Books in the “Animal” series published by Reaktion Boos, London, distributed in the U.S. by the University of Chicago Press.
Several months ago I reviewed a book in this series entitled, simply, “Owl.” I liked the book very much — the idea of it, the design, the content. I have on my desk now four more in that five-dozen-book-series of close encounters with familiar creatures.
The charm of the books about birds (11 species so far, with others planned) is that birds are
discussed and presented as we find them in our daily, ordinary lives, no binoculars needed. There is biology, but it is incidental to the birds’ place in history, literature, religion, romance, even dining — discussions of the birds’ place in world cultures in general.
Foremost is the importance of and pleasure of encounters with these animals.
Today I have “Duck,” “Albatross,” Flamingo,” and “Crow.”
“Crow” begins in Mesopotamia and ends with contemporary art, film, and even politics. “Duck” includes pressed duck and animated duck.The author of “Albatross” tells us how the bird has been imagined by adventurers and authors. “Flamingo,” in addition to the broad view of all books in this series, visits literature, of course, and even touches those on silly plastic yard ornaments.
Authors of these books come from varied endeavors. Graham Barwell, author of “Albatross,” teaches English, media, and cultural studies at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. Desmond Morris, who wrote “Owl,” is the popular author of several books examining human sociobiology. These are not ornithological accounts.
Bookstore shelves are filled with volumes giving us the who and where about birds.This Reaktion series gives us what and when and why. These are bird books of a different feather, well worth adding to your library.