There are a lot of good (and bad!) books on the theme of flight, wings, and being bird. I have reviews of about 40 books on the theme of flight and bird people here at my Books of a Feather project (not related to the title of this site!), and a list of more books that fit the theme, including some I have not read, at the Books of a Feather collection on my LibraryThing here. You can also find other shapeshifter and nonhuman-themed books, if you look around my main library.
Here are a few particular books I would like to mention, as books that stand out in my mind.
To Dream, Perchance to Soar, by Ashlyn Nafina, definitely needs to be mentioned, as one of the first (only?) novels by a nonhuman, about being nonhuman. This book was written particularly to explore a lot of the issues that young adult novels try to explore when they write novels about nonhuman creatures, but, to make it from a perspective that nonhumans will identify with. The result is a 400+ page novel full of magic, spirituality, and reflections about what it means to identify as Other, as well as the struggles that someone who physically changed their species would face in society. Oh, and it has lovely worldbuilding and a whole language for the nonhuman species, too. Support an otherkin creator, get it here!
Wings, by Julie Gonzalez, is a wonderful book that’s all about one boy and his belief that he will fly. No… he doesn’t believe. He knows. He knows that there are wings under his skin, waiting to get out, and he just has to prove it… but no one will believe him, and he is mocked for his “silly ideas”. Is it possible that his belief can be true, or is it just a delusion? That’s what this book explores, and I think therians will like the ending. It’s not really about a bird person, because the main character believes his wings are dragon wings, but it has a lot of experiences that any flying therian will identify with.
Birdy, by William Wharton, is a raw and sometimes disturbing, but very powerful, story about “what it means to be sane” – and whether there is more than one way to be “sane”. Therians who have been insulted with “crazy” slurs just for believing differently will probably already like this idea, but the best thing about it is that one of the characters can be seen as a bird therian. Childhood friends, Birdy and Al, meet again in a mental hospital after traumatic experiences in World War II, and the rest of the story describes their friendship in flashbacks, including the story of Birdy’s obsession with becoming a bird and how he gets closer to their wild nature by raising canaries – and eventually has an experience where he really feels that he becomes one. Most people would say he was “crazy”, but in a world full of the cruelty of war, who is really “sane”? Definitely worth it for the detail descriptions of bird nature, from the perspective of someone who feels like a bird.
If you’re looking for romance, Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl is a nice story about a girl who’s really an owl, the teacher she falls in love with, and a strange mystery surrounding him and the people of the town. I recommend it mostly because the book treats the girl’s owl nature as very normal, from her perspective, and a lot of the attitudes to things – including the way that the romance plot ends up to be solve – are very nonhuman.
A Fast and Brutal Wing by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson focuses on two siblings who can shapeshift, one into a cat, the other into a hawk… or, can they? One of them tells a story of mental illness. The other is sure that the shapeshifting is the truth. Who is right, and who is wrong? The book explores this in a way that will be very interesting for anyone who has ever felt nonhuman, or doubted it. A lot of good descriptions of being animal, too, and the morality of the main characters is very nonhuman.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach is a very spiritual book, which many therians might like. All the characters are birds, and the main character is a seagull who is outcast from the seagulls because he cares more about learning to stretch his powers of flight to new levels, than about the normal worries of most seagulls. So, as well as being a bird story and a flight story, it’s also a good story about being outcast because you explore your self nature, and the journey that Jonathan goes through as he searches his self is really wonderful and powerful.
Bird by Rita Murphy is not actually about a bird… or, maybe it is. The main character of the story seems to be human, but, in some deep way, she also is not. Because she is so small, she always blows away, and she’s afraid of what might happen if she is, so she allows her guardian to put heavy iron boots on her feet. But, the chains on her body and on her soul become more than she can bear, and she wonders if the thing she is afraid of, is the thing she is meant to have… This is a haunting story about discovering your self, particularly when you are being abused, and the end is definitely very therian.
Birdwing by Rafe Martin is a version of the Six Swans legend, exploring what happens to the youngest swan brother, who was cursed, or blessed, to live the rest of his life with a swan’s wing instead of a left arm. This story is an epic, that explores his journey to try and fit in with the swans, then to fit in with the humans, and finally just to fit in with his self – but the experiences he goes through on the way are painful, sad and beautiful. This is not easy to read, particularly if you have fantasies of “going home”, but it is very well written.
Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger is a modern fairy tale… a sweet book for children, though people of any age will enjoy how hopeful and beautiful it is. Gwinna is a winged girl who does not even know she has wings, and the knowledge was hidden from her for all her life. But eventually the knowledge can’t stay hidden, and she begins to discover who she really is. It’s a gentle and spiritual tale about knowledge of self, that is not full of the usual fighting and “hero’s challenges” found in a lot of fairy tales, but, instead, the challenges are a more magical kind. This is a great self-care book, and every bird person should have it in their library to curl up with when things are hard, just to remember that beauty exists and magic is real.
Second mentions, books that are not as good but worth looking at…
Growing Wings by Laurel Winter is thought as one of the well known books about being winged, though, I found it to be a little disappointing. Something about the writing was flat for me, though, there is something beautiful and disturbing about the world, where many children have their wings cut off by parents who want them to fit in, but, a few survive whole.
The Book of Flying by Keith Miller is a well written book about the journey to gain wings, though I feel that the hero really wanted them for a more shallow reason than most therians. But the descriptions are lovely and full of poetry… sometimes a little too much, this book can feel like eating a really heavy dessert. And there is a lot of sexual description, in case that bothers you. I mean, a lot… it feels like the author took every opportunity to compare everything to sex. But it’s also a good book. Whether you like this book, mostly depends whether you like pretty words.
Defect by Will Weaver is a nice book about accepting your differences, using the idea of a boy born with wings. The way that the story will go is obvious, and it’s not a bird story exactly, but it’s a fun book and it is worth mentioning for the fact that it is very understanding about issues of social justice.