The Bottom Line
There is no doubt that Roger Tory Peterson was one of the most influential birders in history, and that influence is made clear in Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson. Hundreds of quotations share insight not only into Roger Tory Peterson the birder, but also the conservationist, the painter, the photographer, the writer, the educator and the man. Easy to read and without author bias, this book is a fine biography of a birder who has inspired generations of birders to take flight.
- Extensive quotes provide firsthand accounts of Peterson's influence.
- Thorough resource list included.
- Conversational writing style is easy to read.
- At times choppy with too many quotes and sources.
- Lacks concise timeline of Peterson's life and achievements.
- Fails to address the ongoing legacy of Roger Tory Peterson.
- Title: Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson
- Author: Elizabeth J. Rosenthal
- Publisher: The Lyons Press
- Publication Date: March 23, 2010 (paperback edition)
- Format: Paperback
- Page Count: 448
- ISBN: 978-1-59921-962-2
- Price: $14.95
Guide Review - Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson
Every dedicated birder can instantly recognize the name Roger Tory Peterson as the father of modern field guides, but in reading Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson one learns that this iconic man was, ironically, much more than just a birdwatcher. Author Elizabeth J. Rosenthal conducted interviews with more than 110 individuals who personally knew Peterson to get a sense of his influence, not only in birding but also in art, ecotourism, conservation and more. This detailed biography follows Peterson's life from his early childhood and initial interest in birds through his work with dozens of organizations, publications and companies, all related to birding or naturalism in some way. As Rosenthal states, "[Peterson's] reach was at once so close and so far as to be unimaginably profound in bird study and conservation."
Peterson's influence truly began in 1934 when, at the age of 25, he published his first field guide – revised editions of which still grace birders' shelves around the world today. "It quickly became a new world for birdwatchers" once that diagnostic identification guide was published, and Peterson would continue to be a part of that world until his death in 1996, and even though he lacked any official ornithology training, Peterson "had an overwhelming sense of mission and his ability to fulfill it." Rosenthal has captured that mission by highlighting Peterson's influence throughout the birding world and how this fascinating man touched many birders in many ways.
Rosenthal's writing style is refreshingly bias-free, and instead of relying on her own interpretations of Peterson's influence, she lets quotations, both from interviews as well as personal letters and correspondence of Peterson and those closest to him, speak for themselves. This allows the reader to gain a clear perspective of the immense impact Peterson has had on birding. By profiling Peterson's early life before he was deeply involved in birding as well as his later years and the challenges aging posed for his naturalist activities, Rosenthal gives readers a thorough look at his complete life.
While the quotes in this book are its strength, at points they are also its weakness and readers can get lost in the myriad of individuals, all who had something memorable to say about Roger Tory Peterson. Rosenthal has not provided a timeline of Peterson's life and achievements that might have made sorting through the wide-reaching scope of his influence easier, but a detailed resource list is available for further study if desired.
Rosenthal sums up Peterson's influence ideally when she says "Hope for the future rests, to an extent, with those who use field guides." Thanks to her detailed biography, birders can now understand more about the man who first created the modern field guides we enjoy today.
For updates on this book, visit www.PetersonBird.com.