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  • Published: 16 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9780099575467
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $24.00

Vesper Flights

From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes a transcendent collection of essays about the natural world

'Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world' Observer
Animals don't exist 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.
From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.

Helen Macdonaldbrings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches.

Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century's greatest nature writers.


  • Published: 16 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9780099575467
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $24.00

About the author

Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, naturalist and historian of science. Her book H is for Hawk won many prizes, including the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Costa Book of the Year, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France, and in the US was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, and lives in Suffolk.

Also by Helen Macdonald

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Praise for Vesper Flights

Nature writing at its best... All kinds of wondrous... Each and every essay reminded me what a gifted writer Macdonald is. Her prose is poetry but it also has a drenching kind of a clarity. And this is good because we shouldn't allow ourselves to be lulled by the sheer pleasure of reading her. For these are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes.

Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller *Book of the Month*

H is for Hawk turned many a reader into a goshawk fan... This lyrical essay collection also explores human relationships with the natural world, but has a wider scope, taking in a search for the last golden orioles in Suffolk's poplar forests and swan-upping on the Thames.

Country Living

From reflections on her childhood love of animals to sharp observations on the migrations of songbirds, the author of H is for Hawk fills her essay collection with vivid appreciation for the wildlife that surrounds us.

Time Magazine, *Summer Reads 2020*

This nature writer's long-awaited follow-up to her influential 2014 memoir H is for Hawk is a treat: dive into essays about headaches and high-rises, catching swans and farming ostriches.

Daily Telegraph

[Macdonald's] prose is poetic but it also has a drenching clarity... These are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes to the parlous state of the environment... A vital book for now because it... shows us that in respecting this diversity lies both the joy and unity of our own species.

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

One of this century's greatest nature writers, Helen Macdonald takes simple moments - of nesting birds, wild boars emerging from the woods, foraging for mushrooms on an autumn day - and weaves them with history, personal reflection and political comment.

Amy Barrett, BBC Science Focus Magazine

Helen Macdonald's series of studies...show a remarkable eloquence, intelligence and empathy... Unfailingly acute.

Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

Macdonald is a glorious writer... This book will make you look a bit harder at the wonders around you.

Nancy Durrant, Evening Standard

Those who have read Helen Macdonald's memoir H is for Hawk will be familiar with her ability to weave together natural, cultural and personal history and to tease out the deeper meanings of our encounters with the wild... She applies her bright, sensitive prose to encounters with swifts and a solitary boar; to the magic of woods in winter or a chalk quarry dotted with glow-worms on a hot summer's night. Her capacity for wonder is infectious.

New Statesman

An antidote to so much romantic, reductive writing about the natural world... Macdonald's writing teems with other voices and perspectives, with her own challenges to herself. It muddies any facile ideas about nature and the human, and prods at how we pleat our prejudices, politics and desires into our notions of the animal world... Hers is a gritty, companionable intimacy with the wild... The essays...are short, varied and highly edible.

Parul Sehgal, New York Times

Vesper Flights...reminds us we too are part of the natural world.

Michael Hodges, Radio Times

Vesper Flights...[takes] the reader on exhilarating adventures.

Lisa Allardice, Guardian

Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world... A powerful - and entertaining - corrective to the idea that the only hopes that matter on this planet are those of our own species.

Tim Adams, Observer

An excellent collection... Macdonald is so joyously and excitedly in love with the natural world around her it is difficult not to share in this rapture, but so, too, in her sense of loss... Compelling and urgent.

India Lewis, Arts Desk

Helen Macdonald's new essays are no flights of fancy, as she examines who has the right to define and be the gatekeepers to the natural world... [Vesper Flights shares] many of the qualities of H is for Hawk - frankness, reflective thinking, formidable powers of observation and wordcraft.

Susan Mansfield, Scotsman

Full of treasures... Couched in scientific learning... The pleasures of Vesper Flights are the pleasures of any literature; the lucidity of thought, the sensual tactility of the words (Macdonald can make you feel the bristle of the beetles that catch in her hair on a summer night), the comfort of the familiar and the thrill of the strange. But it is combined here with a real urgency, an awareness of our human imprint on the world and the damage that is doing.

Teddy Jamieson, Herald Scotland

Their subject matter is marvellously diverse, taking in nests, ants, hares, glow-worms, mushrooms, migration and more... These are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes to the state of the environment.

Caroline Sanderson, Daily Mirror

I finished the book seeing the natural world, and my place within it, afresh.

BBC Wildlife

Vesper Flights is a book of tremendous purpose.

Jake Cline, Independent

Gorgeously evocative prose, original insights and deep knowledge.

Gwendolyn Smith

[Macdonald's] beautifully written essays go a long way to improving our perception.

Ian Critchley, Sunday Times

Vivid, deeply informed, emotionally charged... [Vesper Flights] can startle you.

Richard Mabey, Telegraph

Interesting and accomplished... Vesper Flights establishes her [Macdonald] as a penetrating analyst of the relationship between humans and the non-human world... She is splendid company reflecting on nests and the meaning of home and place.

Charles Foster, Oldie

A collection of wonderfully evocative essays on wildlife.


Vesper Flights is a book of ideas and urgent, beautiful writing... [Macdonald] is a writer whose every word is to be cherished.

Tom Lathan, Spectator

[An] urgently beautiful book about the haunted meanings of belonging in the world.

Mathew Lyons, New Humanist


Time Magazine *10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020*

Helen Macdonald is one of the best nature writers now working.

Simon Ings, Telegraph *Books of the Year*

One of this century's greatest nature writers.

Amy Barrett, BBC Science Focus Magazine *Books of the Year*

A powerful collection of essays... Sensitive and intelligent, these essays are full of gorgeous images and moving insights... A perfect escape.

Justine Carbery, Independent *Books of the Year*

Vesper Flights weaves a beautiful proposition: by noticing how wonder arises and flows, we can learn something about what it means to be alive.

Merlin Sheldrake, Foyles *Author Picks for Christmas 2020*

These individual essays are about badgers and ants, goldfinches and swans, but through their constellation Macdonald is able to get at something fundamental about the human condition.

Adam Weymouth, Resurgence & Ecology

I should have started reading Helen Macdonald a long time ago and now I'm unlikely to stop. These essays and reflections are just as compelling as her celebrated H is for Hawk, and come together as a kind of manual for being in the world as you look at it.

Jon McGregor, Week

Lovely, thoughtful and sometimes sobering essays on the vanishing natural world.

Reader's Digest

This book is a powerful - and entertaining - corrective to the idea that the only hopes that matter on this planet are those of our own species.

Tim Adams, Guardian

Macdonald has a wonderful gift for exploring the intersection between nature and our experience of it, in writing that is both lyrical and impassioned.

Hannah Beckerman, Observer

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