You can buy How to Be a Better Birder at iuniverse.com
(Buy this book)

by Michael A. Ketover (Honduras 1993–95; Guyana 1995–96; Crisis Corps/ Dominican Republic 1999)
Writer’s Club Press, an imprint of iUniverse.com, Inc., $11.95
184 pages
2000

Review by Laura McClure (Togo 1997–99)

PERHAPS THE METAPHOR was unintended. Perhaps the topic of birding is a straightforward one, and “better birding” a clean conceptual line, and this slim book just a traveler’s log of mental snapshots of . . . birds.
     Or not.
     To be sure, there are all the bird sightings one would expect of an anthology that titles itself How To Be A Better Birder. If jabiru storks are your bird, you can find them here, jostling for attention with Bali mynahs, lime green parrots, fairy terns, wattled jacanas, and three kinds of heron. Ketover describes them all in the sun-drenched colors of the tropics.
     But the anthology’s real subjects are the countries where these birds are found: Tonga, Guyana, Kenya, Nepal. Other countries remain unnamed and some are the countries of dreams (because not all his stories are non-fiction).
     Through travel and NGO work assignments, Ketover has come to know Tongan churches, Carribean pesticide usage, and Masai female circumcision rites — and he shares opinions of them all.
     Like the birds Ketover seeks, cultural truths are elusive. How does one hear the individual through the political noise of a place? By being quiet and observant. By being, in short, a better birder.
     Ketover’s sharp eye leads us to many an interesting view. So while it’s possible to finish this book still not knowing how to spot a jabiru stork, you will gain a fresh perspective on some controversial topics, some spicy stories from foreign lands, and perhaps even a brush-up course on how to observe.
     Here’s hoping you’ll be a better birder too.

Laura McClure is a Peace Corps Recruiter and free lance writer. She lives in San Francisco.
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