The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession - Mark Obmascik Mark Obmascik's style here is playful and almost conversational. He really plays up the competition among the three contenders. I discovered, however, that I'd much rather read about birds than about bird chasers. I'm generally content to observe the more common species of birds sharing the habitat close to my home. I can be thrilled by a robin feasting on fall berries, barn swallows building a nest in spring, hundreds of crows gathering in a huge pine for an evening confab, or a winter wren singing his heart out, putting on a concert just for me. I do enjoy the challenge and excitement of identifying a bird I've never seen before, but I've never kept a "life list" and never will.To me, the concept of "competitive birding" is absurd. Birdwatching is not a sport. People who race around the country checking off species as quickly as possible are not watching birds. They are bird chasers. We may as well put them on a reality TV show and forget about the enjoyment of nature for its own sake, as a meditative pursuit. All that said, I did enjoy the book. I learned a lot about how the national and international birding communities operate, and there's some fascinating information about birds and migration. Chapter 9 was particularly excellent in that regard. Obmascik also includes some history of famous birders---much more interesting than modern-day fanatics. There were three competitors for Big Year 1998. Al Levantin and Greg Miller seemed like pretty decent guys. I found Sandy Komito so odious that I had a hard time reading about him and his exploits. He's one of those guys who goes out of his way to be obnoxious and offensive just to get attention and amuse himself. I might have been impressed by his bird knowledge if he had used it for anything other than to stroke his over-sized ego and outdo other hopefuls. He had already won the Big Year competition several years before. He could have stepped aside and let someone else have a chance. The author seemed to genuinely like Komito, though, while still doing a perfect job of showing what a complete jerk he was.