"One hell of a ride."—Nick Offerman, actor, woodworker, New York Times bestselling author
"Candid and often moving reflections . . . make for absorbing reading. . . . [This is] a memoir of a journey that was more than just a chase after numbers."—Booklist (starred)
At a personal and professional crossroads, a man resets his life and finds sobriety, love, and 618 bird species, cycling his way to a very Big Year.
In Birding Under the Influence, Dorian Anderson, a neuroscience researcher on a pressure-filled life trajectory, walks away from the world of elite institutions, research labs, and academic publishing. In doing so, he falls in love and discovers he has freed himself to embrace his lifelong passion for birding.
A North American Big Year—a continent-spanning adventure in which a birder attempts to see as many species as possible in twelve months—is a massive undertaking under any circumstances. But doing it on a bike while maintaining sobriety? That’s next level.
As Dorian pedals across the country, describing the birds he sees, he confronts the challenges of long-distance cycling: treacherous weather, punctured tires, speeding cars, and injury. He encounters eccentric characters, blistering blacktop, dreary hotel rooms, snarling dogs, and an endless sea of smoking tailpipes. He also confronts his past struggles with alcohol, drugs, and risky behaviors that began in high school and followed him into adulthood.
Birding Under the Influence is a candid, honest look at Dorian’s double life of academic accomplishment and addiction. While his journey to recovery is simultaneously poignant and inspiring, it is ultimately his love of birds and nature that provides the scaffolding to build a new and radically different life.
An avid birder since childhood, Dorian Anderson abandoned his hobby at age 15, focusing instead on a demanding scientific career while simultaneously struggling with substance abuse. He earned a degree in molecular and cellular biology from Stanford, conducted predoctoral research in molecular embryology at Harvard, and earned his doctorate in Developmental Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology at New York University. While working as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dorian decided to leave the academic rat race and focused on the next phase of his life, returning to birding. In 2014, he embarked on his Biking for Birds project, the first North American Big Year completed entirely by bicycle. During this incredible journey, he biked 17,830 miles (28,500 km) and observed 618 bird species while raising funds for bird habitat conservation. Since his cycling Big Year, he has transitioned to a professional life as a birding guide, writer, and public speaker.
Dorian Anderson photo courtesy of the publicist.