn't. hopefully you will enjoy in doses over time.

Larry said...

Michal-I'm going t the library tonight so I will check on it-thanks.

Susan Gets Native said...

I read that a few years ago and parts of it still reverberate for me.
I personally liked the somber tone of the book relating to the family dynamic. A distant father chasing birds all over the planet, while his son, though appreciative of the quest, still yearns for his dad to just BE CLOSER.

I wish we had bus service from my home to where I work. I would have a BAG full of books on tape!

Larry said...

susan gets native-I enjoyed the book but I'm normally too restles to read a book like that.-The bus rides have really given me a good opportunity to listen to lots of books.-It's a book that will resonate more with some people more than others.-Glad to hear that you enjoyed it.