Falcon Fever

You?d think Falcon Fever is just a book for bird lovers. After all, it tells the story of one man?s obsession from childhood on with training birds to hunt, the ancient art of falconry. But this memoir, written earnestly by the author of the bestselling Grail Bird and editor of Living Bird magazine, is much more than a treatise on the joys of birding. Tim Gallagher exposes us to the most excruciating moments of his life, such as when he spent a childhood evening endlessly rehearsing with his father?s gun how he would murder the abusive alcoholic and then kill himself, getting as far as chambering the bullet and aiming it at dear, old drunken Dad. But the life story pursues birds as they pursue prey. Gallagher's historical explorations offer a grand tour of falconry?s ancient and recent past, giving pride of place to the life of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the 13th-century Holy Roman Emperor who wrote what some consider falconry's bible, On the Art of Hunting with Birds. Stuffed with fascinating asides -- the phrase ?fed up," for example, comes from falconry -- Gallagher's book maps a connection between past and present: ?What was it that made me want to join falcons in the chase -- to hunt other animals with them?? he writes. ?I can?t explain it, but I know Frederick felt the same sense of awe and mystery.? Frederick and his story become a shadow that is always finding new ways to reappear in this fascinating look at a lively subculture too often unnoticed in America.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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