Better Living Through Birding
Central Park birder Christian Cooper takes us beyond the viral video that shocked a nation and into a world of avian adventures, global excursions, and the unexpected lessons you can learn from a life spent looking up at the birds
Christian Cooper is a self-described Blerd (Black nerd), an avid comics fan, and an expert birder who devotes every spring to gazing upon the migratory birds that stop to rest in Central Park, just a subway ride away from where he lives in New York City. When birdwatching in the park one morning in May 2020, Cooper was engaged in the ritual that had been a part of his life since he was ten years old. But when a routine encounter with a dog-walker escalates age old racial tensions, Cooper’s viral video of the incident would send shockwaves through the nation.
In Better Living Through Birding, Cooper tells the story of his extraordinary life leading up to the now-infamous encounter in Central Park and shows how a life spent looking up at the birds prepared him, in the most uncanny of ways, to be a gay, Black man in American today. From sharpened senses that work just as well in a protest as in a park, to what a bird like the Common Grackle can teach us about self-acceptance, Better Living Through Birding exults in the pleasures of a life spent in pursuit of the natural world and beckons you to discover these joys for yourself.
Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and primer on the art of birding, this is Cooper’s story of learning to claim and defend space for himself and others like him, from his days as a writer for Marvel Comics, where Cooper introduced the first gay storyline, to vivid and life-changing birding expeditions through Africa, Australia, the Americas, and the Himalayas. Better Living Through Birding is Cooper’s invitation into the wonderful world of birds, and what they can teach us about life, if only we would stop and listen.