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Life List: A Woman's Quest for the…

Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds (2009)

by Olivia Gentile

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1169104,032 (3.6)11
  1. 00
    Birding On Borrowed Time by Phoebe Snetsinger (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: The autobiography to complement the biography.

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This was a very interesting account of the life of a serious (passionate) birder. The life was remarkable; the story-telling was okay. The book should have made me reflect about my own passions and obsessions, and I think that was the author's intent, but that did not happen for me. ( )
  anitatally | Jan 31, 2015 |
Biography of obsessive-compulsive birder, Phoebe Snetsinger. Perhaps a cautionary tale about what can happen if you frustrate a woman's ambitions (as was the norm in the 50s and 60s)by relegating her to wife, mother & suburban housewife status. Phoebe takes up birding when her two youngest children are in high school. She's smart, rich & driven, so spends the rest of her life traveling the world in search of birds. She holds the world record for highest life-list by the time of her death in a bus accident in 1999. Along the way to getting there, however, besides putting her own life in peril on risky bird trips (she cares naught for risk, since she had already been told melanoma would make her life brief-it didn't)she puts birding before her mother's funeral, her eldest daughter's wedding, family outings & consideration for her husband. Fascinating woman, but I'm not sure I'd like to know her. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
What would you do to become the most successful birder of all time? Skip your mother's funeral and your kids' weddings? Sacrifice your marriage? Suffer a repeated rape, death threats, malaria, a severely broken wrist (and postpone medical treatment) and countless privations? Ignore the presence of malignant cancer tumors? Spend an entire huge inheritance? This was an incredible story. ( )
  Sandydog1 | Jul 7, 2013 |
An interesting subject, and the biographer obviously did a lot of research on Phoebe. I couldn't help but feel, though, that the biographer spent half of the book arguing with Pheobe herself over what drove Pheobe to become a lister - and taking a position that Pheobe explicitly rejected. Though the biographer gives a valid argument, the book becomes more argument about how a particular event affected Phoebe than a biography of her life after that point. ( )
  breakerfallen | Apr 3, 2013 |
This biography of Phoebe Snetsinger, the woman who held (and appears still to hold) the world record for most bird species seen, answers many of the questions implicit, but not answered, in her autobiography, [b:Birding On Borrowed Time|52620|Birding On Borrowed Time|Phoebe Snetsinger|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1170391809s/52620.jpg|51325]. These include such nagging concerns as how she paid for her frequent birding expeditions and what her family thought of this pursuit over time. (Answers: Inheritance, more explicitly documented here, and With increasing annoyance.) Gentile is reasonably evenhanded and fills in Snetsinger's own account nicely. For example, to the best of my recollection, Snetsinger does not mention having a daughter who is lesbian and who officially changed her name to Marmot in adulthood.

My one complaint is that Gentile seems unable to grasp as a possibility that Snetsinger's rape, while clearly upsetting to her, may not have been as significant for Snetsinger as Gentile wants it to be. I use this language deliberately because much of Gentile's narrative is focused on the rape as an emotional impetus for Snetsinger's subsequent accelerated birding. This could be true, but as a psychologist, I think Gentile's horror may drive her interpretation as much as the rape (or, for that matter, recurrent malignant melanomas) may have motivated Snetsinger. This ultimately doesn't detract a great deal, but it is intrusive. ( )
1 vote OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Life List is riveting and, like its subject, demonstrates a passion bordering on obsession.
added by jlelliott | editNature, Devorah Bennu (Aug 5, 2009)
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For my grandmother, Dorothy Fischer
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When I was twenty-three, I fell in love with a birdwatcher.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A frustrated housewife sets out to see more bird species than anyone in history--and ends up risking her life again and again in the wildest places on earth.

Phoebe Snetsinger had planned to be a scientist, but, like most women who got married in the 1950s, she ended up keeping house, with four kids and a home in the suburbs by her mid-thirties.
Numb and isolated, she turned to birdwatching, but she soon tired of the birds near home and yearned to travel the world.

Then her life took a crushing turn: At forty-nine, she was told she had cancer and less than a year to live. Devastated, she began crisscrossing the globe, finding rare and spectacular birds that brought her to the heights of spiritual ecstasy. But against all odds, she didn’t get sick. She eventually took hundreds of trips to all
seven continents, often risking her life in remote, rugged places. She became a hero in the birding world and set out to become the first person to see eight thousand species—disregarding the
cost to her family, her health, and her safety.
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