The Bottom Line
A must read for any serious birder, Life List details the life of one of the world’s most famous birders, Phoebe Snetsinger. I found the book delightful, beautifully illustrating passionate birding without glossing over the dangers of travel to many remote locations for exotic and rare species.
- Engagingly written and easy to read
- Excellent bibliographic notes with additional information and resources
- Bird illustrations add character and visual appeal
- First 60 pages are social and family history with little relevance to birding
- Lacks resource list of current birding tour companies
- Footnotes are not marked in text but are available as an appendix
- Title: Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds
- Author: Olivia Gentile
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA, New York
- Publication Date: March 2009
- Format: Hardcover
- Page Count: 345
- ISBN: 978-1-59691-169-7
- Price: $26
Guide Review - Book Review: Life List
Beautifully written, Life List offers a glimpse of the life of Phoebe Snetsinger, one of the world’s most renowned birders. First discovering birds as a desperate housewife eager for diversion from young children and a suburban life, Phoebe eventually traveled to dozens of countries including Micronesia, Japan, Peru, Kenya, Australia, Ethiopia and Brazil. After first identifying a blackburnian warbler in May 1965, Phoebe would eventually see and identify more than 8,400 birds until her death in 1999.
Life List not only offers a detailed account of Phoebe’s life, but also includes the social and historical context that sparked passion and persistence in this remarkable woman’s birding quest. The clear descriptions and exquisite details ensure that readers get a fair and balanced view of Phoebe’s obsessive birding, including the civil upheavals, kidnappings, injuries and other risks she faced. As Gentile said of Snetsinger, “she’d been lucky to see the birds she’d seen, and lucky to get out alive.”
Readers also learn what it takes to be as dedicated a birder as Phoebe was: her constant travel put strain on her marriage and family, but her skills as a keen observer and the extensive study she engaged in prior to a birding trip helped create her legendary reputation. These are the qualities of a good birder that helped Phoebe rise to birding fame, and reading of her success can inspire birders of all experience levels to take their passion for birds to new heights and to build a comprehensive life list of their own.