My House of Sky: the Life of J.A. Baker By Hetty Saunders

‘My House of Sky’ is the first biography of the acclaimed and enigmatic naturalist, J.A. Baker, author of ‘The Peregrine’. and ‘The Hill of Summer’. ‘My House of Sky’ has a foreword by Robert Macfarlane and an afterword by John Fanshawe. Complete with many photographs from the new J A Baker archive of Baker himself, his notebooks, journals and annotated maps, this new book also has a photo essay of Baker’s favourite landscapes by Christoper Matthews, and original artwork by the stone carver Jo Sweeting.

“Hetty Saunders has risen splendidly to the challenge of J A Baker.” Clive Aslet, Country Life

“This beauty of a book” Nature (Books and Arts)

“I’ve been engrossed by My House of Sky: the life and work of J. A. Baker by Hetty Saunders. This definitive biography of the author of The Peregrine, Baker’s lyrical account of his 10-year struggle to see the world through the eyes of the falcon, is a pioneering study of a solitary British visionary who recorded his attempt to break open the doors of perception in prose of astonishing power and originality.” John Gray, Guardian Books of the Year

“The Peregrine and The Hill Of Summer are his memorial. My House Of Sky is his memorial: the third and unquestionably the most beautiful. The more I look, the more there is to see. The silky texture of the paper which has a faint lustre along the outer edge; the black and white photographs enhanced by shadow; the astonishing colour photos which leap out from the page. Reaching the last photo is to step into the Inner Sanctum. Nine grey boxes on a trolley in a perfect alcove of ancient leather-bound library books. The J.A. Baker Archive. The light seems to glow from within. The loving care which has been poured into My House Of Sky is palpable.” Sue Brooks, Caught by the River (Book of the Month, November 2017)

Author: Hetty Saunders

Foreword: Robert Macfarlane, afterword: John Fanshawe

Photography: Christopher Matthews, artwork: Jo Sweeting

Hardback, £20

Published November 2017, out now


In stock

Since rising to fame in 1967, when his work The Peregrine was awarded the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, J. A. Baker has captured popular imagination with his vivid depictions of British landscapes and native wildlife. Compelling, strange, and at times both startlingly funny and cruel, Baker’s prose is at one with his image as a writer, which has, since the publication of his first work, been characterised as an obsessive recluse.

Next to nothing was known about Baker, who died in 1987, until an archive of his materials and those related to him was brought together and given to the University of Essex in 2013. Now it has been possible to piece together an accurate view of the life and unpublished work of the man whose writing has become ‘the gold standard for all nature writing’ (Mark Cocker), and whose work has influenced naturalists including Richard Mabey and Simon King, and screenwriters David Cobham and Werner Herzog.

This new book showcases some of the most compelling parts of the Baker Archive, containing previously unknown details of Baker’s life as well as previously unpublished poems. Little Toller has commissioned photography of the J.A. Baker archive, with key items appearing in the book. It provides an invaluable new insight into both the sensitive, passionate character of J. A. Baker and the state of late twentieth-century Britain, a country experiencing the throes of agricultural and environmental change.

Hetty Saunders was first introduced to J. A. Baker and the Baker Archive as a literature postgraduate at the University of Cambridge. She was instantly captivated by the astounding prose of Baker’s first book, The Peregrine, and the mysterious life of its author. Hetty has been working as an independent researcher and archivist in the Baker Archive since October 2015; she has written a descriptive bibliographic catalogue of the Archive, available soon from the website of the Albert Sloman Library Special Collections at the University of Essex.

Robert Macfarlane is a prolific author whose bestselling books about the British landscape and beyond include The Old Ways, Landmarks, Holloway, Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Available September 2017

ISBN: 978-1-908213-49-5



Additional information

Weight600 g
Dimensions150 x 22 x 210 mm


  1. Graham Shackleton

    Such stories of literary recuperation are common. But there is something distinctive in the relation between text and author that has both shaped and sustained the ongoing Baker revival. In addition to the dearth of biographical information available when the book was bought back into print, much of The Peregrine’s intrigue stems from the startling presence of its narrator’s singular voice and the simultaneous absence of any concrete persona to identify it with. This uncanny centre is regularly cited as the book’s distinguishing feature, a mystery intensified by the rapt style that set The Peregrine apart from the forthright and fact-oriented world of naturalist non-fiction. If its “indefinable essence”, like that of Baker’s wilderness, exists in the space between watcher, raptor, and landscape, its emotional core is firmly rooted in the watcher’s camp: below the ever more vividly and violently imagined atrocities in the air is a sub-plot of the watcher’s own, unfulfilled longing “to be part of the outward life”, a desire to coincide with the anonymous, animal existence that resides “out there, on the edge of things”.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…