I almost never read books twice. "Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder" is an exception, even with a title I found off-putting.

I read it happily, and while reading it again will honestly say it is the best-written bird book I've come across.

The author, Julia Zarankin, tells a great story, and has a great story to tell. The book is as much about her as birds. It more or less begins the moment she realizes that when her newborn nephew is her age she will be 82.

She has a marriage soon to end, a career that no longer fits, and a nagging question: Is this all there is?

She is looking for a hobby. She and her sister meet a birding couple, they talk, the birders non-stoppable about what they have seen and heard. Eventually, the birding woman says, "If you're very very quiet you might hear a bird." Our heroine, however, is bored.

Some months later, talking to her sister, she admits she has not found a hobby that fits.

"What are you looking for?"

"Something that will exercise my patience."

"That's it?"

"And bring me peace, without having to do yoga."

Her sister laughs, then whispers, "If you're very, very quiet you might hear a bird."

And so Zarankin begins, finding in a book bird names that to her "read like poetry in a foreign language."

For a year red-winged blackbird is the only species she can identify. Then, she blames the blackbird for everything else that happens.

She becomes an uber-birder. She finds meaning for her life, new friends, and a new husband who is passively heroic. (For a long time he is an SOB — spouse of birder. He eventually succumbs.)

She likes birding, she tells us, because she never knows exactly what she will see. She birds, she tell us, because birds make her happy.

Is there a better reason?

The book has a durable soft cover, 255 pages, a resource list. The author also gives us her birding CV, with which many of us will identify. Publisher is the Canadian firm Douglas & McIntyre, price U.S. $18.95.

I found my copy at the Hennepin County Library.