Customer Reviews: A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation
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on June 6, 2005
I would give the actual ORIGINAL version of the text a 5 star rating, and indeed do so for the Oxford University Press edition. That version is slightly more expensive in Paperback, but has a better introduction and, more importantly, is actually printed as originally written by Leopold. The Ballantine version has been censored by the publisher to remove several sentences which either explcitly use the word "evolution" or which imply it.

Granted, these are only a few sentences out of the entire book. But it makes this work something other than the work which is seminal in the field of environmental philosophy and naturalism, and such censorship is intrinsically objectionable-note also that the publisher nowhere in this book tells you that such alterations have been made nor is this version described as an abridged or edited version. Further, this change makes this version unacceptable for use in teaching science courses where censorship because of ideology or market share is beyond the pale.

If you find any hint of evolution to be distracting (for one reason or another) from the fine naturalistic writing in which Leopold engages (evolution is not central to his argument or description), or are too cash-strapped to shell out an extra few bucks for the OUP edition or something at your local used book store or don't have the time to go to the library, by all means purchase this version. It is similar in most ways to Leopold's written work. But this is not to be mistaken for that work in its entirety.
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on December 21, 1999
This is a profoundly insightful and important book that ranks among the most significant American books of the Twentieth Century. It would be a mistake to describe this book as "nature writing" per se, or of that genre. It is a series of essays in wonderful prose in which nature, outdoor settings or situations provide the backdrop. But it is not written as a naturalist droning about the wonders of some aspect of nature. It is an inspired and deeply insightful description, by a man who clearly has a deep understanding of how nature works, about the ethical dimensions of our relationship with the land and our environment generally. Despite the simple elegance of the writing style, it can be seen (and I know from biographical information) the author draws from a vast experience and knowledge far outside the confines of the wildlife management, which was his professon. The ideas expressed, and the many quotable passages are a treasure trove for anyone interested in broad ideas, not to mention readers whose professions involve recreation, wildlife, natural resources management, the environment, and the teaching of these disciplines as well as ethics, philosophy, and english literature. In sum, this is a must read for virtually anyone who wishes to be familar with important American literature, as well as those with a particular interest in the environment, environmental ethics and philosophy.
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on April 21, 2012
I recently had lunch with Stan Temple, a senior fellow at the Aldo Leopold foundation. He told me that this edition is not true to original text Leopold used. Apparently the type setter or copy editor was an ardent creationist and excised all references to evolution in this edition. It seemed hard to believe to me, but I confirmed it. For example, in "Marshland Elegy" Leopold writes,

"The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men."

However in this edition, the sentence "We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution" is absent.

Aldo Leopold is one of my personal heroes and Sand County Almanac is one of the finest pieces of environmental and philosophic writing. However, I'd suggest buying a different edition.
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on November 27, 2011
The Kindle edition is missing many chapters found in the MM paperback edition (Part III, A Taste For Country is almost entirely missing, and Part IV is combined with a small portion of what part III is in this edition). Since this is a text for class, and a good read besides, I am quite disappointed. Aldo Leopold and the book itself would get a 5 star rating. This edition however, leaves much to be desired.
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VINE VOICEon July 24, 2002
The "Almanac" has been published several ways during the past fifty years, I strongly recommend the book published by Oxford University Press. It includes Thinking like a Mountain, The Land Ethic, and other important essays.
From Leopold's Sketches: "Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language."
Scientist, educator, forester, philosopher, writer -- Aldo Leopold appears to many as something of an enigma. In his earlier writings, Leopold was a very different man than we find in this volume. In Leopold's own words: "I was young then, and full or trigger-itch." This insightful classic is a gentle, scholarly, fatherly collection of essays, observations and stories. Like Thoreau's Walden, it is revered, loved and widely imitated. Leopold: "Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf. ... The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have ... rivers washing the future into the sea."
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on June 20, 2012
This book is timeless. It includes many of Aldo Leopold's writings.
Any one interested in conservation needs to read this book. He is quoted so often by people but I have never read his book. It is a good read and will stay on your reference shelf for many years to come.
This is also the version that is still sold at Aldo Leopold center located on his farm near Baraboo, Wisconsin.
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VINE VOICEon December 11, 2002
Long considered the first book on conservation, this should be read by everyone. The author's love of land, wildlife and nature are fully expressed. Those thoughts are followed by philosophizing on conservation - ethics, practice, economics, etc. Written in the nascent stages of conservation in this country, a time when it was more thought than practice, the issues still resonate today. One sees the difficulties both in expanding environmental conservation as well as the pitfalls and errors made in the area (with all good intent) since the forties when Leopald wrote.
Interestingly, especially to me as someone who hunts, much is written in the context of hunting. He also has some insightful words about why people do hunt as a connection to nature. As only a hunter can, he identifies the hunter's reverance for the land and nature.
Portions of this were assigned when I was in college. Now, 28 years later, the entirety means much more. It should be required reading for everyone, especially lovers of the outdoors.
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on July 19, 1997
There are few books on conservation, wildlife and nature that haven't been quickly obsoleted, are hoplessly trapped in period pop cultural amber, are fronts for naive political extremism or are simply irrelevant.

Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" is one of those few; composed of illuminating vignettes dealing with practical knowledge of and experience in the North American wilderness, thoughtful critiques of today's accepted notions of wildlife and land "management," and the realistic acceptance of the human role as a predator within nature's massive food chain. Leopold believed humanity's ever-increasing physical and psychological isolation from full but equal participation in all parts of the natural world's reality--its beauty and wonder as well as its cruelty and danger--has been to its severe detriment.

This trend, to him, is leading us to environmental carelessness, colossal misuse and waste of natural resources, and, worst of all, gives rise to an aberrant social ideology reveling in the fatuous cartoon fantasy of nature being a big, happy, perpetually peaceful commune if only humans weren't there. After looking at our sad record of pollution, repeated habitat destruction, poaching, overfishing and listening to the endless, arrogant prattle of government bureaucrats, pop conservationists and so-called animal rights activists, it seems Leopold is indeed a prophet for our times
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on February 9, 1999
Aldo Leopold's brief book is a lyrical and poeitic expression of the passion and reverence that the author had for the natural world. Just a piece of wasteland, an old farm, is transformed for the reader into the magic place it was to Leopold. "...I am glad that I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map." expresses Leopold's wish for the preservation of wild places of solitude where nature abounds. A Sand County Almanac has provided me with a wealth of wonderful quotes for my environment and biology classes.
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on April 8, 2002
The best recommendation I can find for this book comes from another (one star) anti-review - entitled "Nature Lovers Only":
"This book has no value to the everyday person"
The reviewer is one of those everyday persons, a person who has become utterly disconnected from the land, and the ecosystem from which she has emerged. Leopold's book is about nature as experienced by those who live in it - not by those who see it from a car, or on the Discovery Channel. If you are an every day person, living in a suburban box, enjoying nature in officially sanctioned parks (closed at 11pm of course), fogging the area with Raid so that you can eat your macaroni salad, then you will not enjoy this book.
If, like me, you are trapped in this suburban nightmare, and have this feeling that something is TERRIBLY wrong, then this book will help you to understand WHY you feel so miserable: We live on a planet, and share the planet with an enormous, pervasive ecosystem of plants and animals - kept only temporarily at bay by our sheetrock and asphalt barriers. Leopold describes this world with stunning insight derived from a near infinite patience in the observation of the natural world. He goes out on his walks and expeditions into a slightly younger America, and reports back on the world as it is - the world "out there" - in a way that few have done before or since. Read this book and step out of your "every day person" life. No walk in the woods will ever be the same again!
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