Title search

Book reviews

Read reviews of the books we hold in the Chris Mead Library, written by our in-house experts.

Enjoying our expert book reviews?

A selection of book reviews features in our members’ magazine, BTO News.

Join BTO today and receive your quarterly copy of BTO News with exclusive science, birdwatching, opinion, and masterclass articles. 

Sign up to get your copy of BTO News

Fergus The Silent (cover)

Fergus The Silent

Author: Michael McCarthy

Publisher: YouCaxton Publications

Publication Year: 2021

ISBN: 9781914424380

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 452pp

Price: £12.99

Michael McCarthy is perhaps best known for his environmental journalism and nature writing. His skills were recognised by BTO back in 2011, when he was awarded the annual Dilys Breese Medal for outstanding communication of science to new audiences.

Fergus The Silent marks a departure from his usual work, in that it is a foray into fiction. You have to admire the ambition of somebody whose first published fictional work is a 440-page novel! Given its length, you won’t be... read more

Viola Ross-Smith

Birdsplaining (cover)

Birdsplaining: A Natural History

Author: Jasmine Donahaye

Publisher: New Welsh Review, Aberystwyth

Publication Year: 2023

ISBN: 9781913830168

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 199pp

Price: £9.99

The author herself acknowledges in her opening note that some offence may be taken by the title, but Jasmine Donahaye’s collection of short essays is much more than it first seems. She elucidates a multi-faceted explanation for Birdsplaining, adding to the anticipated definition the notion of using birds as a way to explore the relationship humans have both to each other and to the natural world, as well as seeing in them a means to understand personal experience. From the Swallows... read more

Lesley Hindley

At the Very End of the Road (cover)

At the Very End of the Road

Author: Phillip J Edwards

Publisher: Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath

Publication Year: 2021

ISBN: 9781849954976

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 217pp

Price: £16.99

This book takes you through a year on the author, Phillip Edward’s, home ‘patch’ – a complex area of farmland, saltmarsh, river and coastline. Each chapter covers a calendar month, describing in intricate detail encounters with not just birds but mammals, plants, insects and everything else. Britain's fickle weather provides a backdrop to the seasonal changes. Each month is split into eight different accounts of an observation or discovery from that period. 

The intimate observations... read more

Steve Willis

The Hen Harrier's Year (cover)

The Hen Harrier’s Year

Author: Ian Carter (Author) & Dan Powell (Illustrator)

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781784273859

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 173pp

Price: £25.99

On one day every month throughout winter for the past 40 years, a band of hardy volunteers has layered up with thick clothes, filled up a flask with something warming, and ventured forth to a reedbed, rough field, or heath to watch, and to wait. As the weak sun begins to dip, and the light begins to fade, some of these hardy souls will be very lucky indeed, for out of the dimming light might drift a pale, ghostly spirit, or an elegant brown beauty, white rump glowing like a lantern. The... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

Finding W. H. Hudson (cover)

Finding W. H. Hudson: The Writer Who Came to Britain to Save the Birds

Author: Conor Mark Jameson

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2023

ISBN: 9781784273286

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 360pp

Price: £21.99

Of American parentage, William Henry Hudson was born in Argentina in 1841. Arriving in London in 1874, he struggled for some years to make ends meet, before making his name as a naturalist. Hudson is best known for his nature writing, most notably The Naturalist in La Plata, Birds in a Village, Birds in London, and Hampshire Days, but he also wrote a handful of novels; these were significantly less successful than Hudson’s other books, with the author... read more

Mike Toms

Better Living Through Birding (cover)

Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World

Author: Christian Cooper

Publisher: Penguin Random House, New York

Publication Year: 2023

ISBN: 9780593242384

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 288pp

Price: £23.00

When starting Better Living Through Birding, I was not sure what to expect. Cooper is perhaps most widely known in the UK for the infamous incident in Central Park in 2020, but after reading this book I hope he will be best known in the birding community for his profound connection with birds, his eloquent prose, and his inspiring and often comical insights into the world of birding.

This book is a unique blend: part autobiography, part birding almanack, and part exploration of the... read more

Faye Vogely

Robin (cover)


Author: Helen F Wilson

Publisher: Reaktion Books, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781789146264

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 196pp

Price: £13.95

As part of the Reaktion books’ ‘Animal’ series, Helen F Wilson brings together the various ways that Robins have permeated our culture, whether in books, folk stories, newspaper stories, adverts or artwork. As you work your way through the book for every poem or picture you’ll be familiar with, there are another 10 that will be completely new and often surprising. 

This is all underpinned by knowledge and research on the actual bird, showing how much of the folklore around Robins is... read more

Rob Jaques

A haven for farmland birds (cover)

A haven for farmland birds: the unexpected treasures of a small patch of arable land in the Cambridge green belt

Author: John Meed

Publisher: Independent Publishing Network

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781800688216

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 159pp

Price: £11.99

John Meed’s succinct capsule of the relationship between farmland bird abundance, behaviour, breeding success, and land management on a small patch of East Anglian farmland encompasses so much more than the kilometre square his feet have clearly lovingly tramped for a decade.

In the great tradition of British ornithology, at the heart of this book is a birder’s obsession with their local patch, and their favourite species. However, John also brings into play the knowledge he has... read more

Paul Noyes

Flight Paths (cover)

Flight Paths: How the Mystery of Bird Migration Was Solved

Author: Rebecca Heisman

Publisher: Swift Press, London

Publication Year: 2023

ISBN: 9781800752924

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 264pp

Price: £14.99

This fascinating book opens with a question: where do the birds go? People have, of course, been asking this question for centuries, and over time our knowledge has increased enormously and, indeed, is still increasing – from BTO’s own work revealing new migration routes of Cuckoos to the recent revelation that Scottish Red-necked Phalaropes winter off the Pacific coast of South America. The book does not answer this question directly but delves into the question of how we know where birds... read more

Rob Robinson

RSPB Handbook of Garden Wildlife (cover)

RSPB Handbook of Garden Wildlife

Author: Peter Holden & Geoffrey Abbott

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2023

ISBN: 9781399403245

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 272pp

Price: £14.99

Gardens cumulatively make up a huge habitat in the UK and for those of us lucky enough to have a garden they have the potential to host all sorts of amazing wildlife. This book is a remarkably comprehensive guide to almost everything that might share a space with humans. It covers much, much more than just birds. Species account for our feathered friends cover less than a fifth of the book. Mammals are covered in a good level of detail (although Red Squirrels are in every sense displaced by... read more

Steve Willis

RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds (cover)

RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds

Author: Marianne Taylor & Stephen Message (illustrator)

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781472994721

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 272pp

Price: £7.99

This book may be small but packs quite a punch – more than 300 species of bird are covered. Each species account gives you illustrations (especially good for waders where the images used highlight key id features), ‘key features’ to look for with explanations about how to identify the species, short descriptions of song and call, where to see the bird and a brief summary of movements and population. It’s like a condensed version of the RSPB’s excellent Handbook of British Birds.... read more

Steve Willis

The Meaning of Geese (cover)

The Meaning of Geese

Author: Nick Acheson

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing UK

Publication Year: 2023

ISBN: 9781915294098

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 230pp

Price: £19.99

Migratory geese fall into that group of species that have an accompanying cultural resonance because their arrivals and departures mark the changing seasons. This resonance is particularly strong for those birdwatchers, and others, who are rooted within the landscapes touched by these birds on their long migratory journeys. Nick Acheson is one such individual, and the significance of the pinks, brents and white-fronts that winter in his north Norfolk landscape is evident from his engaging... read more

Mike Toms

Where to Watch Birds in Wales

Where to Watch Birds in Wales

Author: David Saunders & Jon Green

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781472979513

Binding: Softback

Page Count: 384pp

Price: £24.99

Following the long-established format of the Where to Watch Birds in… guides, a newly-updated fifth edition of this guide to birdwatching sites in Wales is now available. The addition of new locations brings this volume to a total of 142 sites. Most of the premier birdwatching locations in Wales have an entry; nonetheless, this is not an exhaustive guide, so other worthy and popular birdwatching locations are necessarily overlooked. Likewise, many ‘sites’ cover very large areas and... read more

Callum Macgregor

Shrikes of the World (cover)

Shrikes of the World

Author: Norbert Lefranc (author), Tim Worfolk (illustrator)

Publisher: Helm, London

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781472933775

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 336pp

Price: £59.99

Shrikes occupy a strange place in the minds and hearts of ornithologists; at once being attractive passerines, but with a raptorial streak that led to many of us being brought up to know them as butcherbirds for their habit of impaling food items on thorns and barbed wire. They can be a birder’s dream and nightmare, with complexes of closely intertwined species and subspecies making field identification of individuals tricky. And they are at once widespread globally, but with specific... read more

Anthony Wetherhill

Low-carbon Birding (cover)

Low-carbon birding

Author: Javier Caletrío

Publisher: Pelagic Publishing

Publication Year: 2022

ISBN: 9781784273446

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 251pp

Price: £16.99

As Javier Caletrío notes at the very beginning of his introduction to this collection of essays, ‘There is a beauty in the simplicity of birdwatching’. This simplicity is something that has all too often been lost; countless birdwatchers continue to burn significant quantities of fossil fuels in their attempts to see increasingly rare and exotic birds, often in increasingly rare and exotic locations.

This book challenges the notion that birdwatching needs to be based around powered... read more

Mike Toms

Related content