I am no book-reviewer but am making an exception here for Thor Hanson's new book: FEATHERS The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. This is a must-read for those who consider themselves a birder or birdwatcher. It is not for the uninitiated. It has taken me to a new level of understanding and appreciation, not to mention curiosity, about the pastime I have now enjoyed for over 20 years. This is Hanson's second book. The first was called The Impenetrable Forest: My Gorilla Years in Uganda, which won the 2008 USA Book News Award for nature writing. If you are familiar with that book and enjoyed it, then you probably won't need much convincing to pick up Hanson's latest effort. For everyone else, I will only say that FEATHERS is being raved about by reviewers everywhere. It is encyclopedic and eclectic, but very readable and even entertaining. Here's an example in the early part of the book: "From the quill to the rachis to the vane, a feather's parts consist largely of keratin, the same kind of protein found in hair and fingernails. People don't generally eat feathers, but their nutritional potential has not been overlooked by the animal feed industry. Chicken and turkey processors in the United States churn out more than ten billion pounds of feather waste every year. They turn a tidy profit by channelling these pluckings to the likes of ConAgra and Purina, where the feathers are boiled, dried, and ground into protein-rich meal that finds its way into everything from canned dog food to cattle pellets. In a macabre twist, it's even fed to chickens." This paragraph serves to illustrate that Hanson's book is indeed about feathers. But the scope is worldwide and fascinating and will intrigue any person who calls himself or herself a birder. I paid $28.50 Cdn. for it at Chapters/Indigo and made it an early Christmas gift to myself.
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