Sunday Book Review – Birds and People by Mark Cocker (photographs David Tipling)

This book arrived on Thursday and I have to admit that I have not read all the 400,000+ words, but I don’t have to, to be able to tell you that this is a fantastic book.

It is a book to dip into for knowledge and pleasure.  I have dipped into some of those places where I know something, to see what the author had to say, and haven’t been disappointed.  And when you dip, you will find that the next entry keeps your attention and makes you keep reading with pleasure.  Hours can pass in this way if you aren’t strict about rationing yourself.

You can spend a lot of time just looking at the pictures – and you shouldn’t feel bad about that.  David Tipling’s photographs add a lot to a marvellous book.

This book will not go on my bookshelf – it will move around the house with me so that I can dip and sample and taste and peruse.  It should have been published when the days are shorter, the nights are longer and an open fire is welcoming.  At the moment it is too great a distraction from going out looking at birds and butterflies.

I have, even with only little sips of the oceans of knowledge contained within these pages, learned quite a few things.  Did you know about the chalk kiwi at Bulford – I didn’t and I was surprised that I didn’t? I knew a little of the Yawar festivals of the Andes, and the roles of condors and bulls, but I was glad to learn more.

Mark Cocker is a friend of mine and his conversation is laced with the knowledge and anecdotes that make this book so enjoyable.  I believe him when he writes that it would be possible to write twenty times as much as is contained within these pages.  I’d love to see the accounts that had to be excised for this book to be manageable.  I’d love to see a second volume in a few years time.

At the price I paid for this book on the internet it is phenomenal value for money – cheaper per page than almost any bird book I know – and so valuable in terms of giving more pleasure per page than most bird books I know.

Birds and People by Mark Cocker is published by Jonathan Cape and is available on Amazon as is Mark Avery’s book Fighting for Birds.

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10 Replies to “Sunday Book Review – Birds and People by Mark Cocker (photographs David Tipling)”

  1. As some one who reviews books it is best to read them before making a review. So often you see reviews that are just the foot notes sent out by the publisher. One famous son of conservation wrote a review which was so full of 'not reading the book' that it made you wonder about most reviews. At least you were honest Mark. I will wait for copy arriving.

    1. John - 'at least you were honest Mark' - thanks John. It isn't a novel, you don't have to see how the characters are developed and whether the twist at the end is believable given the rest of the events. It's a book where you would expect to read bits of it. I've read lots of bits of it!

  2. For those of you in the Oxford area Mark Cocker is speaking at Blackwell's bookshop on August 13

    And do support your local bookshop if you buy the book. Don't let those Internet giants get all the benefit, or otherwise there might not be a volume 2, containing all the bits missed out.

    1. Allen - many thanks! And I have already helped to kill off my local bookshop (deep shame!).

      1. It's a conundrum, that one! I've already paid six pounds (for two of us) to hear MC at Blackwells hoping the book will be a bit discounted and that Mark will autograph it for us! It's good to have it signed, already got Fighting for Birds with yours on Mark!

  3. I read Cocker's "Crow country" and was left pretty disappointed as I battled through what I'd describe as "Selfish spiel" (Selfish as in Will Self... why use one word when twelve (stretched analogies n all) will do).
    Is your friend's new book less "purple" than Crow country I wonder?

    1. Doug - this is a very different book indeed. I like Crow Country but it isn't my favourite of Mark's works.

    2. Doug - this is a very different book indeed. I like Crow Country but it isn't my favourite of Mark's works.


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