Can you be a two-fisted book worm? C’mon nobody’s talking about birdfood. Sometimes it’s fun to find a book that hits your interests dead solid perfectly. Funnyman Kevin James suffered through a night school book class in his sitcom, King of Queens, because he hated reading. He’s a two-fisted guy, mainly with sandwiches. His trouble was that he tried to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. A classic perhaps, loved by some, but Bronte’s just not making the cut when it comes to our Two-Fisted Library. Here are a few writers who get the job done. And if you want to know more about a book shown on this page, just click on it.
Described as the original fly in the ointment. This guy was a wilderness version of Jack Kerouac. The untamed soul, a lover of the unconventional. A defender of open spaces. An occasional bird watcher. As well as a snake, scorpion, bear, mountain lion, bison, and biker chick watcher. His book of essays Desert Solitaire made him famous although he liked his novels better, like The Monkey Wrench Gang and Fool’s Progress. It’s all good. Spend a bit of time with anything by Abbey and you’ll come away feeling like you’ve just bushwhacked through a canyon, floated down a wild river and come through a pine forest. Not for the faint-hearted. And if Abbey’s right about re-incarnation, he’s watching you from above as he wheels in the hot sky as a happy turkey vulture, his favorite bird.
Some, but not all, Ed Abbey stuff we like:
A critic once said that this guy’s got immortality in him. We hope so. He’s looking kind of beat-up and hard-used. Harrison, like Abbey, grew out of the beatnik/hippie mind-set but with a back-country flavor. Harrison’s a poet. Please don’t hold that against him. He writes poetic novels and novellas, essays about travel and grumpiness. Just take a look at his stuff. And please forget that they made movies out of it. Like Wolf and Legends of the Fall. Those are nothing like the books! A little time in Harrison’s lit and you’ll feel like you’ve lived in an old Montana ranch house, smoked unknown substances with wise Ogallala Sioux buddies, gorged on venison stew and met up with all your old dead dogs who are alive and happy again. You’ll also see a two-fisted take on bird watching. Harrison came up with the cool idea of re-naming all our birds because their present names are, to use his word, for dweebs.
Some, but not all, Jim Harrison stuff we like:
Abbey and Harrison are our two list toppers for now, but…
Also high on the list are David Quammen who writes irreverent and fascinating essays like those in Wild Thoughts from Wild Places; Thomas McGuane, a real Montanan with all that connotes; Larry McMurtry who wrote the Lonesome Dove four-book series which are not about doves but about cowboys, dance hall girls, snapping turtles, arrow wounds, camp fires and ravens.
We also like Annie Dillard, a two-fisted lover of wild things and oddities, like the ones in her eclectic For the Time Being (there’s more to Annie than Pilgrim at Tinker Creek). And Suzie Gilbert has written a worthwhile book with vulture-scarred hands. It’s called Flyaway: How a wild bird rehabber sought adventure and found her wings. As the title suggests, there’s more to this engaging story than fixing broken birds.
For classic adventure there’s Jack London’s short stories and his Call of the Wild. And we like South African adventure writer Wilbur Smith’s Birds of Prey, Monsoon and A Falcon Flies. These are jungle and pirate stories. Smith will introduce you to the honeyguide, an unusual African bird you oughta know. There’s H. Rider Haggard for King Solomon’s Mines (again, forget the stupid movie) and W.H. Hudson for Green Mansions, a haunting Amazon adventure with Rima the bird girl. For sweaty Amazon non-fiction we like River of Doubt by Candice Millard about Teddy Roosevelt and his bully jungle exploration there.
A comment from Beth:
This was the first page I went to on the first visit to your website (since I am a librarian!)! I love the titles you picked. Here are a few of my favorite authors: Everything by Barry Lopez and David James Duncan. River Walking: Reflections on Moving Water by Kathleen Dean Moore.
I grew up with a mother who traveled the world (in her tweeds) working on her lifelong bird list. She refused to believe I had a Rufous Hummingbird coming to my feeder in the Mojave until I sent her a picture. When I moved, I severely missed the Roadrunner looking in our house until he found the room I was in, then tapping at my window for his daily dole of hamburger.
I have been in the Northwest for the past 20 years and my biggest thrill was when Piliated Woodpeckers started frequenting the suet feeder. Another memorable moment was when I was playing Gregorian Chants on the porch and a Great Horned Owl was drawn in and started hooting back at the music!
Now I am living over a mile high in the Rockies and have just seen my first Oriole and Bluebird in 20 years! There are so many hummingbirds here I have seen 9 birds sharing a single feeder, sometimes with two beaks in the same hole. Perhaps world peace is possible. Anyway, I am glad I discovered your site!
A comment from Roy:
I suggest your library include Peter Matthiessen and Farley Mowat (altho Mowat was more naturalist than birder). Matthiessen’s natural history, much of it ornithological, is a marvel (The Birds of Heaven). His fiction, most recently “Shadow Country,” a one volume rendition of the Watson trilogy, is not only a truly marvelous read but teaches more about late 19th and early 20th SW Florida, including its avifauna, than any other work, fiction or non-fiction, that I’m aware of.
Mowat’s “And No Birds Sang” illumines the horrors of war from perspectives of many living creatures; his arctic trilogy, “Top of the World” along with “Sea of Slaughter,” give great insight into the region where so many of the birds we watch are first brought to life. Less seriously start with “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” and “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float” (memoir? fiction? unadulterated bullshit?), in any case, great fun.
I just found this site and look forward to it.