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on September 11, 2012
Yes, William Souder has written a comprehensive biography of Rachel Carson, but more importantly this book describes her lasting environmental influence through her ability as a writer to explain difficult scientific concepts to a mass audience with a literary style nearly poetic. She was rewarded by the fact that her books achieved best seller status and she personally won prestigious awards from scientific and environmental groups. Her first three books made the deep mysteries of the ocean she loved accessible and intriguing to readers who explored its shores.

But her most important "legacy" is undoubtedly the government response and eventual regulations her book "The Silent Spring" caused. Demand from a public alarmed by her warnings about the indiscriminate use of pesticides and their potential harm to humans overcame lax research and protocols for use both by chemical manufacturers and government agencies. Souder has been true to his subject with his exhaustive research into her relationships with family, friends, scientific colleagues, and publishers. At times readers will be tested to be as patient with his detailed descriptions as her publisher was when she missed manuscript deadlines. There is a great deal of detail to absorb and understand. One of the author's most fascinating chapters is the epilogue in which he allows himself to speculate how Carson would be responding today to challenges such as climate change.

Although there is no evidence that it was in any way related to the pesticides she researched, the irony of her own death from cancer in her fifties, shortly after the publication of her most famous book, is not lost upon the reader.
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on October 4, 2012
On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Souder is a biography of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson. On a Farther Shore is being published on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring. It seems to me that everyone should know who Rachel Carson is and what Silent Spring was about, but, much to my surprise, that is not the case. With its publication in 1962 Silent Spring exposed the dangers of DDT to the general public and really set into motion the beginning of the modern environmental movement. At the time DDT was the miracle pesticide and it was going to eradicate many of the pests that plague human populations.

Souder's thorough biography portrays Carson as an unassuming, likeable woman with great underlying strength. While she was trained as a biologist at a time when a woman in the sciences was uncommon, she also had always enjoyed writing. Carson found a way to combine her two interests. She worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a writer but also wrote articles in her free time. Carson never married and supported her family all her life.

Souder also covers many of the writers who influenced Carson (Richard Jeffries, Henry Williamson, and Aldo Leopold) and plenty of information about the times in which she lived (nuclear testing, cold war tensions) as well as the emerging discovery that pesticides perhaps were not the answer. Half the book covers the writing of Silent Spring and the repercussions that followed. Carson, exhausted from her battle with cancer and under enormous stress, died shortly after the publication of Silent Spring in 1962.

In On a Farther Shore, Souder, an esteemed environmental writer, has given us a very well written, well rounded, well researched tribute to Rachel Carson. The biography includes Notes, a Bibliography, and an Index (which makes me say, "Yes!")

Very Highly Recommended

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Crown Publishing for review purposes.
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on November 26, 2012
If you grew up in the middle decades of the 20th Century (or your parents did ... or your grandparents did), "On a Farther Shore" will teach you a great deal about the United States of America as it was, before Rachel Carson and her fellow environmental stewards shook us awake to the idea that human beings are capable of poisoning not just ourselves and the other animals around us, but the planet itself.

Pay no attention to those who bemoan the side-trips Mr. Souder takes as he places Miss Carson in the context of her times. That is what all great biographers do! And this, make no mistake, is a great biography, which -- like Rachel Carson's work -- will stand the test of time.
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on September 22, 2012
This is a splendid book. VERY engaging; it is hard to put down once picked up. For me, it is so interesting tolearn about this incredible woman who has contributed so much to understanding and protecting our environment.
It is so well written - a pleasure to read.
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on December 3, 2012
Ask someone who Rachel Carson was, and if they know anything about her, they will probably know that she was the author of Silent Spring, and little else. On a Farther Shore, goes much deeper. Having read this book from cover to cover, I now know for the first time, who Rachel Carson was as a person. Her dedication and commitment to sound science is truly inspiring. Imagine being a woman in the 1950's battling cancer and at the same time dealing with an avalanche of critics from pro-industry people while still seeing through a book that would become a huge best seller selling hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies! I don't know anyone with this kind of courage, conviction and commitment.

The author of this book, William Souder, goes beyond describing the books that Rachel Carson Wrote. He describes also her personal struggles, her one friend Dorothy who spiritually sustained her, and her love of the sea.

Let us not forget that it is largely because of Rachel Carson that environmental movement arose in the 1960's and 1970's resulting eventually in the creation of the US EPA and new laws like the clean water act and clean air act.

Sadly, even today there are some people who can't see any of the amazing good that Carson has done (witness the one star review.. so biased it deserves to be ignored). Many people seem to forget that Rachel Carson did not advocate for the complete abolition of pesticides but for the more reasonable use of them. Read the book... it's in there in detail.

50 years past the publication date of Carson's seminal book Silent Spring, William Souder has done those of us who care about our nation's environment a tremendous service by keeping the memory of Rachel Carson alive, and perhaps introducing our youth for the first time to one of America's greatest environmental heroes and advocates.
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on October 17, 2012
Since Rachel Carson ranks in the top five of my all time most admired people, I was hesitant to read another biography but I was not disappointed. The author did his research well and treated both her public and private life with sensitivity.I am now re-reading her earlier books because of this book.
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on November 19, 2012
This is a great book for those interested in the environmental movement and/or great and influential women in contemporary American history. It is billed as a biography of Rachel Carson, but it also turns out to be a comprehensive history of the American environmental movement with various tangents that take off on side issues. So it is not just a biography of Rachel Carson, but it does contain interesting documentation of inter-related other scientific developments. For the scientifically minded, the side-trips are worthwhile. For those who want only a biography of Rachel Carson, they may find it somewhat distracting.
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on November 26, 2012
Mr. Souder's book is a tremendous tribute to an iconic figure of environmental consciousness. He tells Rachel Carson's story in mesmerizing and anecdotal fashion; and, importantly, refocuses attention on her warnings of immense dangers of chemical contamination of our earth. The passages that refer to the awesome beauty and imperiled resources of our natural world are haunting and memorable.
[...]
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on October 2, 2012
When I first started this book, which I got as a Goodreads giveaway, I was a little unsure as to whether I would enjoy it. Although I enjoy spending time outside, I have never really been a nature girl---I have always preferred a day in the city to a day in the country. However, as I followed the story of Rachel Carson's immersion in the ocean world that fascinated her, I became more open to learning how this author changed the course of natural history.
After writing two very popular books about ocean life, Carson then took on the task of writing about the nuclear and pesticide pollution which was running rampant in the 1950s. Carson's break through thesis was that the reason these things we are putting into the environment are important is because the natural world is all connected, the bugs, to the birds, to the plants, to mammals and to us. I learned that Carson was not a crusader, but merely someone who felt deeply connected to the natural world and was worried that it was being destroyed.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in nature or environmental issues. I also think it is of interest because Carson was a woman who was writing on a topic that was not largely thought to be a woman's realm. The book reveals that the press of the time often referred to her as a "spinster". She did not have the husband and children that were expected of a woman at the time and instead chose to devote her energy to her passions. I think that is an important lesson for women today.
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VINE VOICEon June 22, 2014
If I had to choose between this book, On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, and Linda Lear's Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, I would choose Lear's book hands down. Lear goes into great detail (some might say too much detail) regarding Caron's education, work and family life, relationships, and even her wardrobe, in addition to the development of her thoughts and passions regarding the ocean and the environment.

So why bother with this book from William Sounder? Lear's biography focused, appropriately, on the life and times of Rachel Carson. Souder's book reiterates many of the same developmental milestones for Carson, but Souder's book also goes into greater detail regarding the people and events influential to Rachel Carson. In other words, if you want to understand Rachel Carson, how she went from a girl growing up in a land-locked state to become the greatest ocean enthusiast of her day, and then, at great personal cost, the symbol of environmental activism that spawned the Environmental Protection Agency, the first Earth Day, and a generation of other environmental activists, then you need to go deep into Carson's psyche. That includes reading both Lear's and Souder's books, Carson's books, and a book that is on my reading list, Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964 - The Story of a Remarkable Friendship (Concord Library).

Rachel Carson was a complicated person, but she was also a talented writer and a knowledgable biologist. And her interests were broader than you might imagine, with articles on climate change, the critical influence of the ocean on the quality of our lives, and wildlife conservation.
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