Genuinely unsure how I’ve become some sort of go-to reviewer for books about birds, but I 100% love it, especially when it brings gorgeous, informative books like these into my inbox!
Around The World In 80 Birds is a delightful travelogue that uses birds as its focus. Charting the world by discussing eighty of the most distinctive birds found regionally — or, in some cases, in extremely small, protected areas — Mike Unwin discusses the scientific backgrounds, colorful histories and current realities of these remarkable avian creatures. The prose is wonderfully conversational, perfect for the amateur birder or naturalist (such as myself!) and accessible for a wide range of ages.
I really enjoyed the expansive variety of birds chosen here, with each entry bringing up fascinating new information about its subject, even when said subject was something I thought I already knew quite a bit of popular information about. From the bald eagle of Northern America to the jungle fowl of Southeast Asia, Mr Unwin always has something interesting to share regarding birds I thought was already well familiar with. And the entries on birds that were very much unfamiliar to me were absolute cornucopias of information. I’d never heard of the oilbird or the purple-crested turaco before but my world is much the richer for having learned about them here.
A lot of the credit for this volume, too, must go to Ryuto Miyake, whose full-color depictions of the birds, often shown in situ, are as dazzling as any illustration from the golden age of bird art. Birds are shown in their plumage, nesting and on the hunt and at play, and occasionally in their most common interactions with human beings. Their common prey and predators, and other images and symbols most commonly associated with each bird — such as the distinctive man-made houses built for purple martins or the green swarm cloud of budgerigars in the wild — are also portrayed, sometimes in insets, sometimes in two-page spreads. It’s a remarkable show of artistic versatility, made even more impressive by the time constraints alluded to in the afterword.
The only criticism I have of this otherwise magnificent book is how occasionally scattershot the geography feels. This is much less obvious in the North American section, but is genuinely disorienting in both the South & Central American and South & Southeast Asian sections. It felt weird whipsawing back and forth across, for example, the Indian Ocean between entries instead of gradually leading from one region the next, but that’s honestly a very minor critique.
This is a wonderful book to add to the collection of anyone interested in either or both birds and avian art. It’s educational without feeling teach-y, and just incredibly gorgeous overall. Recommended.
Around The World In 80 Birds by Mike Unwin & Ryuto Miyake was published today August 23 2022 by Laurence King and is available from all good booksellers, including