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Better Living Through Birding (cover)

Publisher: Penguin Random House, New York

Publication Year: 2023

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 288

ISBN Number: 9780593242384

Price: £ 23.00

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

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 fascinating realm of comics. It weaves together the threads of Cooper’s life, with birds consistently serving as the vibrant red thread that holds it all together.

As a seasoned writer, Cooper expertly intertwines stories from his childhood, his family, his birding adventures around the world, and a cast of endearing characters from his Central Park birding community.

If you are a more experienced birder, you will undoubtedly recognise yourself and others in Cooper’s descriptions, both of people and of his experiences with birds. You will ache to see a Blackburnian Warbler from his detailed and emotive descriptions, and feel the renewed sense of awe at a Common Grackle as he talks about his experience seeing the bird through new eyes.

For the beginning birder, Cooper’s top tips and “seven wonders of birding” are a great introduction to the hobby. His enthusiasm is infectious, and all birders will find themselves yearning to pick up binoculars and head outdoors to (re)discover the beauty of birds for themselves.

Cooper’s personal anecdotes, along with his absolute skill for storytelling, make this book an engaging read from start to finish. His experiences are often humorous, touching, and thought-provoking, making it easy for readers to connect with his journey on a personal level.

No matter your background, experience level, or whether you’re a US- or UK-based birder, I thoroughly recommend this book as a balm to the heart.

Book reviewed by Faye Vogely

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