Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder: A Memoir by Julia Zarankin is an honest, entertaining look at the author’s transformation into a bird lover while “auditioning” mid-life hobbies. She shares reflections of ten years of observing birds, yet rather than claiming expert-status, she declares herself a “lifelong beginning birder.”
The book moves mostly chronologically, reflecting on her birding journey and her life. It provides an inside look at one of the most popular hobbies in America and the fervor that it brings out in dedicated birders. Many bird species are described in depth, others just enough to encourage the reader to do a quick search, to see exactly what that bird looks like.
Zarankin also weaves in snippets of her childhood and her family’s immigration stories, providing background on her life that helps explain her dedication to a hobby she sometimes does not seem terribly passionate about. In fact, the author seems surprised at her own transformation, often pondering how and why she voluntarily chose to put herself in physically uncomfortable situations on the rare chance she might get to catch a glimpse of a rare bird that she admits she might not even be able to properly identify.
While this is a memoir, not a “How to Bird” book, it provides a vivid image of the world of birds and the people who travel great distances in hopes of spotting them. Readers at a crossroads in their lives may see themselves and be encouraged to try something new, no matter how ridiculous it might seem.
Like others here, this book recommendation is purely the opinion of the author. No compensation has been provided for its publication. This post includes an affiliate link; should you choose to purchase the book via this link, we receive a portion of the proceeds.