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At Home in Nature: Modern Homesteading and Spiritual Practice in America First Edition Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520241428
ISBN-10: 0520241428
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This elegantly written, superior work uniquely illuminates homesteading's religious and ethical dimensions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Gould's attention to the ironies and ambivalences that abound in the practice of homesteading provides fresh and insightful perspective."—Beth Blissman, Oberlin College

"This luminously written ethnography of the worlds that homesteaders make significantly broadens our understanding of modern American religion. In richly textured descriptions of the everyday lives and work of the homesteaders with whom she lived, Gould helps us understand how the tasks of clearing land, making bread, and building a garden wall were ways of taking on the most urgent issues of meaning and ethics."—Robert A. Orsi, Harvard University

"This is a fascinating, authoritative, and accessible look at one of America's most important subcultures. If you ever get around to building that cabin in the woods, or especially if you don't, you'll want this volume on the bookshelf."—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home: A Long Walk Across America's Most Hopeful Landscape

"Rebecca Gould's compelling book on American homesteading brings the study of the religion-nature connection in the U.S. to a new place."—Catherine L. Albanese, author of Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age

"Gould provides brand new data and sheds new interpretive light on familiar figures and movements. At Home in Nature is a model of how to seamlessly blend ethnography and history."—Bron Taylor, University of Florida, editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (October 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520241428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520241428
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,308,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this very comprehensive academic treatise on the causes and history of the modern American urge to re-homestead. Through interviews with modern homesteaders (e.g., first-hand experience with the Nearings and their legacy) and explication of the ethos of John Burroughs, this book explores the fundamental desire to spiritually re-align through the practice of homesteading. Through it, I have come to understand my own desire to escape the practices and principles of modern America; my husband and I have decided to homestead and this was a good fundamental beginning that helped me explore and share my dissatisfaction with today's society. It is a very in-depth book which I enjoyed because it helped me to discover that innominate urges in myself have a common origin and societal basis, and even a name. For those of you who have an unsettled feeling of discontent with your current life and the choices available through organized religion, maybe this thought-provoking book is for you.
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Perhaps I misunderstood the teaser and other reviews for this book, or perhaps I was just really hoping it would be something it isn't, but I honestly couldn't get through this book without zoning out and falling asleep. I think the topic is very interesting, but the extraordinarily dry writing style and overly academic approach to this book left a lot to be desired for me. It read like an analytical textbook, like assigned reading in my college psychology class. I was hoping for an intelligent but casual read peppered with stories both whimsical and serious. I found it to be no such thing.

I don't want to detract from the quality of information that may be contained within this book, but curling up with it to ponder my own desire for homesteading and a spiritual connection in a warm and contemplative way just wasn't happening for me. Instead, I kept thinking, "Am I going to be tested on this?"
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First of all, how could anyone possibly write about homesteading and spirituality without mentioning the Amish or Mennonites even ONCE in the entire book? I understand, the book isn't necessarily about Christianity, but the author refers to the Christianity-influenced writings of several other homesteaders, so why not even a nod in the direction of those who were part of the spiritual "back to the land" movement before the Nearings moved the first stone on their first property?

At Home In Nature... is more academic than I thought it would be. It is written as if by a college student doing an ethnographic study for a sociology class. However, if I skip past the author's words and pay more attention to the words of the homesteaders she interviews the book suddenly becomes a very interesting read. And as I venture further into the chapters it gets to be a downright gem.

I recommend it with three stars. This comes from someone who has devoured about every book on homesteading and voluntary simplicity you can find.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The most comprehensive study to date of spirituality and the homesteading movement. Engages with American spiritual traditions like Puritanism, Transcendentalism, and countercultural back-to-the-land movements. Essential reading for anyone writing about modern homesteading!

A note on tone: This is an academic book published by a university press, so I'm not sure why other reviewers were surprised to find it "dry" compared to popular nonfiction. By academic standards, Gould's book is extremely readable and grounded by occasional personal anecdotes and observations.
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This is a wonderful book on the history and culture of homesteading in America. It's beautifully written and thoroughly and sensitively researched. It's a fascinating read for anyone interested in the social and cultural history of homesteading and various "back-to-the-land" movements.
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