129 of 130 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 1999
In a world brimming with wonderful volumes of the work of John Muir, here is the one edition in which you may find virtually everything you seek. To find it in such a handsome, handy, easy to negotiate book makes this a must for all lovers of Muir's writing. Eight inches tall by six wide and two inches thick, it is a durable and willing partner for excursions through the wilderness. Created for long life among library shelves and scholarly studies, this sleek little friend stows away quite comfortably in backpack or oversized coat pocket. Those who don't know Mr. Muir will meet the great lover of wildness (and perhaps history's most influential advocate of preservation) presented in a lovingly researched volume which includes informative notes on the evolution of Muir's field journal entries into published pieces, a chronology of his life and literary career, and all of the major writings for which he is known. A generous selection of his published essays and magazine articles reveal many previously unsuspected jewels of poetic prose. As a lifetime devotee of the works of Shakespeare, the Bible, and the immortal Scottish bard Robert Burns, Muir could recite extensive passages from all. Likewise, his writing breezes through the imagery and lessons drawn from these potent sources. Coffee table books brimming with Ansel Adams photography, biographies of Muir, and collections of his correspondence are all aspects of any comprehensive Muir collection. The words themselves, however, simple and elegantly bound, are where the journey might well begin.
75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
"American forests! the glory of the world!"
- John Muir, 1901
Of all the extraordinary men and women that have made our nation great, one stands above all others for his dedication to preserving its unequaled natural beauty: John Muir. Founder of The Sierra Club, this lover of the western forests' legacy to our generation is the National Park system, through which millions of acres of unique ecosystems have been set aside for everyone's enjoyment.
"Muir: Nature Writings" is a collection of the writings of this Scottish expatriate who first stepped foot in America in 1849 as an eleven year old brawler and budding naturalist. Blessed with a childhood mastery of Latin and Greek as well as a discerning and disciplined eye, the learned boy possessed a poet's heart, a scientist's mind, and a theologian's soul. A genius, who as a teen whittled precision wooden scientific instruments, Muir used his diverse skills to vividly portray nature's life and death struggles on his family's Wisconsin farm in "My Boyhood & Youth." Here we find Muir learning to swim by observing frogs or recollecting the mindless slaughter of the Earth's most numerous bird, the now-extinct passenger pigeon, a forlorn tale that foreshadows the conservationist he was to become.
While in college polishing his mechanical skills, Muir was detoured into studying botany. Dropping out to make powered tools for factories, an accident left him rethinking that detour; he forsook the factory and walked across America. His journey led him to the Sierra Mountains, chronicled in "My First Summer in the Sierra." Now working as a shepherd, Muir drove his flock through Yosemite while making detailed nature studies. Marveling at the natural beauty of the land he would eventually champion as one of the first National Parks, Muir wrote: "We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun, - a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal."
Muir's writings here run the gamut from analytical to thrilling. In "Stickeen", the author and a canine companion cheat death while stranded mid-storm between crevasses of an Alaskan glacier. (A self-taught authority on glaciers, Muir would eventually have one in Alaska bear his name.) "The Mountains of California" is an in-depth look at the geologic formations, plants, and animals of the region. In this piece, he tells of being stuck on the side of volcanic Mt. Shasta, staying warm in the bitter cold by nestling up to steam vents. Muir also laments the loss of the vast meadows of the San Joaquin Valley as he discusses how to make a living post-Gold Rush by raising bees for honey.
What makes Muir so unique when compared with today's environmentalists is this belief that we can live in harmony with Creation if we take simple steps to prevent despoiling it. In "The American Forests" he wrote: "No place is too good for good men, and there is still room.... Every place is made better by them. Let them be as free to pick gold and gems from the hills, to cut and hew, dig and plant, for homes and bread...." Muir's balanced view of Man's place in the wilderness overwhelmingly reflects his Christian faith, for he never fails to stand in awe of each living thing God has made. That our government leaders were so swayed by Muir's writing attests to the power of his "holy" persuasion. All of us are indebted to John Muir's single-minded devotion to America's wilderness.
("Muir: Nature Writings" is part of the Library of America series. This diverse collection of the writings of great Americans ranges from sermons of early American preachers to analysis of the Vietnam War. The works of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, Flannery O'Connor, and James Thurber are but a few that comprise the series. An invaluable lookingglass into the heart and soul of our nation, this collection is essential reading for anyone who longs to know what makes America unique.)
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2007
John Muir was one of the founders of the early 20th century conservation movement and godfather to today's environmentalism. This collection of three books and shorter works demonstrates the reason. Muir's description of the natural world is at times scientific, at others spiritual. Here nature is not some remote thing but the living manifestation of God's love. This is not a religious book as such and yet he finds that all parts of the natural creation from rocks and mountains to trees and animals have inherent within them a life force which makes them precious. Humans are neither removed from nor a "higher" part of nature. Muir shows that we are part of this larger whole - a radical concept when he proposed it and radical still. Muir set the standard in calling for preservation of the natural world. He was a genius as an inventor and scientist and, in addition, is one of our finest writers ever. These collected Nature Writings are simply beautiful and wonderfully presented in this Library of America edition.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I've only read "My First Summer in the Sierra," and attest to Muir's enchanting style and lucidity. He writes as an enthusiast, but gives his stories a plain-spoken clarity that can be enjoyed by all.
Muir must have been quite an individual - after working as a shepherd for a few months, he talks of getting time off from his employer, "tying some bread to his belt, and walking to Mammoth" from the Merced area of the western foothills of the Sierras. Yep, a nice casual stroll. Or climbing and looking down into the ice cone on Yosemite Falls. Why not? It's there every winter...
I hope Library of America will put out another volume so they can make "The Yosemite" available to all. In it, Muir describes the three native Californian "Yosemite" (Tuolumne, Sequoia, and Kings) almost as a tour guide. This book is a glaring omission from the LoA volume, and gives great insight into the mind of the premier conservationist of the early 1900s.
As always, LoA delivers a quality volume at a good price.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
John Muir is one of my favorite authors and favorite people. I have read most if not all of his published writings. Everything he wrote is available free on line and in many individual volumes, compilations, and anthologies. Before going into details, I will give you my punchline: If I could only keep one Muir book in my library, this Library of America volume would be it. That is why I am posting my Muir review here.
For someone new to Muir it is hard to know where to start, but the good news is that you can't go wrong - it is all good! For newcomers it is useful to distinguish between books that Muir wrote by his own hand, books under his name that were prepared and published posthumously by others from his journals, and biographies written by others.
In the first category are:
"The Mountains of California" (1894)
"Our National Parks" (1901)
"My First Summer in the Sierra" (1911)
"The Yosemite" (1912)
"The Story of My Boyhood and Youth" (1913)
"Travels in Alaska" (Muir died before this manuscript was completed. It was finished by an assistant and published in 1915, one year after his death.)
In the second category are three books prepared for publication by Muir's friend William Frederic Bade:
"A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf" (1916)
"The Cruise of the Corwin" (1917)
"Steep Trails" (1918)
Of the many biographies, here are three that I have read:
"Son of the Wilderness," by Linnie Marsh Wolfe (1930)
(See also "John of the Mountains - The Unpublished Journals of John Muir," by same author)
"The Life and Letters of John Muir," by William Frederic Bade (1924)
"A Passion for Nature - The Life of John Muir," by Donald Worster (2008)
All of these biographies are good, and contain samples of Muir's writings, but I much prefer Muir's own books.
Of the many collections and anthologies I mention three that I own:
"The Wilderness World of John Muir," Edwin Way Teale (1954) This contains no complete works but is a nice anthology. If I remember correctly, this was my first taste of Muir's writings.
"John Muir - Nature Writings," The Library of America, selections and notes by William Cronon (1997) This contains complete text of "Story of My Boyhood and Youth," "My First Summer in the Sierra," "The Mountains of California," "Stickeen," plus a nice assortment of essays. Like all Library of America volumes, this one is lovingly prepared and of high production quality. If I could only keep one Muir book in my library, this would be it.
Finally, there is a massive 2-volume Omnibus containing virtually everything that Muir wrote and more, but it appears to be Out of Print:
I. "John Muir - The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books" (ca. 1000 pages)
II. "John Muir - His Life and Letters and Other Writings" (ca. 900 pages)
If you want the whole shebang, get used copies of these two volumes. The production quality is not nearly as good as the Library of America volume. I found many typos and even entire pages that are out of sequence. But everything is here.
A nice bonus is that II includes not only Bade's biography ("Life and Letters"), but also "Alaska Days with John Muir" by Samuel Hall Young who was Muir's companion on some of his Alaska adventures. Young is also a gifted writer. If you like Muir, you will definitely enjoy "Alaska days."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2010
I hesitated buying this complete works book by Muir as I wondered if it would be more than I wanted. Did I really care about his youth or was I just looking for some of his more famous writings? To my delight, I have enjoyed this book from the start. I found his essays about his childhood in Scotland and about his family's move to America to be a nice foundation for understanding how he became the man he was and the impact he had on nature writing and on conservation. I came to live in the Maine woods not because of the job opportunities (ha) or for the Starbucks on the corner (not) but to be in a quiet place surrounded by streams, woods, mountains, lakes and all of the recreational and contemplative opportunities these afford us. I am no stranger to nature writing, but honestly, I came to John Muir a bit late. In a way, I am glad as I think his words have spoken to me now in a way that I can really appreciate. I recommend this body of essays to anyone who lives in nature or doesn't but wish they did. His writing provides a nice escape.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
This Autobiography of John Muir was a look at the life of an amazing man. He was the type of writer that could take you to the place where he was living and make you feel like you were right there with him. His childhood experiences in Scotland and the farm life of Wisconsin formed the basis for how he viewed and related to the rest of his life and those around him. He was a world traveler who looked through the eyes of creation to observe ecology and invention. As a world traveler I also observe through the eyes of creation and as a native Californian I have had extensive experience hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada's. John Muir's writing style took me back to the places I have loved and remembered.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2010
I bought a couple of these books to share with friends I backpack in the Sierras with. This is an excellent collection of the writings of John Muir. If you price the individual pieces, you will see the value of this one volume. If you are a hiker or a naturalist of any degree, you will have an appreciation for the experience of John Muir in his wanderings through unspoiled territory. This book does not come in a dust jacket as one of the images shows, but it does come with a sturdy binding that could stand up to a day in the hills or at the shore spent in thoughtful reading.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2010
With the recent focus on our national parks, it seemed valuable to revisit Muir's own writings. His enthusiasm for even the smallest encounters with the natural world remind us that we need not explore to conquer or as an "extreme sport", but are better served to allow the experiences to unfold.
His is a keen, yet quiet, approach to true adventure in living in our world and on our planet.
No need to feel obligated to read his writings as one might a novel. It is equally satisfying to take sips and enjoy the moments.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2007
This is essential reading for anyone interested in preservation and those who simply love nature writing. I read this book before reading "The Wild Muir". In comparison, this one is obviously a more thorough overview of Muir's life. Reading this book first makes "Wild Muir" more enjoyable....kinda like reading a novel before watching a movie based on it.