When it comes to information, we live in a bite-sized world. Think Twitter, life reduced to a handful of key strokes. Or the format of so many magazines: pages filled with bits and blurbs of information, highlighted with color and borders. Ditto Web pages. Long is out. Brief is in.
So, Jonathan Alderfer's new book from National Geographic -- "Bird Watcher's Bible" fits perfectly today. Alderfer, his co-authors, his editors and designers have created an impressively informative book that makes the facts and stories about all aspects of birds and their lives exceptionally available. Brief is in.
The book also is entertaining in the way we seem to approach much entertainment these days -- quick takes presented in visually exciting ways.
Open this book to any page.There will be two or three or four items to catch your eye, feed your curiosity about birds, answer your questions. Page 147, opened at random: Photo of flamingo and its chick (there is a photo or two or a graphic on each of the book's 390 pages), text continuing a succinct explanation of eggs; and a boxed 27-word explanation of the source of the word "duck." The latter is a surprising and simply unexpected treat.
There is of course a plan for all of this, order in the usual book fashion -- chapters, index, suggestions for further reading, bios of Alderfer and his three co-contributors. There also are 48 brief (of course) birdographies of a wide range of birds, chickadee to dodo, a bonus.
Hundreds of artists and photographers are represented here. Their work is exceptional. Paging through the book for illustrations alone would be rewarding. The designers, people whose work on books often is unnoticed for simplicity and blandness, are an active part of this effort. They have given book's contents beautiful and functional lives. Typography might not be your thing, but you will appreciate the work seen here.
The book is $40, hardcover, sewn binding, an effort meant to last. It would be a wonderful gift for a friend, loved one, or yourself. It easily ranks with the top three or four bird books published in 2012. It certainly makes the best all-encompassing effort.
You can see from the illustration that the copy I used for this review came from the Hennepin County library.