Vesper Flights (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Vesper Flights is outstanding. There were phrases in each essay that I found beautiful, insightful, intriguing. My memory of it though is fairly abstract, since I listened to it as I went to sleep at night, Helen Macdonald reading with a depth of sincerity, a calm and deliberate authority, somehow conveying, as her prose does, a blend of intellectual agility with an emotional engagement approaching spirituality. A collection of mainly pre-published pieces, each can be appreciated singly, but their cumulative effect is wonderful (in the author’s intended sense of Wunderkammer, or “Cabinet of Wonders”), and perhaps even, for me, fortifying in their sensibility and subjects. Macdonald’s range of exploration is wide indeed, even if nominally she writes mainly about nature and animals, and our interactions with them. She is equally compelling on almost every topic.

— Sara Hinckley Senior Vice President, Books, Hudson

With observations & meditations as free-ranging as the natural world she writes about, this collection of essays is inspiring, breathtaking & intimate. The essay about watching the massive migration of songbirds from the top deck of the Empire State building will stay with me a long time & the imagery of the migrating birds becoming "trapped" by the uplights of the twin towers memorial is haunting. My Lab Girl of 2020!

— Adrian Newell, Book Buyer, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA

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