Steve Burrows' first book in the Birder Murder Mystery series is A Siege of Bitterns, which was published this spring to terrific reviews. It's the story of Inspector Domenic Jejeune, whose birding skills come in handy while solving crimes on England's Norfolk coast. Outside of murder mysteries, birds have played a big role in Burrows' life, through his nature writing and also as a hobby. In this guest post, he shares the pleasures of birding right in one's own backyard, and suggests that birds and literature are a natural fit.
When you think about it, there aren’t many things you can do for free while sitting in a chair that will transport you to another world. Reading fiction is one. Watching birds is another. To sit and watch the activity at backyard feeders is to enter a realm in which there will be much that is familiar to readers of great fiction. There are triumphs and tragedies, feuds and collaborations, rewards and injustice. In short, the stuff of life—all played out against a backdrop of suet and seed. But other story elements exist at the bird feeders, too, those that make us question, as all good fiction does, what we think we know, and what we hold dear.
There are times that we at the Canadian Bookshelf miss the non-bookish zeitgeist boat, and so it was only quite recently that we discovered the very funny "Put a Bird on It" sketch from the television series Portlandia. The sketch is clearly onto something, however, and it's not just handbags and lampshades that have been receiving the Put a Bird Treatment lately. Many recent Canadian books have been similarly bedecked, including the usual suspects (avian guides), but also poetry books, memoirs and novels. Bird books, it turns out, aren't so rare after all, but we think they're kind of lovely.
Check out the Complete Canadian Bookshelf Put a Bird on It Books List, with some of our favourite birdish picks featured below:
The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson
The Crow's Vow by Susan Briscoe
One Bird's Choice by Iain Reid