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Good Reads  Natural History  General Natural History

One Midsummer's Day Swifts and the Story of Life on Earth

Nature Writing New
By: Mark Cocker(Author)
330 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Vintage
An intimate history of life on Earth that takes a midsummer sky full of swifts as its jumping-off point.
One Midsummer's Day
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  • One Midsummer's Day ISBN: 9781529921991 Paperback Jun 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • One Midsummer's Day ISBN: 9781787332799 Hardback Jun 2023 In stock
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About this book

Swifts are among the most extraordinary of all birds. Their migrations span continents and their twelve-week stopover, when they pause to breed in European rooftops, is the very definition of summer. They may nest in our homes but much about their lives passes over our heads. No birds are more wreathed in mystery.

Captivated by swifts throughout his fifty years as a naturalist, Mark Cocker sets out to capture their essence. Over the course of one day in midsummer he devotes himself to his beloved black birds as they spiral overhead. Yet this is also a book about so much more. Swifts are a prism through which Cocker explores the profound interconnections of the whole biosphere. From the deep-sea thermal vents where life was born to the 15 million degrees at the core of our Sun, he shows that life is a singular and glorious continuum. These birds without borders are a perfect symbol to express the unity of the living planet. But they also illuminate how no creature, least of all ourselves, can be said to be alive in isolation. We are all inextricably connected.

Drawing deeply on science, history, literature and a lifetime of close observation, One Midsummer's Day is a dazzling and wide-ranging celebration of all life on Earth by one of our greatest nature writers.

Customer Reviews


Mark Cocker is an author and naturalist whose thirteen books include works of biography, history, literary criticism and memoir. His book Crow Country was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2008 and won the New Angle Prize for Literature in 2009. With the photographer David Tipling he published Birds & People in 2013, a massive survey described by the Times Literary Supplement as 'a major literary event as well as an ornithological one'. Our Place: Can We Save Britain's Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? was described by the Sunday Times as 'impassioned, expert and always beautifully written ... a sobering and magnificent work'. His most recent book, A Claxton Diary, won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2019.

Nature Writing New
By: Mark Cocker(Author)
330 pages, no illustrations
Publisher: Vintage
An intimate history of life on Earth that takes a midsummer sky full of swifts as its jumping-off point.
Media reviews

"A rich and elegant exploration that takes us to unexpected places. With the swift as our lift, we leave the garden on an extraordinary tour that takes in the moon, amongst many other wonderful destinations"
– Tristan Gooley, author of How to Read a Tree

"Lyrical and startling by turn, he reveals the extraordinary in the apparently ordinary [...] A jewel of a book"
– Caroline Lucas MP

"Mark Cocker has achieved something extraordinary. Crafted from a lifetime of watching and adoring nature, he presents to us the whole universe, reflected in the dark eye of a sleek brown bird. At once intimate and expansive, this book is a lovesong to swifts, a paean to nature and a call to protect our unique and fragile planet"
– Lee Schofield, author of Wild Fell

"If like me you love swifts, this one is for you, but its scope and appeal takes in a far wider range of summer wildlife, too"
Bird Watching, *Book of the Month*

"I loved this book. Reading it, I realised I needed this book. I felt awe, at the story Mark Cocker tells and the ambition in telling it. He pulls it off and has created a masterpiece unlike anything else – a gentle deep-time joyride, a paean to a small black bird and to all of existence. Literally wonder-full"
– Tom Mustill, author of How to Speak Whale

"Magnificent [...] One Midsummer's Day situates both swifts and humans in the universe in a way that I've not seen done for any species [...] a beautifully poised book"
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast

"A wonderful book that weaves half a century of natural history expertise around a vanishing bird. Informative, personal, universal and thrilling"
– Roger Morgan-Grenville, author of Across a Waking Land

"As thoroughly researched and elegantly written as one would expect from Mark Cocker, one of the leading nature writers of our time. More than just an account of a species of bird, remarkable though that bird is, Cocker goes much further to show how the life of swifts is deeply entangled with the entirety of life on Earth"
– Peter Reason, author of In Search of Grace

"An outright classic of his genre [...] If you thrill to the swifts' arrival (and mourn their annual too-soon departure), this book will enchant as they do [...] A nature classic for the new century"
– Jim Perrin, author of Snowdon

"A passionately written study of these mysterious "creatures of air", fascinating and constantly thought-provoking"
– Ann Wroe, author of Six Facets of Light

"One Midsummer's Day is not just a glorious celebration of swifts but of their place amid the panoply of life on Earth [...] Cocker is one of our greatest living naturalists [...] and he brings to this vast subject a scientist's rigour and a poet's expansive vision."

"A thoughtful combination of the personal and the ornithological."

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