This is more than a book. It's a big, living and breathing experience in which the reader can be enveloped for a few hundred pages. I opened the book with some misgivings about sharing the travails of a nerdy birdwatcher as he embarked on the even nerdier and rather nebulous mission of setting the record for the most wild birds observed in Australia in a calendar year. Within pages, I had my Pizzey bird guide within reach and was sharing in Sean's selfish irresponsibility, hoping his money would not run out, cringing at some of his decisions, trusting he wouldn't do anything too stupid, and relishing each new bird he ticked off.
I'm not sure how much currency this book would have outside of Australia - in Australia you can go outside and see the same birds that Sean encounters. Similarly, his anecdotes and humor involve some parochial exposure. Nevertheless, the personal experiences and feelings he shares surpass both national borders and the ranges of endemic bird species, and the take-home message he offers at the end is welcome. I laughed at the Sydney Morning Herald critique, shamelessly emblazoned on the front cover, "if you write well, you can write about anything". True perhaps but in the paraphrased words words of the crime writer, Jo Nesbo, one should not delay doing what one needs to do. You can thus justify almost anything. Finishing the last few pages, I was sitting outside listening to dozens of crows parleying in a nearby paddock, I flicked through in amazement to discover that Sean did not tick off the ubiquitous Australian Raven until his twelfth day. While exhibiting a bloke's indifference to the ups and downs of his romantic life, I empathised totally with his quest for the Grey Falcon. Thanks to Sean, I will take a lot more notice of birds and will shake my head in wonder every time see Dick Smith or his stylised visage in commercial or ethereal settings.