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 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.
Helen Macdonald’s bestselling debut H is for Hawk brought the astonishing story of her relationship with goshawk Mabel to global critical acclaim and announced Macdonald as one of this century’s most important and insightful nature writers. H is for Hawk won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction and the Costa Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, launching poet and falconer Macdonald as our preeminent nature essayist, with a semi-regular column in the New York Times Magazine.
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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The first book I read by Helen MacDonald was her novel, H is for Hawk. I bought the book because it was about a bird. Reading the review, I thought it was going to be all mushy and nostalgic because it was written in response to her father’s death. I was surprised. It was anything but mushy. It put the word death into my mouth. I thought when I finished reading the book that she was not finished with writing what she was feeling and experiencing from the training of the hawk and her father’s passing. So I read everything she wrote that I could find. The New York Times essays I taught to my students. I collected as many of her words and insights as I could. This book, Vespers Flight has some of those essays included but as the book progresses, so do her realizations about life, about death and about H is for Hawk. This is more than a beautiful book. It is a gentle woman who does not take your hand, just walks with you and shares her understanding of what she sees with you to weave your thoughts into when they fit naturally.