JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dr. Fred Alsop of East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has been in the birdwatching business for some time, long enough to earn the top spot in online reviews for a book he wrote over two decades ago.

“I stumbled across a website called BestReviews,” Alsop said. “And so I went on Best Book Reviews and found five current books that are being reviewed, two of them by Roger Dawkins and one of them by the American Museum of Natural History and one by National Geographic.

“And they were all good field guides, and then next to that was the best of the best. And by golly, my 21-year-old guide was the best of the best. So it’s got new life.”

Alsop, who also leads ETSU’s Eagle Cam program, wrote the book in conjunction with publisher DK and the Smithsonian Institute. The project grew as he went until the final volume was a massive tome.

“It ended up a book with 1,008 pages because it was all in North America. 937 species at the time, weighing eight pounds,” Alsop said. “Which made a great doorstep or a blunt instrument if you wanted to use it for that.”

Alsop’s work has taken him all around the world, and his works have been distributed even further than that. The recognition helps pay off the intense schedule he lived in during the book’s creation.

“We did it in nine months,” Alsop said. “So in addition to being a full-time biology professor at the time, I was working about 65 hours a week on this to meet deadlines. And each day’s work would go to two editors, one at the Smithsonian and one at DK press. They would edit the work and send it back to me the next day. And by that time I had more copy for them.

“So once we got into it, it was really a treadmill. I can empathize with ladies who are pregnant and they’re ready for that nine months to be over, this sort of got delivered the same way.”

Alsop is still in the publishing game and is currently reworking his first book, an inventory of bird species found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the meantime, he’s happy to split his time between birdwatching throughout the region and helping ETSU’s George L. Carter Railroad Museum.