"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


"May my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living." -E.E. Cummings //////Pictured: The Eurasian Blue Tit

Close to Birds is the most beautiful book I've read in ages, maybe ever. It is chalk-full of gorgeous photographs of our fine-feathered friends taken by Roine Magnusson, an award-winning photographer who has contributed to National Geographic. He seeks unconventional ways to approach his pictures and explains the techniques he used to get these phenomenal shots, though I couldn't really understand how he did it even after the explanation. I guess it is trade secret.

Pictured: The European Goldfinch
Mats and Asa Ottosson are both journalists and nature lovers. They wrote short essays to accompany the stunning photography and shared charming and little known details from the birds' lives. So the reader learns a bit along the way, like why a robin sings so early in the morning and that the iridescence of the male mallard duck's feather make them look green but they aren't really. Along with each essay are short remembrances of each bird collected from other bird-watching enthusiasts. These people shared simple pleasures of moments shared with the birds. My favorite was written by Hakan Nunstedt who works as a university department chair, when he isn't hiding at a lek, waiting to see and hear the Western Capercaille. It starts, "I was no older than thirteen when I first heard the capercaille cocks' snapping sounds in the great dark forest. It awoke something in me. The anticipation, the mysticism, the unpredictability!" He goes on to say that he's camped out for capercaille lekking over 276 times. (Lekking is from Swedish and means a communal breeding display.)
Pictured: Western Capercaille, male
Close to Birds was translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson. A book loses or gains merit based on its translation and Ms. Josefsson did an excellent job bringing the material to life in English for us non-Swedish readers. Though I have never heard the work 'lek' before and had to look it up, she knows more than I the particulars of language.
Even common birds like this Common Wood Pigeon are shown to be special in this book

My only complaint about the book is that the birds for the most part are ones found in Europe almost exclusively, with the exception of those which are found worldwide or were transplants from North America to Europe or vise versa. They even had a little note on the Canada goose which made me roll my eyes. We feel the same about them here. Not that I didn't love learning about their little and large birds, I just wanted the same treatment for birds over here.  Hint hint. Hey team, make a book that is the same but uses North American birds!
Pictured: Eurasian Jay
I got lost in this book for a few days, which was just the respite I needed from all the political and social upheaval happening all around us here in the USA. I highly recommend it to you, too!

Pictured: The Great Tit



  1. I love birds, although I don't want to become a bird watcher. Too much waiting, and I would get bored.

  2. I think birding has become quite popular in the past 5 months as we've all been confined to our home and yards. This book looks wonderful.

  3. I've become a bit of a bird watcher during the pandemic. I spend many hours watching birds come to our feeders and splash in our bird bath. I'd like to know more about birds, even those of Europe.

  4. These are amazing bird photos. I agree with you, though, that it would be wonderful to have a North American version.


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