03 March 2011
The Crossley ID Guide Book Review
First let me start out by saying when I opened this book for the first time I was blown away. Really, there is nothing like The Crossley ID Guide, Eastern Birds. The Crossley ID Guide (CIDG for short in honor of the great use of Alpha codes) is revolutionary, it's ground-breaking, and it's certainly eye-catching. I've had a review copy for a couple of weeks now and I must say I have yet to break the surface on this large, VERY large, guide. Every page offers some new hidden gem, some different take on bird identification, and a challenge for the reader to take it all in with an open mind without being overwhelmed. This is a book that every birder needs in their library but I must admit it does have a few drawbacks which I've outlined below.
Most notably of the issues is the sheer size, which many reviewers have covered and even provide photos to show how much larger it is than ANY field guide out there. But maybe it's unfair to compare this book with something like let's say the Eastern Sibley field guide or the National Geo field guide. The CIDG is definitely not your grandmother's field guide, this is a totally new beast. I like that Crossley states in the introduction that this guide's aim is "to both serve and expand the world of birding, make it more fashionable, current, and exciting." Boy, did he knock that one out of the park. It's certainly current, using computer technology to manipulate all these multiple bird shots (and almost all his own work I must add!). And if you've been to any bird blog this day you probably have already seen the excitement that is spreading with each new review.
Another drawback is that it's not a field guide but more like a work book. Now birders are way more likely to spend their free time inside pouring over books and studying than other hobbyists but still, this is going to have a limited draw in the birding community. You're not going to take this book out into the field, you're not going to expect new birders to use this book to ID their finds, and I don't think this will be the first book I pull off the shelf once I'm home and pondering a missed call (though time will tell if this is true).
However, this is a book that I will study, admire, and glance over in my free time. I really enjoy the marriage of coffee table book and bird guide. It's stimulating and challenging all at once. Also, from my non-birding friends I have heard lots of praise for the artistic effect of the page layouts. They loved that all the birds are in focus and shown in so many angles. Certainly if I was a new birder, this book may not seal the ID for me in a field guide way but it would cause me to salivate over the new birds I haven't yet seen or the common birds that I have missed at certain times of the year in different plumage.
Perhaps one of the reasons this review has been slow coming is because I am very torn on my feelings about this book. I really love the eye candy and the huge full page photos. Crossley's text may be short but it's charming in many ways and I even read the long introduction because it was just that interesting. I liked that someone decided to take a new approach, step outside the box, and make something new. I don't know how practical the book may be in my birding life and I hope that I'm surprised how much use it will get. However I do know one thing and that's the fact that I am very happy that Richard Crossley decided to undertake this project and I for one, am super stoked that I get to be along for the ride.
Quick list of pros and cons
Full page plates
Multiple angles of the birds
Rainbows and other distracting background scenery
Organization of birds
Some of the plates seemed awkward like American Tree Sparrow
Overall, I have so much praise for The CIDG. I think it's innovative and fun. If you're looking to buy a gift for your favorite birder you should give this book a chance. It's on sale now at Princeton University Press. Also you can like the Crossley ID Facebook page and keep up to date on book reviews, author appearances, and book events. If you haven't seen the book in person, hop over to the Princeton University Press page and check out the featured plates, you won't be disappointed!
Review copy provided by Princeton University Press.