A mesmerizing, wonder-filled nature study that also serves as a cautionary tale about wildlife conservation.



An acclaimed natural history writer and wildlife guide explores the Americas in search of hummingbirds.

As Dunn notes, storytellers have always held hummingbirds in “high regard,” from pre-Columbian oral mythologists to 20th-century writers like Gabriel García Márquez. In his latest, the author chronicles his travels from his home in the Shetland Islands to the Americas in search of this alluring bird. Fittingly, Dunn’s journey begins in Alaska, where, tens of millions of years ago, hummingbirds arrived after crossing over the land bridge from Siberia. Here, the author introduces us to the “sombre green and white plumage” of the Rufous hummingbird, a species that, in 2010, was documented traveling 3,500 miles, the longest known migration ever recorded by a hummingbird.” Among Dunn’s numerous vividly recounted adventures, we visit gardens and lush areas in the Sonoran Desert that have become magnets for bird-watchers; a market in Mexico City where we learn about a macabre secret; the Zapata Peninsula in Cuba, home to the bee hummingbird, the smallest in the world; and Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina, where the author spotted the Green-backed Firecrown, a species that Darwin encountered in 1832 “flitting about in a snowstorm.” All of these marvelous voyages are only part of what makes this book so enchanting. Along the way, Dunn compassionately shares his extensive knowledge of the species endemic to each location, including their aesthetics, mechanics, habitats, and related regional culture and folklore, and he discusses factors contributing to the decline of hummingbirds, including pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss. Encouragingly, he “encountered examples of where human intervention had come just in time and, locally at least, had pulled a hummingbird back from the brink.” However, he also discovered that hummingbirds continue to be seen by some as a “commodity to be consumed and manipulated for their own ends, regardless of the birds’ welfare.”

A mesmerizing, wonder-filled nature study that also serves as a cautionary tale about wildlife conservation.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021


Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.


All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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