Three Books on a Theme: These Birds Will Haunt You

I just finished reading The Thirty Names of Night, and I can still feel the shadow of it passing over me, in the shape of a bird. The word haunt comes to mind, in its intransitive verb form, to stay around or persist. In all three books of this theme, characters seek the company of birds. Birds appear habitually. Each book will linger after you have finished reading it, with feelings of joy or tenderness or grief. These birds will haunt you.

Submitted by Libby


Why not start with the horror book that fulfills this theme of haunting birds? Claire Oshetsky’s writing has a matter-of-factness about it that sets me at ease, which might be why Chouette got me out of a reading slump. While Chouette herself is most definitely an owl-baby, there are lots of things that her mother, Tiny, could be. There is no neat and clean box for this depiction of motherhood to go into, and Tiny’s experiences would reject that box with screeching, pooping and a fury of talons. This book is told from Tiny’s perspective throughout, and her narrative voice is gently captivating, even as the book itself becomes wild and dark with chittering, warbling, trilling shadows.

“Every day you wrench me toward a different world altogether: an older world, filled with wild, perfect creatures, singing in the dark.”

The Thirty Names of Night

Next in our journey of haunting birds is a nest in New York City (ha-ha.) The most magical thing about The Thirty Names of Night is the love and attention given to birds, through generations and across continents. I picked up this book for the Trans Rights Readathon; this is also a good read for Ramadan, or in celebration of Arab American Heritage Month. Maybe you will read it because you like queer pining with happy endings, or stories about grief. Maybe you will read it for the birds – I promise, you will find plenty in here. At the heart of this book is a close attention to birds, and the main character’s ongoing relationship to himself, his neighborhood, and his family. The rest is told in a series of diary entries from a disappeared artist to her childhood love.

“Tell me something beautiful," you said.

I opened my mouth and out came the only thing that I had ever known to be as beautiful as it was true: that I had once met a woman who knew how to fly.”

Black Sun

What is more haunting than a vengeful crow god? One of the main characters of Black Sun, Serapio, can literally summon crows to his aid. Rebecca Roanhorse built this epic fantasy world and described it so clearly that I felt like I could step into it by the end of the first chapter. I am dying to crawl back into it with the sequel Fevered Star and soon-to-be released book #3, The Mirrored Heaven (2023.) This one is for the high fantasy readers, and the readers that want to read from multiple POVs in a vivid world inspired by Pre-Columbian American civilizations. It is also for the readers that like ship captains who are also MERMAIDS.

“We have become a place of long weeping
A house of scattered feathers
There is no home for us between earth and sky.

—From Collected Lamentations from the Night of Knives”