Esther Woolfson writes about how humans live in the world with other species. From her first book, ‘Corvus—A Life With Birds’ in which she describes learning about the capabilities of other creatures from the birds and animals—rook, magpie, starling, doves, parrots and rats— with whom she and her family lived, she has developed her ideas on the connections between how we behave towards other humans and how we behave towards other species. In ‘Field Notes From a Hidden City’, she examines our attitudes towards the creatures often closest to us in cities, among them gulls, rats, slugs and snails, writing of the remarkable lives of these decried, neglected and often persecuted species. In all her work, she analyses the ways in which the language we use about other species affects our behaviour towards them and other humans.
Esther Woolfson was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University. Her critically acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies including 'New Writing Scotland' and several volumes of 'Scottish Short Stories' and have been read on Radio 4. Her short story ‘Eggshells’ won a V.S. Pritchett award in 2014.
Her book on natural history,’ Corvus—A Life With Birds’ was published by Granta in August, 2008. It was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4. Her novel Piano Angel was published by Two Ravens Press October 2008.
Esther took part in an Artists' Residency at Aberdeen University's Centre for Environmental Sustainability. She gave a paper on the relationship between the arts and science, in which she examined the breaking-down of the traditional separation between the disciplines. She was Writer in Residence at Kielder as part of the Hexham Book Festival in 2012. '
Field Notes From a Hidden City', published in 2014, Esther wrote about the relationship between the urban and the 'wild', between the people who live in cities and the most common species who share our living space, touching on themes of biology, climate change, phenology and the ethics of human-animal relations. The book was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.
In her new book, published in 2020, ‘Between Light and Storm—How We Live With Other Species’, she traces the historic religious and philosophical origins of our attitudes towards animals, birds and insects and examines their influence on every area of human life from art to hunting, from animal experimentation and industrial slaughter to the effects of tradition on our treatment of animals. She asks questions about love and cruelty, and about where the lines that separate species may lie.