As ornithologists and birders, we readily identify with Christian Cooper’s 7 pleasures of birding: the beauty of birds, being in nature, scientific discovery, collecting, hunting (without the bloodshed), puzzle solving, and what he calls the unicorn effect. Encountering a spark bird or committing vocalizations to memory are among the many milestones birders share, motivated by the same pleasures Cooper enumerates. Unlike most birders, however, Cooper’s experiences go beyond the usual rites of passage, and include the singular anxiety that comes with birding while Black and being the target of racism while birding in Central Park. Though it was the latter that garnered Christian Cooper national attention, his memoir shows he deserved our recognition well before. Better Living Through Birding offers a privileged window into the life of a Black gay birder whose unapologetic individuality, advocacy, and zeal for adventure serve as inspiration to all.

The 13 chapters of the memoir...

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