Up Close & Personal ...

The Island Book Shoppe is the distributor for Up Close & Personal: Confessions of a Backyard Birder (Isle of the Arts Publishing, 2010) by Sharon McInnes.
Up Close & Personal: Confessions of a Backyard Birder is a compilation of 29 light-hearted essays about the author's transformation from a city-dweller who could barely tell a robin from a rooster into a passionate amateur birder. Many of the essays were previously published in some form as a monthly Just for the Birds column in The Flying Shingle newspaper on Gabriola Island. The book also includes two poems and forty colour photographs by Sharon and others.

About the author
Sharon writes essays, articles, short stories, and poetry. Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and professional journals in Canada and the U.S. She also has an essay in Living Artfully: Reflections from the Far West Coast, an anthology of West Coast writers published by The Key Publishing House, 2012. Sharon also writes The Gabriola Bird Blog at http://gabriolabirdblog.blogspot.com.

BC BookWorld June 2011 Review of Up Close & Personal by Susan Yates:

I have the usual assortment of bird identification guides that any west coast nature lover uses to discern a finch from a sparrow, but I don’t consider myself a birder. Neither did Sharon McInnes, until she moved from the city to Gabriola Island, and the birds around her new home captured her heart and mind. It took only a few weeks in spring for McInnes to become not just captivated, but obsessed, by the quirky antics of the feathered creatures that share our outdoor world. Read More...

It took me less than half an hour, listening to McInnes read from Up Close & Personal, Confessions of a Backyard Birder, to be captivated by the intriguing facts and inviting tone of this delightful book. It’s probably the only book (not including my daily staple of children’s picture books) that I have ever read in one sitting; it’s a relatively short anthology of essays originally written for a local island newspaper, and each chapter describes that special connection between humans and nature that happens when humans become birdwatchers.

In the introductory essay McInnes writes, “I found birds, in much the same way, it seems, that some people find religion. The signs were there even as we were unloading the moving van”…and from that point she launches into bird tales that leave the reader bemused, delighted, and connected to the natural world. My favourite is the chapter entitled Bird Seed in my Boots because it involves mice (with which I’m all too familiar) and birds, and the trials of learning to live in harmony with nature. Being able to laugh at our own misconceptions of the natural world is always a good remedy for the problems inherent in a rural dwelling.

Perhaps the most interesting essay is the one relating to McInnes’ former profession of counseling: Birds: Better Than Prozac begins with a line from songwriter Carly Simon: “The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.” Simple but profound in its meaning, as McInnes explains, “Birding is a much safer, much more life-affirming antidote to all kinds of stress-related conditions.” Safer than most drugs and more life-affirming than exercising in an indoor gym, for sure.

I think about how the teenage towhees squawking and splashing in the bird bath on my back porch have me mesmerized and completely oblivious to whatever I was doing before I looked out my back window – how much time elapses before my attention goes back to my chores, I don’t know, but the image of those soggy, oversized fuzzballs splashing water everywhere and looking like something only a mother towhee could love brings a silly grin to my face…maybe I am a birder, after all. Up Close & Personal, Confessions of a Backyard Birder has inspired me to observe and relate to the creatures in my own back yard as never before.

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