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The Peregrine

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  573 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
From autumn to spring, J.A. Baker set out to track the daily comings and goings of a pair of peregrine falcons across the flat fen lands of eastern England. He followed the birds obsessively, observing them in the air and on the ground, in pursuit of their prey, making a kill, eating, and at rest, activities he describes with an extraordinary fusion of precision and poetry ...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published December 31st 2004 by NYRB Classics (first published January 1st 1967)
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H is for Hawk by Helen MacdonaldWaterlog by Roger DeakinThe Wild Places by Robert MacfarlaneFindings by Kathleen JamieNotes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
British and Irish Nature Writing
10th out of 119 books — 73 voters
Stoner by John Edward WilliamsChess Story by Stefan ZweigThe Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy CasaresA High Wind in Jamaica by Richard HughesThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson
New York Review Books - Classics
282nd out of 423 books — 510 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,689)
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Jan 27, 2015 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing
Shelves: place
I spent some time in December on a virtual walk across a ten by twenty mile area trailing J A Baker as he in turn trailed a couple of peregrine hawks over the fenlands and the estuaries of east Anglia. Of course, my virtual walk was conducted from the comfort of my fireside and only lasted ten days whereas Baker was outdoors in all weathers in pursuit of his prey, and his walk lasted from October to March when the Peregrines migrate to Scandinavia for the summer months.

"The Peregrine", first pu
Mar 03, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is just the most wonderfully poetic account of one man's year long exploration of the lifestyle of peregrines in the unnamed yet I assumed East Anglian area of the mid 1960's. Just beautiful.

On almost every page there is a wonderful simile or collective noun and his prose is the stuff for which fruity voices were made. He does stray on a number of occasions into prose so purple a whole college of Bishops could dress themselves in it but there are so many breathtaking phrases that I could f
Ben Winch
Jul 23, 2015 Ben Winch added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ben by: Fionnuala
Shelves: anglo, english
I’m not a scientist, not much of a scholar either, and I have little of the scientist’s or scholar’s regard for cold hard facts. True, I’m apt to quote (occasionally) biographical details of artists’ lives, but these facts interest me solely for the light they shed on the art, which interests me (for the most part) because facts don’t feature in it, because (for the most part) it’s divorced from what we call “real life”. So it was with some disappointment that I realised this book, The Peregrine ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read
So when I get the Higgs boson blues something terrible and I am in a bad spot or life is just clinching its merciless little fist around me and squeezing squeezing something that always, without fail, cheers me up and/or sets my head a little straighter on neck is watching David Attenborough's nature specials- especially "The Life of [fill in the blank with type of animal here]"... I love David Attenborough and like 1200 hours worth of his material is available to stream on Netflix and I can jus ...more
Aug 14, 2015 D.A. rated it really liked it
Sometimes you read a book to find out "what happened?". Othertimes, you read as a kind of immersion process, to sink into a realm not your own and abide its rules and orders. This book is definitely suited for the latter kind of reading. There is no real plot to this book; it is, like much lyric poetry, interested in the nowness of its subjects rather than in the progress of the reader's journey.

This book really is more about the writer's relationship to nature in general and the peregrine in p
lyell bark
Dec 14, 2014 lyell bark rated it really liked it
Jan 02, 2013 Kate rated it it was amazing
this book will go in my best books I ever read shelf, and I will read it again and again. It will sit right beside Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The Peregrine is J.A. Baker's season walking beneath, watching, learning from, hearing, and being a part of wild nature. He trailed peregrines in eastern England, down by the bottom of the country over ploughed fields, estuaries, woodland paths, fields, farms, towns, and in the process also watched and was part with hundreds of other birds, f ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Jason rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I've wanted to read this book for a while now, quite a few other nature books I've read have been inspired by this book, glad I gave it a go as it was a beautifully written book, almost poetic at times. Baker goes into great detail about the countryside, other animals and every aspect of the peregrines life. J. A. Baker was diagnosed as being very ill so he decided to dedicate his life to stalking these peregrines he had spotted. In the end he does start to go feral, at times when writing about ...more
Kobe Bryant
Nov 25, 2014 Kobe Bryant rated it really liked it
He walks around and looks at birds and writes about them real good
Robert Jacoby
Nov 30, 2015 Robert Jacoby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
No other way to put it: This book is a treasure of the English language.

In The Peregrine J.A. Baker describes how he tracked and trekked over months and miles in his native England to watch and record in language like you've never read how peregrines hunt and feed and fly and play and rest. The language he uses to construct his sentences is like none other I have ever read. It's a vivid mix of nature writing and the best poetry. The text is so dense, the sentences are so packed with words bring
Julian Hoffman
Mar 15, 2013 Julian Hoffman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
Few books dance with language the way The Peregrine does. The story is simple enough:a man spends his winters tracking peregrines over the marshes, fields, and estuaries of eastern England. But that man, J.A. Baker, accomplishes something rare in the history of nature writing—he immerses himself so deeply in his search that he becomes the very thing
he seeks, finally coming to see the “pouring-away world of no attachment” through the peregrine’s eyes. The transformation is startling, lucid, and u
Geoff Cain
May 08, 2013 Geoff Cain rated it it was amazing
Shelves: herzog, bus
This is a really wonderful book. Incredibly poetic nonfiction about a man who follows peregrines through the countryside through the seasons. And that's it - that is the story. Throughout the book, the narrator becomes a part of the landscape of the hawks and seems to become one as well. The book's repetitions and poetry bring us back to an older world of sagas. This is not a "modern" book at all. It is a book about how nature can transform us with that rare commodity - attention.
Bob Gosford
Mar 01, 2010 Bob Gosford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody with an interest in natural history
The most magnificent piece of prose poetry about a single species of bird I have ever read...
Jun 06, 2016 Jana rated it liked it
As I read this book, I couldn't quite figure out if I really liked it or not. The writing is beautiful, even poetic, but sometimes too much for my taste. I really did enjoy a lot of the more unique passages about the behavior of the birds, but most of the book seemed to be repeats of previous entries. Of course, it's understandable as the book is made up of journal entries of observations of peregrines. Nature is very repetitive. It just got a little dull at times. However, occasionally, just as ...more
May 01, 2014 Cody rated it really liked it
The way of the world--its violence and beauty, symmetry and chaos, drama and grace--when examined closely and without sentimentality, is almost unbelievable in its power and complexity, and J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine is one of the more successful attempts at exploring this phenomenon. A wonderfully peculiar hybrid of field guide and travelog in which observation and obsession collide, it’s a work of substance, captivation, and terror that far surpasses what one might expect from such a slim volu ...more
Michael Armijo
Apr 03, 2013 Michael Armijo rated it it was ok
What is a peregrine you may ask? It’s a large wandering bird often known as a falcon with powerful wings adapted for swift flight. This book is really about the adventures of a birdwatcher. It’s very different from most books that I have read (unless I count one of those boring excerpts I had to read during an SAT test—way back when). Perhaps one has to reach a certain period in one’s life to grasp the joy of this one.

This book was written by J.A. Baker (John Alec Baker) an English
At one o'clock the sky above the river darkened from the east, and volleys of arrowed starlings hissed overhead. Behind them, and higher, came a heavy bombardment of wood-pigeons and lapwings. A thousands birds strained forward together as though they did not dare look back. The dull sky domed white with spiraling gulls.

Above the brook a kingfisher hovered. It's body seemed to be suspended between two shining silver spheres of water, so fast were it's wings beating. It half dived, half fell, and
Joseph Smith
Aug 06, 2013 Joseph Smith rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, exhilirating writing, not always easy, sometimes uninteresting, English mystery of love-hate-love of nature. On finishing this book I couldn't stop thinking about it, a beautiful strange book - who were you John Alec? Who were you? The whole time this great and enjoyable elegy of the bird, and yet at the same time there is the man - the merely glimpsed observer - with all his feints and sleights of language, drumming poetry so carefully crafted into the reader. A beautiful mystery ...more
Danny Daley
Jan 07, 2015 Danny Daley rated it liked it
A stirring account of one man's year long relationship with one of my favorite animals on earth - the peregrine falcon. So hard to review, this book is so beautiful and at the same time so completely repetitive. It crosses so many genres; it's like a nearly 200 page prose poem that is part memoir, part natural history, part travel narrative. The use of language is striking, and there are so many wonderful passages, but as the book moves along it's hard not to feel that all the pages sort of blen ...more
Mandy Haggith
May 14, 2014 Mandy Haggith rated it liked it
Shelves: mars, nature
I have really mixed feelings about this book. It's a classic, and stuffed with beautiful, incredibly well observed images and descriptions. So, in detail, it's wonderful. It often reads like the best of nature poetry.

However, as a narrative it's boring and repetitive. There is slaughter on every page: the inevitable event each day is that peregrines kill again. And again. And yet again. It is an unremitting chronicle of hunger assuaged. There is a lot of splendidly described flight. There are m
Dead John Williams
Apr 21, 2016 Dead John Williams rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This is a most singular book, a story of one man's obsession with a some birds. Sounds trite? Yes but it isn't. It is one of the most powerful, moving accounts of events in a singular life that is not full of human drama. It is full of nothing much. I read somewhere that someone had written of this book: "It is a book in which nothing happens, again and again".

So why is this book rated so highly by so many people but you have never heard of it? I think because it is so focussed on one thing to t
Thomas Bancroft
Jan 02, 2016 Thomas Bancroft rated it it was amazing
This memoir takes place in England and the late 1960s. J. Baker follows a pair of peregrine falcons through out the winter. Robert Macfarlane wrote the introduction to this edition; he puts this book in the same category of Barry Lopez’s “Arctic Dreams” and Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard. Lofty books to be compared to, but I thought well deserved. John Baker searches for and describes the actions of these peregrines throughout their winter stay. Except for the author, people are not prese ...more
Philipp Holstein
In England und Amerika ist ein literarisches Genre populär, das "nature writing" heißt, in Deutschland aber noch keinen Namen hat, weil es so etwas hier gar nicht gibt. Diese besondere Art des Schreibens über die Natur wirkt wie eine Mischung aus Reisereportage und Dichtung, aus Essay und Bericht. Dieses Schreiben nimmt Elemente aus Zoologie und Philosophie auf, und es ist ebenso poetisch wie politisch. Die Texte sind subjektiv und zumeist in der ersten Person gehalten, und wer nun meint, das se ...more
Andrew Cox
Dec 29, 2015 Andrew Cox rated it really liked it
The Peregrine is one of my favourite birds & so many nature writers refer to this book so I had been looking forward to reading this as my Xmas read. Some of the writing was delightful poetry, I particularly liked his description of mud. I also liked how the salt marshes of Essex were transformed into a magical place that could have been as exotic as the Himalayas!!!! Being used to flat lands of the East coast I could imagine the landscape & felt at home.
I did find this hard going at tim
Kimberly Eyre
Dec 14, 2014 Kimberly Eyre rated it liked it
The most extraordinary aspect of The Peregrine was the experience of reading it: it was a meditation. Each entry repetitive, requiring a significant concentration. If while reading the process was adulterated by an errant thought - usual something mundane and concerned with a personal happening of that particular moment or day - I might loose my place and struggle to find it again. Have I already read about this hunt or was it another, very similar kill? I must have reread whole entries while ma ...more
my name is corey irl
Jul 16, 2015 my name is corey irl rated it it was amazing
its a whole book of this guy watching a bird and the bird cant even cast spells or turn into a sexy broad or anything
Andrew Critchell
The Peregrine is a stunning piece of nature writing that takes the reader into the alien world of this magnificent bird of prey. Having read the text many years ago I was always attracted to the mystery surrounding it's author, J.A. Baker, for little was known about him and he had only written one other book, 'The Hill of Summer.' Now, much more information has been brought to life and both his works, alongside extracts from his personal diaries, have been made available in this new book, and wo ...more
John Corey
Jan 16, 2016 John Corey rated it it was amazing
I don't think I can accurately describe how much I enjoyed this book. A gift from my uncle John, it took a long time to read but that is the sort of book it is. It is written as journal and does not lend itself to a brisk reading.

It is the journal of a man who has spent the last 10 years following peregrine falcons around the land surrounding his home in Essex England. In the last year of this pursuit he documents it for us. And it is a marvel.

The introduction (by Robert MacFarlane) he states
jason foote
Dec 10, 2015 jason foote rated it it was amazing

When I was asked by a friend to describe J.A. Baker’s short novel, The Peregrine I struggled to say more than “1/3 biological field notes, 1/3 poetic prose and 1/3 Kafka’s The Metamorphosis”.

This novel follows the author across the English countryside as he tracks peregrines, noting their movements, behaviour and perhaps most importantly, their relationship with the living world beneath them. Aside from the field note nature of Baker’s observations, the book follows no distinct plot outside of t
Ricky Irvine
Apr 23, 2015 Ricky Irvine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: agrarian-nature, 2015
I like another reader's review: "He walks around and looks at birds and writes about them real good."

The book was a lot of work to get through. His descriptions are so vivid I had to read them slowly, often again, to see what he was seeing. I found it best read aloud. It is a lovely, thrilling, sometimes dull and bloody gruesome journal from a birdwatcher.

Here is a foretaste from the third page:

"The first bird I searched for was the nightjar, which used to nest in the valley. Its song is like
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NYRB Classics: The Peregrine, by J.A. Baker 4 21 Apr 13, 2016 08:29AM  
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“Cold air rises from the ground as the sun goes down.  The eye-burning clarity of the light intensifies. The southern rim of the sky glows to a deeper blue, to pale violet, to purple, then thins to grey.  Slowly the wind falls, and the still air begins to freeze.  The solid eastern ridge is black; it has a bloom on it like the dust on the skin of a grape.  The west flares briefly.  The long, cold amber of the afterglow casts clear black lunar shadows.  There is an animal mystery in the light that sets upon the fields like a frozen muscle that will flex and wake at sunrise.” 10 likes
“Approach him across open ground with a steady unfaltering movement. Let your shape grow in size but do not alter its outline. Never hide yourself unless concealment is complete. Be alone. Shun the furtive oddity of man, cringe from the hostile eyes of farms. Learn to fear. To share fear is the greatest bond of all. The hunter must become the thing he hunts.” 8 likes
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