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Vesper Flights

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  3,557 ratings  ·  766 reviews
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 an
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 25th 2020 by Grove Press
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SJ I think you're referring to "anagnorisis." It's in Deer in the Headlights (p.127 in the US edition). I just read that essay so it was fresh in my mind…moreI think you're referring to "anagnorisis." It's in Deer in the Headlights (p.127 in the US edition). I just read that essay so it was fresh in my mind. Hope that's what you were looking for. (less)

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 ·  3,557 ratings  ·  766 reviews

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Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The award winning Helen Macdonald's eye wanders far and wide in this thoughtful, sensitive, poetic and beautifully written collection of essays, some more substantial than others, on the complexities of the natural world, the environment, climate change, and people. She looks at flocks, made up of huge numbers of individual birds, a marvel of nature, linking it with attitudes to refugees, often seen as a mass to be judged and feared, a parallel where Helen suggests they should be viewed as indiv ...more
Elyse  Walters
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing by Helen Macdonald

It took me awhile to finish this audiobook/memoir....
I enjoyed these essays a little at a time - best when being outdoors myself.

There are over 40 essays...about nature, birds, butterflies, other animals, insects....
....nature in every shape and form....
climate change, and other phenomena’s of the physical world.
Helen engages us with thoughts about philosophy, psychology, theology, spiritualism.....and being moral human beings.
She shared a wonderful story
Diane S ☔
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
We are in, what the scientists are calling, the sixth extinction. This is a man-made event due to our actions and inactions. Though McDonakd is aware of this, that is not the main focus of these wonderful essays.

"I hope that this book works a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things and it is concerned with the quality of wonder."/

Si she goes on to show us the wonder, the magical that nature provides. From a field, where as a child she would lie face down to discover what was hid
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book consists of 41 essays about nature, and sometimes about humans, and sometimes about humans interacting with other species on our planet Earth. Helen Macdonald writes very well. I do believe I will seek out her first book, ‘H is for Hawk.’ That got a ton of praise and awards. I have yet to look at reviews for this book, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this book garnered the same amount of laudatory attention.

I tend to read on the fast side but that is when it comes to fiction. If I was
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
I reviewed this book for Harvard Review. ...more
The other week, I realised that the books that had excited me the most in the past two years or so were either in the nature writing category or/and were about the environment in some way. Vesper Flights is one of those books.
My goodness, what an extraordinary writer Macdonald is.
She managed to transport and inform me, and to make me wonder and wander via her poetic writing and beautiful reading voice (I listened to the audiobook).
Most essays focus on nature, with birds being the protagonists.
May 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: uk, 2020-read
Naturalist Helen Macdonald, author of the immensely successful H is for Hawk, gives us a collection of 41 (!) texts about the "love for the glittering world of non-human life around us", as she herself explains. As the book contains only 272 pages, there are many short essays and even shorter vignettes, combining information about wildlife and meditating on the fact that us humans tend to see our natural surroundings as mirrors of ourselves, that we search for meaning pertaining to our position ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To be human is to see ourselves as the center of the world, to hold nature at an arms length and look at it as a mirror of ourselves; separate from us but not entirely discrete; a reflection of our needs, our thoughts, and our lives.Vesper Flights, a collection of over 40 luminous narrative essays by the acclaimed naturalist Helen Macdonald, brings the natural world out of the woods not as an entity we have dominion over but as something beautifully complex and worthy of sav(our)ing for reasons ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Macdonald has written a delightful set of essays chronicling her many encounters with the natural world, particularly with birds. Her excellent writing brings alive the wonder of various bird species. Enjoy!
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Helen Macdonald's first book since H is for Hawk, which made it an obvious one to suggest when I was asked what books I would like as birthday presents. That book was beautiful and deeply personal, both as a study of grief and as an introduction to falconry.

This book is rather more difficult to categorise, as it consists of over 40 short essays, many of which started life as commissions for the New York Times magazine and The New Statesman. There is still a degree of unity, and the arran
Richard Derus
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five, rounded up for the sheer pleasure of the author's writing

Alone among the literate world, I was made uncomfortable by the relationship between naturalist Macdonald and Mabel the formerly wild hawk told in H is for Hawk. These essays on many topics are written in Author Macdonald's justly celebrated elegant prose, and include so many aperçus that my commonplace book blew up. If you don't share my unease with people venerating wildness while taming it out of a fellow being, yo
Michael Livingston
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just adore Helen Macdonald - she writes about the natural world with wonder and joy. Nobody captures the feelings that paying attention to animals can bring as well as she does. This is a collection of essays and is inevitably a bit scattershot, but so many of these pieces hit me right in the heart - the migratory birds streaming above the empire state building at night, the fledgling swift lifting off Helen's hand, the wounded stalk that illustrated bird migration - there's just so much amazi ...more
“What science does is what I would like more literature to do too: show us that we are living in an exquisitely complicated world that is not all about us. It does not belong to us alone. It never has done.”

“None of us sees animals clearly. They’re too full of the stories we’ve given them. Encountering them is an encounter with everything you’ve learned about them from previous sightings, from books, images, conversations. Even rigorous scientific studies have asked questions of animals in ways
Diane Barnes
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bedtime-books
I loved these essays. Just like in H Is For Hawk, Helen MacDonald makes me look at nature differently; become more observant of what's going on around me. I love watching the birds that come to my feeders, but now I'm aware of what goes on in the trees and the skies. These essays are elegant and peaceful reading, and I learned something new from each of them. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
On warm summer evenings swifts that aren't sitting on eggs or tending their chicks fly low and fast, screaming in speeding packs around rooftops and spires. Later, they gather higher in the sky, their calls now so attenuated by air and distance that to the ear they corrode into something that seems less than sound, to suspicions of dust and glass. And then, all at once, as if summoned by a call or bell, they rise higher and higher until they disappear from view. These ascents are called vespers
Any doubt that Macdonald could write a worthy follow-up to H Is for Hawk evaporates instantly. Even though these essays were written for various periodicals (New York Times Magazine and New Statesman) and anthologies (including Ground Work) and range in topic from mushroom-hunting to deer–vehicle collisions and in scope from deeply researched travel pieces to one-page reminiscences, they magically form a coherent whole. Equally reliant on argument and epiphany, the book has more to say about hum ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
From the award-winning author of H is for Hawk, a brilliant and insightful work about our relationship to the natural world. Our world is a fascinating place, teeming not only with natural wonders that defy description, but complex interactions that create layers of meaning. Helen Macdonald is gifted with a special lens that seems to peer right through it all, and she shares her insights--at times startling, nostalgic, weighty, or simply entertaining--in this masterful collection of essays. From ...more
Julie Christine
*This hasn't happened to me in a long time, but I wrote a review of this wonderful essay collection and somehow in the moment of posting this morning, I inadvertently deleted it. Tears shed, and it was too late to reconstruct, so until I muster up the energy to attempt a rewrite, suffice it to say I loved this. Forty-one beautifully written essays by one of my favorite writers on nature, science, nostalgia, grief and goats that shouldn't be missed.

Bam cooks the books ;-)
I regret that I've never gotten around to reading H is for Hawk so I jumped at the chance to read Macdonald's latest book, Vesper Flights--a collection of essays that are mostly personal memoir and how she came to be so in love with the natural world around her, but also sprinkled with tidbits of British history and modern day politics. Her experiences and thoughts on birds, nature and the environment are fascinating. Is our ignorance of what we are doing to the Earth rather like frogs in a pot ...more
Joy D
In this series of forty-one essays, Helen Macdonald writes beautifully about the natural world and how humans interact with it. It is a unique combination of scientific and poetic writing. She addresses topics such as deer, hares, swans, various birds, mushrooms, badgers, trees, and fireflies. She offers insight into habitat destruction, decreasing biodiversity, and climate change. She includes observations about Brexit and the refugee crisis. It can feel a bit fragmented and, as in many collect ...more
Mary & Tom
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
An excellent book of essays by Helen MacDonald the author of Hawk. Her essays focus on nature. She writes about animals, trees, landscapes, and how these relate to mankind. MacDonald is very knowledgeable and a fine writer.

Her essays in Vespers are thought pieces that can be enjoyed again and again. The book could almost be used as a daily devotional. Each offering will open up a reader’s sense of wonder. Her vivid descriptions of birds and their various nature’s leave no doubt that she loves h
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
my first reading of Macdonald. oh wow such beautiful thoughts, sentences, and she gets her idea across easily in such short pieces. but they are very short pieces, bordering on human interest rather than science and natural history. I can't wait to read her "h is for hawk " ...more
Kasa Cotugno
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald wrote a showstopper that was at the top of many lists. Vesper Flights, beginning with its beautiful title, is composed of numerous essays, and at least in the prepublication galley I had, they are all strung together, no breaks. Until I understood this odd presentation, I had to put on the brakes and reread several "beginnings" to regather the context. But the material itself is mesmerizing. Whether she is talking about migratory habits and going to the top of ...more
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
In these essays, MacDonald invites the reader into the splendor of nature, especially that of birds, as she also draws insights into human nature. I would have appreciated these more had I read them more slowly, one a week, rather than approaching this like a book of chapters, reading one after the next.
Marcus Hobson
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Vesper Flights is an absolute delight.
41 chapters, all only a few pages long, all packed with interesting stories that both inform and delight. Stories that take you back to memories, to childhood delights or simply present you with things that you never knew about the natural world.

Macdonald writes mainly, but not exclusively about natural history in the UK. She lives in Suffolk, on the East coast, and this landscape appears in much of her writing. Her previous book H is for Hawk won a raft of
Indran Fernando
Sep 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
At 172 pages, I think I've earned the right to mark this as Did Not Finish. I was really looking forward to reading some artfully written reflections on the natural world. The New York Times review suggested that Macdonald focuses on the way in which humans treat animals as a canvas on which to project our preconceived cultural ideas (about gender, for example).

Disappointingly, this thought-provoking premise hasn't been addressed in any depth so far. The book comes across as a mishmash re-issuin
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
In her introduction, author Helen Macdonald hopes Vesper Flights will serve as a Wunderkammer, a Cabinet of Curiosities, a cabinet of wonders. And it is. It truly is.

Macdonald explores all sorts of things she is interested in, most of which are closely associated with nature. Birds' nests and birds' eggs, and whether or not it is right to collect these. The miracle of wild boars (don't, under any circumstances, tell a US naturalist this). Field guides. The meadow near her childhood home. Seeing
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I decided to read 'Vesper Flights' after watching Helen Macdonald's International Book Festival event. I recommend it, not least because she introduces her adorable little parrot at the end. She is a fascinating speaker and thoughtful environmental commentator. While I found 'Vesper Flights' a structurally very different book to H is for Hawk, it is just as eloquently written. 'Vesper Flights' is a collection of short essays, some just a couple of pages long. I would have liked many of them to b ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-favourites
A Helen Macdonald book was exactly what my tired brain needed. I read H is for Hawk around this time last year, and I think I will always associate her writing with the transition of summer into fall. These essays and vignettes evoke such wonder for animals, both in how we see them as mirrors for ourselves, but also in how we impose our own meanings onto them, and how much we will never know and understand about them. I particularly enjoyed the pieces about animals as nationalist symbols, such a ...more
Jessica Haider
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vesper Flights is a collection of beautifully written long essays about nature and animals. Macdonald has a way with words and does a wonderful job sharing her love of the animal kingdom. The whole vibe of the book overall is very meditative and relaxing, even when she is discussing animals in trouble. She uses her observations of animals to highlight things she's learned about herself and humanity. This is a great book to read in several doses during quiet moments.

If you haven't read her previ
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Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, historian, illustrator and naturalist. She's worked as a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, as a professional falconer, and in raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia. She is an affiliate of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. She lives in Suffolk, UK. ...more

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“What science does is what I would like more literature to do too: show us that we are living in an exquisitely complicated world that is not all about us. It does not belong to us alone. It never has done.” 5 likes
“(T)he world is full of people busily making things into how they think the world ought to be, and burning huge parts of it to the ground, utterly and accidentally destroying things in the process without even knowing they are doing so. And that any of us might be doing that without knowing it, any of us, all the time.” 3 likes
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