Six Books for Bird Nerds and Nature Lovers

These new titles make ideal gifts—or go ahead and treat yourself.

Conversations with Birds

By Priyanka Kumar

(Milkweed Editions; 296 pages; $26)

In 20 vignettes and essays, Priyanka Kumar lovingly narrates how encounters with birds have molded her outlook on life, family, and nature, bridging the mountains of her childhood in India to her adult wanderings in California and New Mexico. A spark was Kumar’s chance “mango-colored bird” sighting—a Western Tanager—that stirs her to “aliveness” during a near-death experience; her powerful musings take off from there. Her writing is full of beauty but also tells of destruction of the interconnected ecosystems that sustain birds and people. “Sometimes it just takes the right bird to awaken us,” she writes.

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Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World

By Barry Lopez 

(Random House; 352 pages; $28)

Birds flit through this posthumous essay collection by a giant of nature writing, but its real subject is the value and the urgency of closely observing the world around us. “Perhaps the first rule of everything we endeavor to do is to pay attention,” Lopez reflects. “Perhaps the second is to be patient.” A birder in search of words to live by could do worse.

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Brown Pelican

By Rien Fertel

(LSU Press; 112 pages; $22)

Although the Brown Pelican is the star of one of the world’s great conservation success stories, today the iconic species is once again under threat. Brief enough to finish at cruising altitude but meaty enough to chew on long after, Brown Pelican is an engaging history of humankind’s complicated, at times shameful relationship with a remarkable species.

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At Home on an Unruly Planet: Finding Refuge on a Changed Earth

By Madeline Ostrander

(Henry Holt & Company; 352 pages; $29)

What does it mean to live on an unruly planet? And how do we reconcile that quest with our concept of home? Madeline Ostrander examines both questions through the deeply reported lens of four communities grappling with the calamitous effects of climate change. And in the process, she paints a portrait of what it takes to persevere, rebuild, and fashion for ourselves a more resilient place in this unsettled world.  

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This Is a Book for People Who Love Birds

By Danielle Belleny/Illustrated by Stephanie Singleton

(Running Press Adult; 152 pages; $16)

Prefer to giggle at bird banter and fun facts? Pick up Danielle Belleny’s primer to birds and birding. Perfect for someone still learning their way around birds, Belleny, a co-founder of Black Birders Week, charmingly walks through avian biology, anatomy, and birding culture. The writing is full of clever jokes and uncommon perspective grounded in deep knowledge of the modern birding scene.

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Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America’s Woods

By Lyndsie Bourgon

(Little Brown; 288 pages; $28)

This gripping detective story and a tremendous work of journalism follows redwood poachers and the park rangers who are trying to track them down. Through telling the story of a band of tree poachers living outside Redwood National Park, Bourgon describes the poverty and social issues that corporate deforestation leaves in its wake. The solution, she argues, is investing in local communities to take care of the forests they know.

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