the most perfect thing

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It’s magnificent; science without any high falutin’ technology. It’s just sheer thought and it uses terms and concepts that any eight-year old could understand’.

Sir David Attenborough, BBC Wildlife, December 2016


I cannot think of a science book that is better written.

Times, ‘Books of the year’ Saturday 26 November 2016


Booklist picks The Most Perfect Thing as one of their top science books of 2016.


A magical account.

Times Higher Education 22 September 2016


An inspiring mixture of science, history and adventure. What struck me even miore … was Tim Birkhead’s personal story, about which we hear little until the very end of the last chapter. This story contains many points of interest, worthy of deep reflection

Raghavendra Gadakar (President Indian National Science Academy): Proceedings of Indian Natn Sci Acade September 2016


It’s not often a novel way of looking at the world comes along … but such is the case with a new book by one of our leading science writers, Professor Tim Birkhead … How does the egg get its shell … ? How do the coloured markings get on it? Birkhead answers all these questions with panache  …  Yet it is the incredible mechanisms of the life-support system, which Birkhead lays bare with perfect clarity … The 19th-century clergyman and political activist Thomas Wentworth Higginson said: ‘I think that, if instantly required on pain of death to name the most perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on a bird’s egg’. His unusual claim is borne out by Birkhead’s riveting book.

Michael McCarthy Independent (1 March 2016)


A thrilling voyage through what most of us think of as an ordinary item sold at the supermarket, Birkhead an expert in the reproductive biology of birds, takes readers on an outside-to-inside journey through an egg. What makes this book such a pleasure is not just the author’s breadth of knowledge, but his unbridled enthusiasm and the clarity of his explanations.  One doesn’t have to be a bird enthusiast to relish this book, but it would be the most perfect gift for anyone who is.

Kirkus Reviews


Birkhead’s curiosity is contagious, and his deep respect for this most ubiquitous of nature’s creations gives his words a degree of reverence that is both admirable and welcome. To say that one will never look at an egg the same way again … is an understatement. Absolutely delightful!

Colleen Mondor  Booklist


I was far from disappointed … He has the happy knack of of weaving stories together that hold the attention, imparting knowledge gently, with satisfyingly little effort required on the part of the reader

Ian Carter British Birds (April 2016)


This book is scientific entertainment at the highest level. Tim Birkhead is a gifted writer, whose enthusiasm, breadth of knowledge, and clarity can be infectious. It is no wonder that a book like this appears under the imprint of a publishing house more renowned for its literary works, for it is the most perfect story about the most perfect thing. Magnificent.

Karl Schulze-Hagen Vogelwarte (2016)


Birkhead’s book is not to be missed. Crack it open and enjoy the riches it contains.

Laurence Marschall Natural History Magazine (April 2016)


A … brilliant book … In pursuit of understanding, [Birkhead] takes us on an epic journey, from the outer shell of an egg to its genetic core … it is a voyage packed with astonishing details.

James Attlee The Independent 26 March 2016


Tim Birkhead’s tribute to eggs tells us how they “breath”, talk to each other and get their colouring from a spray system a car plant would envy … eggs may be everyday, but dull they aren’t.

John Ingham Daily Express 1 April 2016


Tim Birkhead is one of Britain’s leading zoologists, yet he skilfully bridges the gap between scientists and non-scientists explaining the reasons behind bird behaviour in a readable way without needing to ‘dumb down’. His previous books, The Wisdom of Birds … and Bird Sense … were deservedly praised as fine examples of popular science writing … The Most Perfect Thing is equally impressive.

Stephen Moss Daily Mail 1 April 2016


I’ve spent most of my life looking for and at birds, but I’ve never given their eggs much thought. That’s partly because the birding world has gone quiet on the subject. This book was like being shown a world of wonder in birds that had never so much as crossed my mind … Birkhead reclaims that sense of marvel from the underworld and brings it to us fresh and alive.

Simon Barnes Mail on Sunday 3 April 2016



The writing is wonderfully clear and there are lots of stories about the author’s research and experiences, and insights into past characters who have pillaged or studies birds’ eggs. This is a very good example of science writing that is factually accurate but also a jolly good read.

Mark Avery Mark Avery’s blog 20 March 2016:


Like a birdwatcher who spots a rare specimen, the author shows palpable (and charming) excitement for his subject throughout never losing his sense of wonder and admiration for nature’s “ingenious construction” of the egg.

Lynn L. Green Bookpage 3 April 2016


This is a book to absorb even the most knowledgeable of bird watchers and make you look at even the hen’s egg in a different light when you crack it into a pan. Tim Birkhead has done it again. Well done lad.

John Miles


With The Most Perfect Thing” Tim Birkhead proves he’s one of ornithology’s greatest popularizers. Through the passion he has for his subject and the clarity of his writing, he’ll have you wondering how you ever managed to take eggs for granted.


Nicholas Martens [USA]     Hipsterbirders


With His intimacy with his avian subjects and with everything he and centuries of others have observed about them, makes Mr Birkhead’s hypotheses — and his books — so compelling.

Jennie Erin Smith         Wall Street Journal            Saturday 8 April 2016


His insights have revolutionized ornithologists’ understanding of mate fidelity; his ability to distil complex science for the general reader, for example in Bird Sense (Bloomsbury, 2013), has revealed what it is like to be a bird. Now, with an eye on past discoveries and persistent puzzles, The Most Perfect Thing reveals what it is like to become a bird — from nascent ovum to shelled egg and beyond. … Birkhead’s historical acumen and sharp pen had me seeing eggs in a new light.


John Marzluff Nature 14 April 2016



The renowned biologist Tim Birkhead is justly acclaimed for his brilliance at explaining complex science in a beguilingly lively style. Now he has turned his expert eye on one of nature’s greatest miracles. A truckload of bird books are published every year but very few concentrate on their eggs. Here we have the best account possible, one that combines thrilling explorations of scientific research with passion. Though it is only April, I suspect that this beautifully written volume will end up my best bird book of 2016.

Jonathan Elphick BBC Wildlife May 2016



We already knew that Birkhead was an unusual scientist … What really distinguishes him though, and nowhere more so than in ‘The Most Perfect Thing’, is the quality of the prose … The story of the dissident Soviet oologist Lev Belopol’skii, whose knowledge of seabird eggs helped to feed the stranded city of Murmansk during the second world war is worth the price of the book alone, although the real story of Birkhead’s “voyage into the secret world of the birds’ egg” is the mind-bending inventiveness of natural selection.


Alex Preston     The Observer      17 April 2106


The story of learning delights Birkhead as much as the accumulation [and] Birkhead’s telling is joyful.

Horatio Clare The Spectator 23 April 2106

Tim’s books are always a great read; scrupulously researched, well written and bulging with facts that will astound and entertain you in equal measures. If you buy one book on eggs this year, make it this one!

Allan Archer – talk: Wildlife September 2016

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