Summary and book reviews of Pigeons by Andrew Blechman

Pigeons

The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird

by Andrew D. Blechman

Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman X
Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2006, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2007, 256 pages

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Book Summary

In the tradition of Robert Sullivan’s best-selling Rats comes a whimsical and intimate look into the fascinating world of pigeons and the people they collect.

Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and used as symbols of peace. Domesticated since the dawn of man, they’ve been used as crucial communicators in war by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States and are credited with saving thousands of lives. Charles Darwin relied heavily upon pigeons to help formulate and support his theory of evolution. Yet, without just cause, they are reviled today as “rats of the sky.” How did we come to misunderstand one of mankind’s most helpful and steadfast companions?

Author Andrew D. Blechman traveled across the United States and Europe to meet with pigeon fanciers and pigeon haters in a quest to chronicle the pigeon’s transformation from beloved friend to feathered outlaw. Pigeons captures a Brooklyn man’s quest to win the Main Event (the pigeon world’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby), as well as a pigeon breeders convention dedicated to breeding the perfect bird. Blechman participates in a pigeon shoot where entrants pay $150 to shoot live pigeons; he tracks down Mike Tyson, the nation’s most famous pigeon lover, and spends time with Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Pigeon Handler in England; and he sheds light on a radical “pro-pigeon underground” in New York City. In Pigeons, Blechman tells for the first time the remarkable story behind this seemingly unremarkable bird.

Introduction: Pigeonholed

Some days you’re the pigeon. Some days you’re the statue.  - Anonymous


For much of my life, I didn’t have a strong opinion about pigeons. At best, I found their incessant bobbing and waddling mildly charming to watch as I walked through the streets of New York City. It was my college girlfriend who first alerted me to their nefarious lack of hygiene. They may look harmless, she informed me, but they’re actually insidious carriers of hidden filth - “rats with wings” - that eat garbage off the streets and crap in their own nests.

Lamenting the city’s lack of wildlife, I hung a bird feeder from the fire escape outside my barred windows in an effort to attract songbirds to my apartment. The feeder didn’t attract robins or cardinals, but it was popular with pigeons. They flocked to my fire escape, landing in friendly, cooing clusters. They were animated, fun to watch, and they kept me company as I ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Blechman is at his strongest when relating stories of pigeon prowess in wartime; another high point is the chapter that elaborates on the methods used by cities to control pigeon populations, humanely or otherwise. However, from time to time the level of detail he brings into his first person reporting (which forms the majority of the book) can be a little wearisome. Putting that aside, this is an entertaining read and a must for pigeon aficionados.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times - William Grimes

Admittedly, the bird is a hard sell, but in Pigeons, an amiable, mildly engaging tour of the species and its fans, Andrew D. Blechman does his level best to inspire respect, perhaps even affection, for "a scruffy-looking bird with a brain the size of a lima bean."

Booklist - Nancy Bent

Readers will never look at their cities' pigeons the same way again.

Publishers Weekly

Blechman's book won't convert pigeon haters to pigeon lovers, it does make for entertaining reading.

Library Journal

Blechman's light, self-deprecating style belies the book's serious content.... Photos are sorely lacking, and there is no list of the author's print sources. Still, an enjoyable read

Author Blurb Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and The Madman
Few of us who live in cities, besieged by flights of what we like to call winged rats, can rightly be described as philoperisterons. But King George the Fifth of England was. So was Charles Darwin. Julius Reuter was too, though for purely commercial reasons. And so also, and for which we should all be thankful, is Andrew Blechman, writer. Mr. Blechman positively loves pigeons-but as graceful and ancient grey doves, not as either targets or as food. In this breezy, quirky, endlessly entertaining book, he tells us just why-and explains why philoperisteronicism is, generally speaking, a Good Thing.

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Beyond the Book

Did you know?

  • Pigeons and doves are one and the same thing, "pigeon" is simply a French translation of the English word "dove".
  • Pigeons have been domesticated for at least 5,000 years, probably closer to 10,000.
  • It is said that a pigeon ...

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