This summer I re-read H is for Hawk, the 2016 book by British naturalist and historian Helen Macdonald. It’s a resplendent, sad, and genre-bending book about training a goshawk, about another writer who wrote a doomed book about training a goshawk, about grief and love. But mostly, it’s about wonder. Macdonald’s prose is burnished, as though written in scrolls. I see colors in her words, hidden and layered; in gray there is slate, raincloud, smoke, pepper, flint, chalk, pewter, ash, colors within colors, refracting cathedrals of gray. She writes about light in a house, how it’s solid as glass. She writes about a goshawk’s startled eyes, “the colour of sun on white paper,” how they stare “because the whole world had fallen into them at once.” I needed this book again to help me write my own.
We know next to nothing about the other 6 billion or so Earth-like planets in the galaxy. With the imminent launch of the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built, Laura Kreidberg is optimistic this will soon change.
I bought a stainless-steel kitchen prep table in 2016 because I once read that you could throw hot pots and pans directly on it. This tall, sturdy table has since become a center of gravity for me. I do everything on it, from reading the paper with my coffee in the morning to developing recipes for work during the day. At night, I clear it for dinner. It’s where I chop onions, whisk vinaigrettes and knead dough for fresh-baked milk bread on the weekend. I have only two stools, one for each side of the table, and I like it that way. It’s where my partner and I sit for our meals.
In an era when the failures and misdeeds of intelligence services around the world can shock and alarm, reading Philip’s remarks feels like a clarion call that slices straight to the bone, and hurts. John le Carré did not just leave the world an engaging novel, he also left us with a warning.
A groundbreaking collage of epistles, mementos, poetry, and literary criticism, Victoria Chang's Dear Memory asks a profound question: "Can memory be / unhoused, or is it / the form in which / everything is held?"
The animal kingdom may be as corralled as we are, but it’s also “alien, unknowable, familiar but mysterious.” Orlean acknowledges the mystery but doesn’t explore it. Instead, she relies on her powers of observation, conveyed with unflappable curiosity. Her rich storytelling is almost soothing, even when it’s about something as disturbing as South African hunting facilities sedating animals so they can be more easily shot. Sometimes I wished for more countenance with that unknowability — and perhaps our reluctance to think of ourselves as two-legged animals — but philosophical rumination is not included on this tour. Orlean is committed to investigating the dizzying multiplicity of roles animals serve — employee, best friend, harbinger of climate change — and the places where those functions intersect.