This entry begins a new segment for the blog. Birding seems to generate a plethora of what we call “bathroom books.” These are books that should live on the back of your toilet or in the magazine rack next to it. They live there because they are meant to be read in small discrete segments. How fast you read them depends not only on how fast you read but on how fast you – there is no dainty way to say this – crap. (In college one of us worked at a importer’s warehouse. Only men worked there. When you entered the bathroom and sat on the toilet you were staring at the back of the bathroom door. There was a sign there, right at eye level for a sitting person, which read, “Hurry! We don’t crap around at Revlis Trading Company.”)
All of the books which will come to rest in our Bathroom Books bathroom will be books that impart discrete bits of knowledge about birds in a few paragraphs or pages. None will be books that you would want to read from cover to cover at one sitting. Many will be clever, witty books that would cloy if read all at once. Many probably will not outlive their first publishing run and the authors probably don’t expect them to. Your grandchildren are unlikely to read them unless your grandchildren are already with us and already reading. In a year, you may find them on the remaindered tables at your local bookstore. Hopefully, all will escape pulping. But don’t worry: If we read one that deserves pulping, we’ll tell you.
The first book on the back of our toilet is the excellent Why Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches by Mike O’Connor. Mr. O’Connor runs a bird store on Cape Cod and writes a column about birds and birders for the local paper there, The Cape Codder. He answers the questions that people who shop in birder stores ask people who run the stores. Often the people who ask the questions are new to birding. Sometimes they are eighty years old and sometimes they are five years old. We’ve never heard a bad question from such people. How do I get birds to come to my backyard? What do I feed them? What kind of birds like peanuts? What is this “thistle” or “nyjer” you sell? If I leave my hummingbird feeders up too long will that keep the hummingbirds from migrating? How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? What are the best binoculars? What was that little brown bird that I had at my feeder last weekend? Mr. O’Connor answers them. He answers with wit and verve and, although he is not a writer on the level of Dickens – he himself admits he is no longer in his “Dickens period”– his answers are accurate, humane and wise. This is a great book for anyone you know who is beginning to know birds. It is even a good book for you. You’ll laugh, be reminded of things you haven’t thought about in a while and it may even slow you down, there on your toilet. There is no rush, unless you work in an importer’s warehouse.
As will be the case with most of our Bathroom Books, you can buy Why Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches from us over at our web store www.fatfinch.com . You can also buy it from your local independent bookstore. Or you could buy it from Amazon or Borders or even Barnes and Noble; but if you do, you’ll feel guilty.