ISBN: 9781615190836
Published: September 17, 2013
Price: $14.95 US
Paperback: 256 pages
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A Conversation with the Natural World

“When the day ended with time for questions, I had some turning in my head . . . About ‘nature,’ mostly, which we were exhorted to reconnect with. What was it, exactly, and where did it reside?”

With her poet’s eye and naturalist’s affinity for wild places, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field in this enthralling collection of fourteen essays whose power derives from the stubborn attention she pays to everything around her. Jamie roams her native Scottish “byways and hills” and sails north to encounter whalebones and icebergs. Interweaving personal history with her scrutiny of landscape, Jamie dissects whatever her gaze falls upon—from vistas of cells beneath a hospital microscope, to orcas rounding a headland, to the aurora borealis lighting up the frozen sea. Written with precision, subtlety, and wry humor, Sightlines urges us to “Keep looking. Keep looking, even when there’s nothing much to see.”

★ John Burroughs Association’s 2014 Medal for Distinguished Natural History Book
2014 Orion Book Award for Nonfiction
Dolman Travel Book of the Year for 2013

“Kathleen Jamie has built a writing life around paying attention. The 14 personal essays in Sightlines include explorations—methodically reported and lyrically written—of secluded places like a cave in Spain whose walls are covered with prehistoric art, and the remote island of Rona in northern Scotland. In one brief, exquisite essay Jamie rescues a moth. And it’s suspenseful.”—The New York Times

“[Kathleen] Jamie may remind American readers of Annie Dillard for essays that explore the wilderness in detail but find power in the connections the writers make between what they observe in the wild and the way we live our daily lives. . . . The writing is exquisite.”
Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“A lyrical work of profound insight.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Award-winning Scottish poet and essayist Jamie writes of her immersions in nature and history in 14 finely tooled, scrubbed, rinsed, and polished essays. . . . So fully does she give herself over to all that she witnesses, so unexpected are her perceptions, that Jamie’s lustrous essays recharge our appreciation not only for the world’s beauty and mystery but also for the gift poetic writers such as Jamie possess for translating sensory input into gloriously calibrated, revelatory language.”

“This intelligent collection of 14 essays, informed by science and myth, heightened attention, and cultural dreams, is written with Scots brogue, language, and attitude that will give American readers a fresh view of nature.”
Publishers Weekly

“Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines dissects the natural world with precision, humor, and love. The essays in this book not only inspire us to look more closely, but also have the power to open us up to a new kind of emotional experience of the planet."
Orion Magazine editors from the awards citation for the 2014 Orion Book Award for Nonfiction

“Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines, a collection of brilliant and enticing essays about natural phenomena, tingles with life. John Berger called her a “sorceress,” and so she is.”
Diana Athill, author of Somewhere Towards the End

“The dance of Jamie's words enacts the mind in motion as it moves between the shifting, shimmering processes of nature and art.”
The Guardian

“Jamie’s prose is exquisite, yet never indulgent. . . . This is a book that will stay with you, as its sights and sounds have stayed with its writer. [A] work of intense purity and quiet genius, and we’re lucky to have it.”
The Sunday Telegraph

“A haunting new collection from one of our finest nature writers . . . . Immensely beguiling. There are piquant descriptions that stop you in your tracks . . . . but the real power of the writing derives from the steady increment of detail and the honesty of her responses to the natural world.”
The Sunday Times (London)

“Her written words make readers see with a clarity bestowed by only a few most gifted writers. . . . It is not often that the prose of a poet is as powerful as her verse, but Jamie’s is. There are people uninterested in books about remote places and wild creatures; but to the rest of us [this book] will be a treasure.”
Literary Review

“There is such a precision, of both thinking and seeing, displayed in these works that you would have to be a very obtuse kind of reader not to realize that Jamie is a poet.”
The Scotsman

“At which point I put the book down again and thought: ‘I wonder if I would actually kill to be able to write, or think, like that.’ It’s like this pretty much all the way through.”
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

“This is a lovely book, full of gentle joy and anger and an almost spiritual wonder for and affinity with the natural world. It is written in crystalline language that enhances perception, and explores the essence, ultimately, of our human existence in relation to the rest of the natural world.”—Words with Jam

Further Praise for Kathleen Jamie and Her Previous Books

“A sorceress of the essay form. Never exotic, down to earth, she renders the indefinable to the reader’s ear. Hold her tangible words and they’ll take you places.”
John Berger, author of Ways ofSeeing and About Looking

"Whether she is addressing birds or rivers, or the need to accept loss or, sometimes, the desire to escape our own lives, her work is earthy and rigorous, her language at once elemental and tender."
2012 Costa Poetry Prize citation

"A book of unparalleled beauty, sharpness of observation, wit, delicacy, strength of vision and rare exactness of language."
The Daily Telegraph, on Findings

“Kathleen Jamie is a supreme listener … in the quietness of her listening, you hear her own voice: clear, subtle, respectful, and so unquenchably curious that it makes the world anew. This is as close as writing gets to a conversation with the natural world.”
Richard Mabey, on Findings

“[A] remarkable collection of essays about sites where nature and non-nature intersect. American readers can now meet a sensibility who attends to the living world, and the world as made in language, with wily intelligence.”
Boston Review, on Findings

“Whether writing about darkness and light playing in the Neolithic ruins in the Orkneys, human body parts displayed in glass jars at Edinburgh’s Royal College of Surgeons, or gardens that grace that city’s rooftops, Kathleen Jamie is a clear-eyed and lyrical witness.”
Orion magazine, on Findings

“Utterly luminous.”—The Independent, on Among Muslims

“The leading Scottish poet of her generation.”—The Sunday Times (London)

Kathleen Jamie, one of the UK’s foremost poets, is the author of four books of poetry and three nonfiction titles, including Sightlines. Her many awards and honors include the 2017 Royal Geographic Society Ness Award, conferred upon Jamie “for outstanding creative writing at the confluence of travel, nature and culture”; the 2013 Costa Book Award; as well as numerous prestigious poetry awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award, Forward Poetry Prize of the Year, and Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award (twice). A professor of creative writing at the University of Stirling, she lives with her family in Fife, Scotland.