The Backyard Bird Chronicles

Knopf. Apr. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9780593536131. pap. $35. NAT HIST
With her latest book, bestselling novelist Tan (The Memory of Desire) returns to nonfiction. Part natural history, part personal journal, the book is an engaging mix of her own high-end drawings and quick sketches, journal excerpts, and observations from bird-watching in her suburban backyard. Written from 2017 to 2022, the book also chronicles her growth as both an artist and a bird-watching naturalist. But this is not a how-to for bird-watching. Instead, it is an intensely personal book, filled with her observations and reflections on birds and the greater natural world. It gives basic information about the appearance and behaviors of the species that appeared in Tan’s backyard, and it also confronts potentially upsetting topics, such as avian epidemics or death.
VERDICT At turns engaging, sad, and philosophical, this highly recommended title demonstrates that anyone can be a bird watcher by simply venturing into their own backyard and it encourages readers to be aware of the natural world around them. Fans of Tan’s fiction will love this, but so will most other general readers.
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