The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. First published in 2004.
I joined PaperBackSwap a few months ago. Having been a huge fan in a former lifetime, I had a very large collection of X-files-related books in which I was no longer interested, and the book swapping site seemed like a great way to get rid of them while also allowing me to bulk up my bird library.
One of the first books I swapped into my collection was Mark Obmascik's The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession. In it, Obmascik tells the story of three birders going for a Big Year. The three were trying to see the most birds in all of North America from January 1st through December 31st, 1998.
The story is told chronologically, following the three Big Year competitors month to month and jumping from one to the other as time progresses. Obmascik does a great job filling the reader in on each participant's back story, providing telling anecdotes and other important historical contexts.
For most people the idea of devoting an entire year to a personal passion is irresistible, regardless of how one feels about a North American Big Year. As I follow our state birding email listserv, I enjoy reading of local rarities and the people who chase them. I can see the appeal of listing, and I get a kick out of following rare birds vicariously via the listserv emails, but I haven't done much to chase rare local birds so far. Even so, I can definitely relate to the triumphs and defeats experienced by the three heroes of this book. Obmascik had me laughing out loud and tsking in sympathy while the Big Year participants juggled personal issues and the occasional logistical snafu during their year of the most intense birding.
I give The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession 5 Goldfinches out of 5.