H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
A spare and slashing accounting of the writer’s grief over the death of her father, H is for Hawk is the unlikely story of her coming to grips with the ineffability of life and death via her training of a goshawk to do the thing they do best: Hunt and kill. If it sounds suspiciously like the kind of therapy nonfiction we’ve seen too much of—here’s a simple story about how busy-busy me traveled to Borneo / volunteered with Habitat for Humanity / learned origami and what it taught me about my heart—MacDonald’s bleached-bone prose and unsentimental introspection stands in a class by itself. The merging of her bleak and grieving viewpoint with the hawk’s predatory fixations is seamless, as is her weaving together of a naturalist’s background on the goshawk itself with a sympathetic biographical essay thread on T.H. White’s doomed attempt to reconnect with life by doing the same as her. Uncompromising and beautifully styled, this is the year’s most unlikely masterpiece of a memoir.