The Seafarers, A Journey Among Birds is out in paperback tomorrow. I read this book at more less this time last year (early July to be specific) when I'd just come back from Shetland. It's a world that seems a lifetime ago; I had a job but would learn I was being made redundant a couple of weeks later, and was desperate for change. The changes 2020 have bought aren't really the sort that I'd have chosen, but relative isolation has had some upsides and at least one of those started with this book.
I liked bird watching as a kid, but it was a hobby that fell by the wayside when we moved to Leicestershire (the logistics were more complicated and other things came along) even if I never lost the basic interest. Reading 'The Seafarers' last summer was a gentle reminder of something I was missing, and since reading it I've been paying more attention not just to the wildlife around me, but also to the debates around it.
The increased awareness of the birdlife around me has been a gift, especially this spring. I think it's a gift that a lot of us have been grateful for, and I hope that it will feed into an increased consideration of, and protection for, wildlife generally - it just might. Though it's anybody's guess if that will be enough.
Anyway - if you missed The Seafarers first time round it's a wonderful book by a really gifted writer at the start of what promises to be a really interesting career. I lent my copy of 'The Seafarers' to my partner so it's locked down out of my reach at the moment and I can't do much more than read my original review of it here. If money wasn't such an issue I'd buy myself the papaerback to refer back to. It'd be useful right now as I've been reading Stephen Moss's 'The Accidental Countryside' and I'd like to do a better comparison of some of the thinking between them.
There are a few things that made this book so special that are worth repeating. The choice of species to focus on - many of them are birds that we take for granted a bit, but a focus on Razorbills rather than Puffins when you want to examine the plight of auks generally is arguably more illuminating.
It would also have been easy to make this a book that focused on mental health, a subject that's touched on, but which remains an underlying theme - it's most definitely not another book that promises redemption or recovery in wild places, though it does show that a shift in perspective or priorities can be really helpful. I know that the point that I really fell for this book was in the ways that Rutt acknowledges the privileges that open these spaces for him. Again, it's done lightly, and I only noticed it because it's absent from a lot of the other nature writing I've read.
Finally it's the sheer range of issues, ideas, and anecdotes that are covered that makes this book such a joy to read. It was one of my books of the year for good reasons.