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Life List by Olivia Gentile
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Life List (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Olivia Gentile

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11711103,116 (3.6)18
Member:rightantler
Title:Life List
Authors:Olivia Gentile
Info:Bloomsbury US (2009), Hardcover, 345 pages
Collections:Stewart's Read, Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Y10, nature, birds

Work details

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

  1. 00
    Birding on Borrowed Time by Phoebe Snetsinger (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: The autobiography to complement the biography.
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Phoebe Snetsinger grew up in the mid-20th-century, and wanted to be a scientist. She received a good education, but in the 1950s, women (whether or not they had an education) got married and stayed home with the kids. Which is what Phoebe did. But, she was bored, so when she discovered birds when the kids were a bit older, she became obsessed. She spent most of the rest of her life travelling (and when not travelling, she was researching), so she could add as many of the 9,000 (ish, the number changed over the years) species of bird to her “life list” of which birds she'd seen. In 1981, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 1 year. She lived for many more years and, after her diagnosis, upped the frequency of her birding trips. In addition to ending up in many dangerous situations in her travels, her birding obsession came with a cost to her relationships with her husband and children.

I really enjoyed this. I became interested in birds after purchasing a bird feeder many years ago as entertainment for my two inside cats. So, the bird information (and a few drawings) was very interesting to me, though much of the book also focused on Phoebe's obsession, travelling, and how this affected her relationships and the rest of her life. This was very good. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 23, 2016 |
Life List: A Woman’s Quest For The World’s Most Amazing Birds - by Olivia Gentile
3 stars

Life List is a biography of Phoebe Snetsinger who was the first person to “list” over 8000 species of birds. “Listing” is a form of collecting practiced by people who watch birds. A bird can be listed after the “birder” has seen and identified the bird in the wild. I keep a life list myself. I think there are a little over 300 species on my list. Birding is a relaxing thing that I do occasionally on an easy day hike. For people like Phoebe Snetsinger, birding is an extreme sport. I thought this book would be a travelogue about some interesting bird species. It was not. The book is about an individual with an obsession. To reach her goal, Phoebe had to spend large amounts of money and endure great hardship and discomfort. She put her health and her safety at risk many times over. She also neglected her family and basically wrote off her marriage. Even after reaching her goal of 8000 species she continued pursuing rare species until her death in Madagascar.
This was a well researched, interesting biography. Phoebe had enough adventures and close calls to rival Indiana Jones. However, Olivia Gentile did not quite portray her as the hero of her own story and I think I agree with the author’s conclusions. We tend to make heroes of those who pursue the dreams and ambitions no matter what the obstacles, but I find the selfishness and self-involvement required to meet those kinds of goals to be less than admirable.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (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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Epigraph
Dedication
For my grandmother, Dorothy Fischer
First words
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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Book description
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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