Vesper Flights (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Macdonald hopes this collection of essays, both old and new, will convey her sense of wonder at the curiosities of the natural world. In a time of frightening environmental loss, she tells us that we need more than science. Science can define and help mitigate the current great extinction humans are causing, but we need literature as well, to communicate what the losses mean, the value of those things disappearing, "so that more of us might fight to save them." Her objective is beautifully met. These essays have me more in love with nature and more ready to fight for it than ever. She’s even convinced me to hope, and given me comfort by revealing mysteries beyond understanding. Her prose moves quickly and gracefully from the concrete science to the emotions we feel and their moral and political implications. She sees in marvelous detail the love and heartbreak of sharing the world with other creatures and their habitats. (An autistic boy dances in complete harmony with a parrot.) She examines how we attach our own personal meaning to their lives. (A massive flock of cranes reflects the movement of refugees searching for safe rest.) Her unique perspectives open worlds I never would have imagined. (A skyscraper raises her into immense airspace filled with flying and floating life.) And they close the gaps between us. (A total solar eclipse erases the differences between all watchers.) The broad range of topics, the wit alongside intellect, and the stunning depth of wisdom all left me awed, and gratefully surprised! Best of all, Macdonald openly show us herself, a complex person with an inspirational passion for life, a force of nature in her own right. Humanity needs this book.

— Tim McCarthy

September 2020 Indie Next List

“I wish I could give Vesper Flights twelve stars out of five. In this beautiful, loving, poignant portrait of a nature lover’s world — gosh, what an understatement — Helen MacDonald continues to prove herself a nature-writing powerhouse. Her literary skills make her a modern legend, and Vesper Flights is sure to touch as many hearts, if not more, than H Is for Hawk did.”
— Nikki F, Bookie's Chicago, Chicago, IL


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.

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.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802158673
ISBN-10: 0802158676
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: July 13th, 2021
Pages: 336
Language: English