Let Your Imagination Soar with These 9 Bird-Inspired Titles

June 25 2020

As we head into the warmer months, I love to venture out and enjoy a good read in the great outdoors. For me, summertime means I have a front-row seat to watch all the birds that call New Jersey home. It certainly helps that my backyard houses a variety of birdhouses and bird feeders, so I’m never without company. This got me thinking about how often our winged friends appear in literature.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
by Lisa See

New York Times bestselling author Lisa See weaves an atmospheric and moving novel of a young Akha woman—who slowly begins to break the traditions of her tea farming village—and the illegitimate daughter she gives up for adoption. This is an unforgettable tale of unbreakable familial bonds, tradition, and the power of womanhood. 

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Lisa See

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, “one of those special writers capable of delivering both poetry and plot” (The New York Times Book Review), a moving novel about tradition, tea farming, and the bonds between mothers and daughters.

In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a poor choice—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins. Across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.

A powerful story about circumstances, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond of family.

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The Blackbird Season
by Kate Moretti

When countless starlings fall from the sky in a small Pennsylvania town, no one expects this strange event to shake the town to its core. Told from multiple perspectives, it follows how the mysterious bird deaths are related to the sudden disappearance of a teenaged girl. But is she truly missing or is something even darker at play?  

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The Blackbird Season
Kate Moretti

“Exceptional…a deliciously sinister glimpse into the duplicity of small-town lives and the ease with which people turn on each other when tragedy comes calling. Moretti's tale of jealousy and obsession is nothing less than dark magic. Witchery indeed." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.

“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…

Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alecia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.

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Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry

This Pulitzer Prize winner evocatively transports you to the American West as it follows retired Texas Rangers as they drive cattle across what remains of the frontier. Breathtaking in scope and dealing with themes as universal as aging, heartbreak, and friendship, LONESOME DOVE is a uniquely American tale.  

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Lonesome Dove
Larry McMurtry

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, this Pulitzer Prize— winning classic is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic this is a book to that will make you laugh, weep, and dream.

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The Pelican Brief
by John Grisham 

This classic suspenseful legal thriller is as timely and unputdownable as ever. When two Supreme Court justices are assassinated, a young law student embarks on a heart-pounding game of cat and mouse with only a driven reporter at her side. Will they survive this terrifying game or fall victim to a deadly cover-up? 

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The Pelican Brief
John Grisham 

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The Falcon Thief
by Joshua Hammer

A true-crime story unlike any other, THE FALCON THIEF follows the fascinating story of a criminal who spent twenty years smuggling some of the most breathtaking and endangered birds for millions of dollars and the detective who was determined to protect these incredible animals. A thrilling tale of obsession, wealth, and the power of the natural world.  

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The Falcon Thief
Joshua Hammer

A rollicking true-crime adventure about a rogue who trades in rare birds and their eggs—and the wildlife detective determined to stop him.

On May 3, 2010, an Irish national named Jeffrey Lendrum was apprehended at Britain’s Birmingham International Airport with a suspicious parcel strapped to his stomach. Inside were fourteen rare peregrine falcon eggs snatched from a remote cliffside in Wales.

So begins a tale almost too bizarre to believe, following the parallel lives of a globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing endangered raptors worth millions of dollars as race champions—and Detective Andy McWilliam of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, who’s hell bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey.

The Falcon Thief whisks readers from the volcanoes of Patagonia to Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, and from the frigid tundra near the Arctic Circle to luxurious aviaries in the deserts of Dubai, all in pursuit of a man who is reckless, arrogant, and gripped by a destructive compulsion to make the most beautiful creatures in nature his own. It’s a story that’s part true-crime narrative, part epic adventure—and wholly unputdownable until the very last page.

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The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah

A breathtaking and unforgettable story of survival in German-occupied France, THE NIGHTINGALE follows two separated sisters who are each struggling to see the end of World War II. Exploring forgiveness, women’s fortitude, love, and courage, this is an absorbing page-turner that will haunt you until the final page. 

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The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah

With courage, grace, and powerful insight, Kristin Hannah illuminates an intimate and seldom seen part of World War II. Telling the stories of two sisters separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion, and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in war-torn France, this heartbreakingly beautiful novel celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.

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Night Hawks
by Charles Johnson

From the acclaimed author of MIDDLE PASSAGE, a masterful collection of short stories that demonstrate the full range of his talent. From a hair salon heist to a story exploring Charles Johnson’s friendship with the playwright August Wilson, there is a remarkable tale for everyone in this breathtaking anthology.  

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Night Hawks
Charles Johnson

From National Book Award winner Charles Johnson, “the celebrated novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and essayist…comes a small treasure, one to be read and considered and reread” (The New York Times Book Review), showcasing his incredible range and resonant voice.

Charles Johnson’s Night Hawks presents an eclectic, masterful collection of stories tied together by Buddhist themes and displaying all the grace, heart, and insight for which he has long been known. Spanning genres from science fiction to realism, “Johnson’s writing, filled with the sort of long, layered sentences you can get happily lost in, conveys a kindness; a sense that all of us…have our own stories” (The Seattle Times).

In “The Weave,” Ieesha and her boyfriend carry out a heist at the salon from which she has just been fired—coming away with thousands of dollars of merchandise in the form of hair extensions. “Night Hawks,” the titular story, draws on Johnson’s friendship with the late playwright August Wilson to construct a narrative about two writers who meet at night to talk. In “Kamadhatu,” a lonely Japanese abbot has his quiet world upended by a visit from a black American Buddhist whose presence pushes him toward the awakening he has long found elusive. “Occupying Arthur Whitfield,” about a cab driver who decides to rob the home of a wealthy passenger, reminds readers to be grateful for what they have. And “The Night Belongs to Phoenix Jones” combines the real-life story of a “superhero” in the city of Seattle with an invented narrative about an aging English professor who decides to join him.

With precise, elegant, and moving language, Johnson creates an “arresting” array of “indelible moments that show Johnson to be a master of the short form” (Library Journal, starred review). Night Hawks is “a masterpiece…[that] ultimately offers a message of empowerment and hope” (Oprah.com).

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Spix's Macaw
by Tony Juniper

A beautifully-written celebration of an equally beautiful bird, SPIX’S MACAW tells the fascinating and tragic tale the Spix’s Macaw—one of the rarest and most valuable birds in the world. After over a century of hunting, only one remained in the wild, unleashing an international race against time to save it. A crucial read to understand the importance of conservation. 

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Spix's Macaw
Tony Juniper

The Spix's Macaw, if it survived and recovered, could inspire the world to see what was possiblethrough cooperation and determined efforts to save the earth's natural riches....
On June 3, 1817, Johann Baptist Ritter von Spix set sail for the New World on an expedition sponsored by the Bavarian Royal Academy of Sciences. What he found in Brazil's thorny caatinga woodlands would one day transform our understanding about evolution, survival, and -- in the case of the long-tailed blue parrot now known as "Spix's Macaw" -- extinction.
In this fascinating natural history, esteemed environmentalist Tony Juniper brings the caatinga bird beautifully to life. Not long after Spix's discovery, his parrot -- whose beauty, dexterity, and clear-eyed passion made it a favorite among scientists and bounty hunters alike -- had become more valuable than heroin, and worth thousands of dollars on the black market. By 1990, only one lone male was known to be living in the wild.
Spix's Macaw tells the tale of Juniper's race to save the species, from joining an international rescue operation in the caatinga to calling on private collectors to mate their illegal birds to waiting in vain for a hybrid nest of eggs to hatch. His story brings new meaning to Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers."
A heart-stopping homage to the long, lonely flight of the last Spix's Macaw, this is a compassionate addition to the annals of nature literature and an environmental parable for our time.

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To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Is there any bird more famous in literature than the mockingbird? Harper Lee’s masterpiece is a timeless tale that explores childhood, prejudice, racism in the judicial system, and, of course, family. An American classic, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is always necessary reading.

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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

Wendy’s Fictional Dinner Party Guest: Atticus Finch

Perhaps it’s a cliché to want to have dinner with Atticus Finch—lawyer, father, all-around good man. Atticus is known for his conscience, grace, compassion, and morality. I suspect that his words would be full of insight and wisdom, and challenge me to sit straighter in my chair.

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Photo Credit: Jānis Āboliņš/iStock

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