One of the book clubs I’m a part of has chosen Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer as our read for September. What I stumbled upon when I dug into the book was poetic, beautiful writing, and the fictionalisation of Len Howard‘s life, a woman who dedicated her life – and offered her house – to the birds surrounding her, in order to study their true behaviour.
As the book came to an end, and I considered what I had read, the strange but enthralling life Howard must have lived and her love for birds and independence, other books with birds I had come across on my reading journey came to mind.
The books below aren’t all about birds; although in some of these stories, birds – real, or ethereal – do play a role, some I chose for the birds on the cover, others for the birds on the title. It’s mostly a list for bird lovers who enjoy a good read.
The Atomic Weight Of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
Meridian has been obsessed with birds since she was a little girl, and she is determined to become an ornithologist, but when she falls in love with her physics professor, she puts a hold on her plans to follow him when he is recruited to Mexico.
It’s only years later that Meridian, who has traded the possibility of an independent life exploring her passion for a traditional marriage, realises how much she has given up.
The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour
Zal is born with pale skin and hair. His mother, horrified by his appearance, hides him in a birdcage for a decade.
A behaviour analyst brings him to New York, and Zal sees the possibility of a future for the first time in his life. Now knowing exactly how to behave like a regular adolescent, he ends up finding his place among other outsiders. Chaos ensues as he becomes friends with an illusionist who is convinced Zal can fly and an artist who believes he is clairvoyant.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
At 20 years old, Boy Novak takes the bus and gets off at the last stop, in Flax Hill, Massachusetts.
Having decided to start a new life, she meets Arturo Whitman, father of Snow, a cherished little girl who is everything Boy never was as a child.
When Boy gives birth to Bird, things become complicated with Snow, and Boy is given a new insight into Arturo’s family.
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
Williams’s mother – of whom the author has already spoken of in a previous book, Refuge – developed cancer due to the nuclear testing in Nevada.
Before dying, she left all of her journals to Williams, requesting that her daughter not read them until after she was gone.
When the time came to open the journals, they were not what Williams had expected at all. They were all empty, and Williams was left to find out the meaning behind what her mother (hadn’t) said.
Silhouette Of A Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
Garnet Richardson is 16 when she is sent to a resort to get away from a Polio epidemic.
What she imagined would be a way to find freedom and to discover more of her passion, ornithology, suddenly turns into the same type of oppression she was used to at home.
A job in a hat shop and a secret romance save Garnet from the boredom of other people’s expectations.
For every person who loves to read stories of young women setting themselves free from the traditional and expected norms, this book is a delight.
The Astonishing Colour Of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, and she leaves a note Leigh cannot make sense of.
Leigh travels to Taiwan guided by a strange and mysterious red bird, where her thirst to figure out her family’s secrets grows, and the ghosts of the past linger still.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
This is the first book of The Sparrow Series.
The year is 2019 and a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up signs of terrestrial life from a planet which will later be known as Rakhat.
As the United Nations decides how best to approach the situation, a Society of Jesus decides to organise an expedition of its own, but this expedition ends up having some jaw-dropping repercussions.
The Gravity Of Birds by Tracy Guzeman
This is Guzeman’s debut novel.
In it, an art authenticator and an art historian hired by a famous painter to sell a portrait find themselves entangled in the lives of two sisters, Natalie and Alice, and in the centre of a family secret that had been buried deep for years.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Although there is little I can add to describe this renowned book, I could not leave aside Angelou’s beautiful memoir.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is an inspiring tale of finding self-love, choosing to be kind, and allowing oneself to be set free.
It is proof that there’s power in poetry and in the softest parts of ourselves.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Toru Okada lives in a suburb in Tokyo, and as he searches for his missing wife and cat, he stumbles into a string of unlikely characters.
Beneath the surface of Tokyo, he ends up finding antagonists and allies, each one more bizarre than the other.
If these have piqued your interest in birds, here is a list of 3 books to get you started on bird watching!