By Hannu Jännes
New Holland, 2018; hbk, 96pp; 70 species with accompanying recordings in smartphone app. Colour photos throughout; ISBN 978-1-92151-787-7
£10.99 buy it from the BB Bookshop
This book is a nice idea – recordings of 70 species that, just as the title says, represent the world’s best bird songs. The word ‘best’ is used in a very broad sense and, whilst the book contains some of the expected ‘best songsters’ – species such as Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos and Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis – it also contains a large number of recordings of species where ‘best’ can be taken to mean ‘most evocative’, ‘most memorable’, or simply ‘downright weirdest’ – species such as Horned Screamer Anhima cornuta, Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus, Screaming Piha Lipaugus vociferans, Superb Lyrebird Menura novaehollandiae and Chiming Wedgebill Psophodes occidentalis. The recordings are all of excellent quality, and I enjoyed listening through the whole book. The accompanying text is simple but interesting, including a summary of the song as well as facts about that species – it certainly kept me engaged while I was listening to the recordings, and I learnt something new from most of the entries. This book is not, however, an identification guide.
The copy of this publication that I received for review was the printed book version, and, as such, it required an accompanying app to listen to the sounds. The app can be downloaded for free but the QR codes in the book are required to access each recording. Certainly, a step up from the usual accompanying CDs that generally (still) come with bird-sound books; but still quite a faff to turn the page with the book in one hand and scan the code with my smartphone in the other. It may prove to be novel entertainment for a tech-savvy child but, generally, it got a bit tedious. A better option, I suspect, would be to go the whole digital hog and download the self-contained iBook version of the book, which contains all of the sounds in situ and requires none of the code scanning. Tech quibbles aside, this is an enjoyable book and one that would be suitable for birders and nature-interest non-birders alike.