Aerial delights: A history of America as seen through the eyes of a bird-watcher
John James Audubon arrived in America in 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was president, and lived long enough to see his friend Samuel Morse send a telegraphic message from his house in New York City in the 1840s. As a boy, Teddy Roosevelt learned taxidermy from a man who had sailed up the Missouri River with Audubon, and yet as president presided over America�s entry into the twentieth century, in which our ability to destroy ourselves and the natural world was no longer metaphorical. Roosevelt, an avid birder, was born a hunter and died a conservationist.

Today, forty-six million Americans are bird-watchers. The Life of the Skies is a genre-bending journey into the meaning of a pursuit born out of the tangled history of industrialization and nature longing. Jonathan Rosen set out on a quest not merely to see birds but to fathom their centrality�historical and literary, spiritual and scientific�to a culture torn between the desire both to conquer and to conserve.

Rosen argues that bird-watching is nothing less than the real national pastime�indeed it is more than that, because the field of play is the earth itself. We are the players and the spectators, and the outcome�since bird and watcher are intimately connected�is literally a matter of life and death.