From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. How to define an arroyo, badlands, eddy, a muskeg? What is a desire path, a kiss tank, a nubble? These words, many forgotten today, refer to various aspects of a landscape to which many of us have lost our connection. Drawing on the polyglot richness of American English, National Book Award–winning author Lopez (Arctic Dreams) assembles 45 writers, known for their intimate connection to particular places, to collectively create a unique American dictionary. Barbara Kingsolver, William Kittredge, Arturo Longoria, Jon Krakauer, Bill McKibben, Antonya Nelson, Luis Alberto Urrea and Joy Williams, among others, vividly describe land and water forms. What is a cofferdam? "Imagine a decorative wishing well, then imagine that well writ large," notes Antonya Nelson. And Patricia Hampl tells us that the Dutch word vly (marshy headwaters of a stream) "may have occasioned the name of New York's rowdy Fly Market" in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Many entries quote American explorers and writers such as Herman Melville, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, as they uncover layers of etymology and American regional difference. Line drawings enhance geographic understanding; marginal quotations further evoke period and place. This marvelous book enlivens readers to the rich diversity of Americans' complex relationship to the land. (Oct. 4)
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Edited by National Book Award winner Lopez and Gwartney and offering contributions by 45 writers, this unique addition to the literature of ecology and the environment presents a series of definitions, arranged alphabetically, of "landscape terms and terms for the forms that water takes." These definitions average a dozen lines apiece, with some entries longer and others shorter. But every definition is at once comprehensive and to the point. To learn what a graded shoreline is and how creek is actually defined and to never have to guess again the meaning of revetment are the distinct pleasures afforded by this large-format but comfortable-to-handle book. It can be used for reference, but its practicality and applicability extend much further. Anyone with an interest in nature, even on a casual basis (one doesn't have to go camping and hiking every weekend to qualify as "interested"), will experience many edifying hours opening a page here or a page there and slowly appreciating the expertise expressed and the knowledge offered. Brad Hooper
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