To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession by Dan Koeppel. First published 2005.
In To See Every Bird On Earth, Dan Koeppel tells of his father's lifelong obsession with birds. It's a well-written biography of an average man who excelled within an elite group of birders. The personal story of his father is seamlessly interwoven with background information on the origins of American ornithology, the development of birding as a hobby, and the first birders who went on to join the ranks of "big listers."
Koeppel delves deep into his family history, beginning with his grandparents' hopes and dreams for their only child, Richard, the author's father. Young Richard went from looking for birds around his New York home to becoming a serious big-lister later in life. Family pressures led Richard away from a career in birds and instead towards a degree in medicine. Still, birds remained an important part of his life, through school, raising a family, and beyond.
The biography is told chronologically, a running tally of Richard's life list increasing chapter by chapter. The momentum from casual birder to obsessed lister builds slowly while the reader gets to know the complicated, conflicted protagonist. Unfortunately, without giving too much away, I found the resolution to the story's buildup to be a bit of a let-down. Still, the bulk of the book was an enjoyable and well-written read. I give To See Every Bird On Earth 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.