Assume the Stillness of a Tree


J.A. Baker spent ten years observing the peregrines along the east coast of England. His obsession yielded a mountain of field notes and this classic study of a most elusive bird. The Peregrine is also one of the most unusual (and memorable) books we have on the Land Library’s shelves. Barry Lopez sums it up perfectly when he wrote that Baker’s book was “one of the most beautifully written, carefully observed, and evocative wildlife accounts I have ever read.”

As you read The Peregrine it’s almost impossible not to slow down, re-read, and copy down passages. Here’s one of our favorites, on the simple art of watching:

“To be recognized and accepted by a peregrine you must wear the same clothes, travel by the same way, perform actions in the same order. Like all birds it fears the unpredictable. Enter and leave the same fields at the same time each day, soothe the hawk from its wildness by a ritual of behavior as invariable as its own. Hood the glare of your eye, hide the white tremor of the hands, shade the stark reflecting face, assume the stillness of a tree.

Just today, we came across this exciting new book from one of our all-time favorite publishers, Little Toller:


Hetty Saunders gives us the first biography of one of the most remarkable writers of the past century. As Saunders mentions in the video below, Baker was an ordinary man living an ordinary life, and yet he produced a book like no other!

Next to nothing was known about Baker, who died in 1987, until an archive of his materials was brought together and given to the University of Essex in 2013. Hetty Saunder’s new book contains many photographs from the J A Baker Archive, along with images from his notebooks, journals and annotated maps. Christopher Matthews has also supplied a photo essay of Baker’s favorite landscapes. Robert Macfarlane, who wrote on J.A. Baker in The Wild Places (another of our favorites) provides the foreword.

My House of Sky: the Life of J.A. Baker will be published on October 25th


From the Baker Archives at the University of Essex


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