Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All

I imagine you've been wondering how long it would take me to finish this book. I've been wondering the same. Two weeks! I'm kind of behind schedule now - although not disastrously behind - 40 weeks left, 38 more books to read. That doesn't sound behind schedule to you, I realize, but I like being ahead of schedule so I'm a little stressed.

I don't know why it took me so long to get through. Part of the problem may have been the 12-hour days I worked last week. Have I mentioned that I read for a living? Not just any reading: my days are jam-packed with page upon page of emotive statements like "based on our regression analysis," and "industry sources indicate the trend is (pick a direction)." Take those days and lengthen them and then, just for kicks, add a little stress-induced insomnia to the mix, et voila! I become a Slow Reader.

The subject matter didn't help. A Supremely Bad Idea concerns three birdwatchers (excuse me, birders) and their travels around the United States to see as many species as possible. Long passages discuss the nuances of identifying various species - I am yawning just thinking about it.  

Apart from that, though, I enjoyed the book. It's essentially a travelogue in the style of Bill Bryson - sharp observations permeated with a gentle sense of humor. The author, Luke Dempsey, is  aware of the nerdy reputation the hobby has and so never takes himself too seriously - and there is ample compensation in the travel narration.

The descriptions of run-ins with inconsiderate others are flat out hilarious: obnoxious, shouting birding tour guides and groups of men called "The Pregnants"; at these encounters, the author's superhero alter-ego, Small Injustice Man, unfurls his cape and holds his ground.

One of my favorite sequences involves a trip they took to Texas, where they attempt to avoid "The United States of Generica;" that is, they will not eat or sleep in any Motel 6's or McDonald's. The hotels run the gamut from a stellar bed-and-breakfast to a place so disgusting I felt skeevy just having read about it.

Like birdwatching, the book took me places I would not have gone otherwise, and I confess a newfound regard for birds and birders (although I reserve my right to poke fun at them, since they evidently have a sense of humor about it - mostly).

12 books down, 38 more to go.

1 comment:

  1. I love the review! Keep going. I feel a bit bogged down too - I'm reading 1421, a semi-history book, which is fascinating but requires deep thought...

    Looking forward to the next review!
    Rosie of BooksAndBakes


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