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American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau (Library of America) Hardcover – April 17, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America (Book 182)
  • Hardcover: 900 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (April 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his introduction to this superb anthology, McKibben (The End of Nature) proposes that "environmental writing is America's most distinctive contribution to the world's literature." The collected pieces amply prove the point. Arranged chronologically, McKibben's selection of more than 100 writers includes some of the great early conservationists, such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and John Burroughs, and many other eloquent nature writers, including Donald Cultross Peattie, Edwin Way Teale and Henry Beston. The early exponents of national parks and wilderness areas have their say, as do writers who have borne witness to environmental degradation-John Steinbeck and Caroline Henderson on the dust bowl, for example, and Berton Roueché and others who have reported on the effects of toxic pollution. Visionaries like Buckminster Fuller and Amory Lovins are represented, as are a wealth of contemporary activist/writers, among them Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan, Paul Hawken, and Calvin deWitt, cofounder of the Evangelical Environmental Network. McKibben's trenchant introductions to the pieces sum up each writer's thoughts and form a running commentary on the progress of the conservation movement. The book, being published on Earth Day, can be read as a survey of the literature of American environmentalism, but above all, it should be enjoyed for the sheer beauty of the writing. 80-page color illus, not seen by PW. (Apr. 22 [Earth Day])
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—There have been some excellent collections of nature writing published in recent years (The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing is one fine example), but not until now has there been a definitive anthology of American environmental writing. In this superbly edited volume, McKibben draws a clear distinction between the two. The best of the latter often celebrates nature, but also asks searching questions about the impact of human life on the planet. After a poignant foreword by Al Gore, as well as his own illuminating introduction, McKibben begins with the work of a writer, thinker, and activist ahead of his time, Henry David Thoreau, and ends the volume with Rebecca Solnit's essay, "The Thoreau Problem." She notes that many people think of Thoreau only as a man alone observing nature, but the author of "Civil Disobedience," before enjoying his day of huckleberry picking, spent a night in jail rather than pay taxes to a government guilty of ignoring the higher laws of nature. This vast and varied collection, arranged chronologically, includes many seminal names, such as John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Wendell Berry, and some that are less well known or unexpected, like Benton MacKaye, Caroline Henderson, P. T. Barnum, and Philip K. Dick. Most of the selections derive from longer prose works, but there is also a smattering of poems, song lyrics, and cartoons. Although the heft of the volume might scare away some teens, others may realize that they could easily read bits and pieces, and that they would benefit greatly by any amount of time spent in these pages. Numerous photographs, many in full color, are included.—Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

This is a great compilation of environmental writing.
Brittney
I recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in the environment, who doesn't mind putting a book down for a day or two to digest big thoughts.
Alexander P. Ives
I received this book very shortly after I had ordered it.
Christine Germaine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"In wildness is the preservation of the world," wrote Henry David Thoreau in his groundbreaking book, Walden. With Thoreau as a starting point, Bill McKibben has assembled the finest, most comprehensive anthology of American environmental writing one could hope to find. The combined work of 101 authors, running almost 1,000 pages, American Earth chronicles the changing landscape of environmentalism from Thoreau to Teddy Roosevelt to Al Gore, with 98 more thrown in for good measure.

This one volume provides a rich orientation to the world of environmental writing which McKibben contends is "America's single most distinctive contribution to the world's literature." If Walden is the book everyone claims to revere but few have actually read, American Earth offers an accessible door into not only Walden, but 100 more works of significance in the annals of environmentalism. McKibben, himself the groundbreaking author of The End of Nature, the first account of global warming's consequences, selects each author with the care of a conductor assembling a fine orchestra. Some voices speak of spiritual bonds connecting humankind and nature, others tell true stories of real ecological tragedies, and some are historical markers along the environmental movement's journey from the fringes into mainstream America.

McKibben calls upon Thoreau to set the stage for this anthology -- "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived." He continues with the likes of Walt Whitman, P. T. Barnum (raging against billboards), and features the classic writing of John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Taylor on June 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With over a hundred authors contributing and Al Gore's blessing, you cannot ask for a better collection of writings from some of the best minds around. After you get a taste, it will inspire you to seek out the full editions of the books. The Library of America series has always selected top notch authors and works; they also print the books on wonderful paper with sturdy bindings. The editor- Bill McKibben was able to give a brief summary of the authors works and life that contributed, which helps put the works into perspective.
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Format: Hardcover
Environmental concerns are not a strictly recent development - it has been heavily discussed ever since the writings of Henry David Thoreau. "American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau" is a complete and comprehensive collection of writing covering scholarly essays and writings throughout history addressing the concerns of America, and how America should manage its relationship with the planet it sits on. Enhanced with a foreword from former Vice President and avid Environmentalist Al Gore, "American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau" is highly recommended to environmental studies collections focusing on college level discussion.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on October 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This very unique book offers 1000 pages of environmental thought and wisdom from dozens of important writers. Through a unique and masterful editing process, Bill McKibben has arranged the selections not just chronologically but also in order of influence. The end result is a rewarding illustration of the history of American environmental thought, as Thoreau's wisdom on the sanctity of wilderness has slowly converged with matters of social justice and the analysis of power, as evidenced here by lesser-known modern writers whose works will surely become classics in the near future. McKibben has also included writers from a wide variety of backgrounds, with fairly typical outdoor essayists and community organizers sharing space with everyone from physicists to economists to politicians, not to mention some surprises like interested cartoonist R. Crumb and sympathetic songwriters Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye. Some of the selections may raise questions from the concerned reader, such as the crass boosterism of P.T. Barnum; and sometimes McKibben had trouble distilling a writer's voluminous offerings into useful introductory excerpts, like in the 26 repetitive pages from William Cronon. But the book also benefits immeasurably from a robust collection of illustrations and a masterful chronology of developments in environmental history and literary works about it.

This massive tome offers a lifetime of inspiring thoughts and pointed observations for everyone from the most ardent activist to the leisurely outdoor lover, and the book will find a premier spot on your bookshelf for years to come. [~doomsdayer520~]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Justina of the Wild on February 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
...to enjoy nature and fine nature writing. This book proves that. I really enjoyed the foreward by Al Gore, and even though I had previously read most of the essays in this book (they are excerpts of famous authors taken from their own books), I found the compilation of them all in one source to be very convenient for taking camping - even though it is a huge book. But the title is deceptive. There are several contemporary authors that deserve to be represented here: Jim Harrison, Daniel J. Rice (just take any chapter from his book THIS SIDE OF A WILDERNESS), and Rick Bass. I gave it four stars because every essay is good, but they are also all by the cliché authors we've all heard of and read - if they create a new edition I think new authors should be present...
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