The Life of the Skies is part birding history, part birding travelogue, centered on Rosen's regular migration route from his apartment to Central Parkthe author/birder is based in Manhattanwith the occasional exotic birding trip…At its heart, though, Life of the Skies is a consideration of the relationship between spiritual yearning and evolutionary science by a birder who tries to speak highly of both…It is a thoughtful and engaging journey, one that discusses the history of birding alongside changes in the conception of nature from the 19th century until the present.
The New York Times
Rosen's prose has a lucid originality, moving easily from the serious to the hilarious…Avid birders who read this book may not recognize much of themselves here, aside from occasional vivid flashes. Readers who start the book without a clue about birding will finish with too many clues and too few answers. They probably won't understand unless they try birding themselves. But that's not the point. The Life of the Skies does not explain bird-watching but holds it up to the light, like a rough gem, to let us catch reflections from its myriad facets one by one.
The Washington Post
New Yorkercontributor and novelist Rosen (The Talmud and the Internet; Joy Comes in the Morning) writes engagingly of his philosophy of how bird-watching in its broadest sense influences and fits into the fabric of Western and Judeo-Christian heritage. He draws examples generously and convincingly from the works of such major figures as Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Tennyson, and John James Audubon, as well as Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, E.O. Wilson, Alfred Russel Wallace, and many others. Beautifully structured, Rosen's book ties these disparate authors and thinkers together in surprising ways. In addition, he cites ancient Persian poetry and contemplates the importance of birds and nature in the Holy Land. But much of his experience transpires at New York's Central Park and, with searches for the mythic ivory-billed woodpecker, in the Southeast. The psychology of our ties to nature and differences between the sexes are also touched upon. A sort of book-length essay, this is a most thoughtful, literate, and entertaining work. The interplay between religion and science, especially evolution, comes in for much scrutiny. Highly recommended.
Henry T. Armistead
No, you don't have to be a birdwatcher to be enchanted by Jonathan Rosen's fascinating, often moving book. . . . Rosen's elegiac writing will make you peer into the skies with a mixture of longing, sadness, and hope.” USA Today
“A thoughtful and engaging journey.” The New York Times Book Review
“[Rosen] has a sharp eye for detail and a fund of erudition, and his ruminations on birdsand bird lore, natural history, and the literature of birdsare seductive and wise.” The Wall Street Journal
“A book of exuberant range, of insight and far sight, of trapezes swung for and caught.” Los Angeles Times
“Rosen makes accessible a world that might seem esoteric. . . . It is Rosen's childlike fascination with the avian world and his willingness to follow his heart that make his enthusiasm so incredibly infectious.” The Miami Herald