here's a list i compiled of some works one might consider "classics" of nature writing - i'll be adding this to the community info. i'm sure there are many more works i'm missing; please feel free to pipe up with your favorites. :)
Walden - Henry David Thoreau Silent Spring; The Sea Around Us; The Edge of the Sea - Rachel Carson My First Summer in the Sierra - John Muir The Everglades: River of Grass - Marjory Stone Douglas Desert Solitaire - Edward Abbey The Outermost House - Henry Beston A Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard Arctic Dreams - Barry Lopez Ecology of a Cracker Childhood - Janisse Ray The Snow Leopard - Peter Matthiessen Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place - Terry Tempest Williams A Country Year - Sue Hubbell
Hi all, I'm an ES major, finishing my second year at UNE in Maine. I am taking a course called Contemporary Nature Writing that I'm really enjoying. Our reading list (thus far):
- Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire) -- I fell in love with this as soon as I read it. - Gary Synder (Turtle Island) - Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek) - Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams) - The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
We have a few other really good ones -- I'll update later; I'm actually on my way out to a pot-luck. Thrilled to see this community. Ciao folks.
Kind of crap reviews, but I enjoyed all these books, even if I fail to write clearly about them, and I'd recommend them, though The Flight of the Iguana and Desert Solitaire appealed to me more than Ship Fever.
The Flight of the Iguana, David Quammen
In a series of essays originally published in magazines, Quammen explores the oddities of natural history and human behavior in humorous and often profound ways. I didn’t like his essay on dogs, but I most certainly did enjoy everything else. Most of what he wrote made me laugh and wonder. A few of the essays, specifically the ones he wrote about refugees from El Salvador trying to get into the U.S., and in desperate need of political asylum that we wouldn’t grant upset me and made me wish I knew what I could do to make the world better.
Ship Fever, Andrea Barrett
Another interesting choice, given the subject of my English class. Ship Fever is a series of short stories centering around science, especially natural history. A couple of stories center around colonialism, with European explores going to exotic locations to collect specimens. But she also writes about immigrants in the U.S., and my favorite story in the collection, “Ship Fever” talks about the mass starvation and immigration of the Irish to Canada, once again detailing oppression and other nasties, and what people might try to do to fight against them, and what they risk in doing so.
Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey (reread)
I first read this book when I was volunteering as a wilderness ranger, which was certainly one of the best ways to be introduced to Edward Abbey’s own story as a park ranger, and it remains one of my favorite books. Northern Idaho is quite different from the Utah canyon lands (landscape-wise, not so much politically), but the experience of solitude and conversations with odd strangers were fairly similar. The thing I like about Abbey is his iconoclast tendencies, not even his beloved desert is sacred. His sense of humor also greatly appeals. He can write about his experiences without descending into maudlin and irritating sentimentality, which is something I’ve yet to learn to avoid in my own writing. Abbey’s monkey wrenching sensibility comes through in several places in this book, an aspect of his environmentalism I’ve never found particularly helpful (The Monkey Wrench Gang read like frustrated fantasy to me) but he also has interesting insights and ideas on what our problem (as a culture is) and how we might solve it, and some amazing description of adventures in the southwestern desert.
Oh yes I am sitting on a fallen white pine on a windy late summer day, which I estimate to have been seventy feet tall. Covered in moss and fallen needles it makes a good seat. The sun being let in from the opening in the canopy created by the demise of this white pine offers a greener spot than the rest of the preserve. Bracken fern, golden rod, wild sarsaparilla, grasses, sedges, white pine and fur seedlings scatter the forest floor reflecting green light upon my face. This spot reminds me that the forest is a living breathing organism capable of self-regeneration. With the fall of one tree, the passing of the old guard, the forest is young again in this spot surrounded by the wisdom of the ages. Like the white pine that I sit and write on I too shall fall to the passing of too much time. In my grave I will be surrounded by the next generation. The white pine in it’s passing will bequeath the raw materials for others to grow, space for animals to live and play, water to be released to sustain life in times of drought and a seat for someone to sit on. If only I can be as useful as a fallen white pine in my passing.
Lantern Books is proud to announce our first annual essay contest. The aim of our essay competition is to allow new thinking to emerge on the key subjects of Lantern's publishing program and to encourage new voices to step forward to shape the debate of the future. Please read the rules and guidelines below. ( Read more...Collapse )
anyone have a favorite reading/ discussion on the idea of landscape? (versus a specific discussion of particular landscape, such as Janisse Ray's work). I was looking for more of an overview about the concept of landscape - the complicated mix of cultural and ecological layers.
although when I asked another friend into nature writing and landscape - she said that she didn't think nature writing did really take on landscape in such a conscious way - more that it was a backdrop for people watching animals and such.
I thought, holy cow! but it was a provocative thought. Probably why I didn't like it.
Hello! I love good nature writing, and was glad to find this group. Berry is a favorite of mine, although not just for nature writing. My own work has been published in South Carolina Wildlife Magazine and Smoky Mountain Living.
Those of you who write, what are you working on right now? I have no nature writing in progress, although there is one stalled essay about tomatoes that I need to get back to . . .
"The decaying stump is now a witness stand, where I pass judgment on myself. I hold few convictions so deeply as my belief that a profound transgression was committed here, by devastating an entire forest rather than taking from it selectively and in moderation. Yet whatever judments I might make against those who cut it down I must also make against myself. I belong to the same nation, speak the same language, vote in the same elections, share many of the same values, avail myself of the same technology, and owe much of my existence to the same vast system of global exchange. There is no refuge in blaming only the loggers or their industry or the government that consigned this forest to them. The entire society--one in which I take active membership--holds responsibility for laying this valley bare."
--Richard Nelson, The Island Within
I've just started reading this book for my Visions of Environment class, and the above quote really struck me. It's so easy to sit in class, taking my notes down with pen and paper and feeling smug and outraged at what we do to the world. But I use resources too, and since I'm writing here, I definitely benefit from the technology my society makes readily available to me. It provided a good "pause and think" moment.
I'm only three chapters in to The Island Within but I'm already enjoying it deeply. The author is (or was) and anthropologist who studied with several groups of Alaskan natives. He speaks frequently and specifically of the Koyukon people, and the book is fascinating for providing a glimpse into their worldview as well as amazing descriptions of coastal Alaska. (He's purposely vague on where in coastal Alaska his island is.)
I'd definitely recommend this book, if you haven't read it already, and if any of you have, I'd be really interested to here what you thought.