From the New York Times bestselling author of H is for Hawk and winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction, comes a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.
Animals don't exist in order to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.
In Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.
Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing the massive migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk's poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds' nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.
By one of this century's most important and insightful nature writers, Vesper Flights is a captivating and foundational book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make sense of the world around us.
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About the Author
HELEN MACDONALD is a writer, poet, illustrator and naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the bestselling H Is for Hawk, as well as a cultural history of falcons, titled Falcon, and three collections of poetry, including Shaler's Fish. Macdonald was a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, has worked as a professional falconer, and has assisted with the management of raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia. She now writes for the New York Times Magazine.
Instant New York Times Bestseller
One of Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2020
Named One of the Best Books of the Summer by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, TIME, and Literary Hub
Macdonald experiments with tempo and style, as if testing out different altitudes and finding she can fly at just about any speed, in any direction, with any aim she likes, so supple is her style. She writes about migration patterns and storms, nests as a metaphor for the domestic and the danger of using nature as metaphor at all. I was reminded of the goshawk, so thickly plumed, so powerful that it can bring down a deer, and yet it weighs only a few pounds. These are the very paradoxes of Macdonald's prose -- its lightness and force.--Parul Sehgal, New York Times
Vesper Flights is a book of tremendous purpose. Throughout these essays, Macdonald revisits the idea that as a writer it is her responsibility to take stock of what's happening to the natural world and to convey the value of the living things within it." --Washington Post
If you're looking to see the natural world through someone else's eyes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better set than those of Helen Macdonald...[Her] writing is miraculously light and substantive at the same time, and her prose is so beautiful, my review copy was hopelessly dog-eared. What makes her such a great observer is her humility and willingness to crack herself open with awe.--San Francisco Chronicle
MacDonald's writing captures the inexpressible rhythm of being... [Her] essays are, if anything, murmurations for our ominous time - dark yet flashing, stirred from the core. --USA Today
"[E]xhilarating... No one describes the everyday natural world with greater power or beauty." --Slate
"Dazzling... Ms. Macdonald reminds us how marvelously unfamiliar much of the nonhuman world remains to us, even as we continue to diminish it." --Wall Street Journal
"For many this year, the great outdoors has been the great beyond, rendering it impossible to feel at one with nature. For this reason, Vesper Flights is essential reading right now. But it is also a book to relish at any time, both for its intelligence and grace, and its ability to edify and enchant in equal measure." --Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[An] altogether memorable collection . . . Exemplary writing about the intersection of the animal and human worlds." --Kirkus Reviews(starred review)
"An inviting collection... infused with wonder, nostalgia, and melancholy. --Publishers Weekly
"Gorgeously composed, complexly affecting, and stunningly revelatory."--Booklist (starred review)
"An essential writer on nature, humanity, and loss. Macdonald fills her narratives with vivid descriptions of the wildlife that surrounds us."--TIME
"A profound meditation on life and freedom."--Entertainment Weekly
Praise for H is for Hawk:
"Breathtaking . . . Helen Macdonald renders an indelible impression of a raptor's fierce essence--and her own--with words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don't notice their astonishing engineering."--New York Times Book Review (cover review)
"Beautiful and nearly feral...H Is for Hawk reminds us that excellent nature writing can lay bare some of the intimacies of the wild world as well." --New York Times
"Macdonald is a poet, her language rich and taut."--Chicago Tribune
"Captivating and beautifully written, it's a meditation on the bond between beasts and humans and the pain and beauty of being alive." --People (Book of the Week)
"One of the loveliest things you'll read this year . . . You'll never see a bird overhead the same way again. A-" --Entertainment Weekly
"Coherent, complete, and riveting, perhaps the finest nonfiction I read in the past year." --New Yorker
"An elegantly written amalgam of nature writing, personal memoir, literary portrait and an examination of bereavement. . . . It illuminates unexpected things in unexpected ways." --Washington Post
"Glows and burns." --Wall Street Journal
"Assured, honest and raw . . . a soaring wonder of a book." --Boston Globe