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The Quiet World: Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960 Hardcover – January 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When legendary naturalist John Muir began exploring Glacier Bay in 1879, he was unprepared for �the sheer poetic depth of the Alaskan wilderness.� Twenty years later, Muir joined the Harriman Expedition, which found Alaska to be �a unique, untrammeled, sui generis wilderness in need of preservation.� Indeed, as soon as the U.S. acquired this magnificent and bountiful land, the war began between those who would recklessly exploit Alaska�s natural wealth for profit and those who believed that this was a sacred place to be cherished and protected. Brinkley�s scrupulous, dramatic chronicle of the complex struggle to protect Alaska�s glorious wilderness and wildlife in the years before it became a state is the second book in what he describes as his lifework, a multivolume history of conservation in America that began with his unique portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Warrior (2009). Here Roosevelt is one of many colorful visionaries Brinkley vividly portrays, from explorers and scientists (Charles Sheldon, William T. Hornaday) to artists and writers (Rockwell Kent, Walt Disney, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder) to heroes Olaus and Mardy Murie, who campaigned tirelessly for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Essential to understanding today�s environmental challenges, Brinkley�s Alaskan history and pantheon of valiant conservationists is boldly original, enlightening, enthralling, and profoundly moving. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Brinkley is an award-winning, highly visible (frequent TV appearances) public historian, and a robust, multifront publicity campaign is planned for this major work. --Donna Seaman


"In Brinkley's hands, the still-raging battle to save Alaska's wild character is riveting."
--The Christian Science Monitor

Forceful storytelling...engrossing...The Quiet World brims over with information and insight, passion, and insistence...In fact, it's a bit like Alaska itself: large, formidable, raw, and ultimately unforgettable. --Washington Post

“A poignant cautionary tale for policymakers considering quick get-rich fixes to long-term problems with ecological implications. . . . In Brinkley’s hands, the still-raging battle to save Alaska’s wild character is riveting.” (The Christian Science Monitor)

“Engrossing. . . . The Quiet World brims over with information and insight, passion and insistence. . . . A bit like Alaska itself: large, formidable, raw and ultimately unforgettable.” (The Washington Post)

“Brinkley carves well-known figures with the tools of a skilled biographer. . . . This volume is required reading for anyone even mildly interested in the antecedents to U.S. environmental policy in the 21st century.” (The Los Angeles Times)

“An important book.” (The Houston Chronicle)

“A richly detailed, passionate and partisan account. . . . In lush prose, [Brinkley] captures Alaska’s pristine beauty.” (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“A very readable history of the preservationist movement across the nation.” (The Seattle Times)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062005960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062005960
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Douglas Brinkley is currently a Professor of History at Rice University and a Fellow at the James Baker III Institute of Public Policy. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ohio State University and received his doctorate in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University in 1989. He then spent a year at the U.S. Naval Academy and Princeton University teaching history. While a professor at Hofstra University, Dr. Brinkley spearheaded the American Odyssey course, in which he took students on numerous cross-country treks where they visited historic sites and met seminal figures in politics and literature. Dr. Brinkley's 1994 book, The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey chronicled his first experience teaching this innovative on-the-road class which became the progenitor to C-SPAN's Yellow School Bus.

Five of Dr. Brinkley's books have been selected as New York Times "Notable Books of the Year": Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years(1992), Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal, with Townsend Hoopes (1992), The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House (1998), Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress (2003), and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006).

Five of his most recent publications have become New York Times best-sellers: The Reagan Diaries, (2007), The Great Deluge (2006), The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion (2005), Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (2004) and Voices of Valor: D-Day: June 6, 1944 with Ronald J. Drez (2004). The Great Deluge (2006), was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book award.

Before coming to Rice, Dr. Brinkley served as Professor of History and Director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. From 1994 until 2005 he was Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. During his tenure there he wrote two books with the late Professor Ambrose: Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (1997) and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today (2002). On the literary front, Dr. Brinkley has edited Jack Kerouac's diaries, Hunter S. Thompson's letters and Theodore Dreiser's travelogue. His work on civil rights includes Rosa Parks (2000) and the forthcoming Portable Civil Rights Reader.

He won the Benjamin Franklin Award for The American Heritage History of the United States (1998) and the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize for Driven Patriot (1993). He was awarded the Business Week Book of the Year Award for Wheels for the World and was also named 2004 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Dr. Brinkley is contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Book Review and American Heritage. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is also a member of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Club. In a recent profile, the Chicago Tribune deemed him "America's new past master."

Forthcoming publications include The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America and a biography of Walter Cronkite.

He lives in Austin and Houston, Texas with his wife and three children.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Dustin Reidy on January 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Brinkley's 'The Quiet World' is a surprisingly appropriate choice following 'Wilderness Warrior.' Again Brinkley sheds enormous light on American environmental history. While I knew quite a bit about T.R and welcomed 'Wilderness Warrior,' I did not know the depths of T.R.'s thinking on the environment and how that shaped his policies before Brinkley's endeavor. Knowing little about Alaskan history, this book on the other hand took me into an unknown world.

I had no idea the environmental struggles, along with Alaska's natural resources and treasures, that are in tension now were in tension so long ago and seemingly always in tension. The same persons who want to drill in ANWAR now mirror many of the same minded persons who wanted Alaska for materials and nothing else back then, just as much as there persons now and in the past who would preserve Alaska for its natural beauty and would never think to extract anything that might harm that.

Especially in an age where Alaska's most famous spokesperson doesn't actually hunt or hike save reality show opportunities- Brinkley does a great job brining all of us up to speed on how Alaska's past has shaped its present.

This book is essential reading to anyone who wants to understand how Alaska came to be and how environmental concerns have always existed in America and how the tensions of nature v. extracting nature for resources shape our present history.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. C Sheehy on February 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have to say that I wanted to like this book. I liked Douglas Brinkley's earlier books tremendously and I think he wrote the definitive history of Hurricane Katrina. But I found this book very weak in a number of respects. The characters seemed to be wooden and lack any real depth or dimension. He also left out the impacts of the native inhabitants completely out of it. Third, he stops in 1960 for some reason? We all know that Alaska became a state but Brinkley ignores the fights over the pipeline, the development of Prudoe Bay and the ongoing fight to save native species.

I think this book could have been much stronger if it chose to tell the entire history of Alaska's fight to balance it's need to use its natural resources with it's desire to protect them. This book just doesn't do a great job of making an argument for their usage and how Alaska has used all of them, especially oil, to help the state grow for more than a century. I have to say I was disappointed by this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marc Korman on July 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Quiet World is Brinkley's second entry in his conservation history. The first was Wilderness Warrior about Theodore Roosevelt, a long and ambitious exploration of Teddy Roosevelt and his conservationist passion. Wilderness Warrior was a better book than The Quiet World because it had the thread of Roosevelt's life to hold it together. The Quiet World tries to use Alaska for the same purpose, but really it is a series of biographies and nuggets about many people involved in conservation largely throughout the 20th Century including Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, Charles Sheldon, Ansel Adams, Jack Kerouac and even Walt Disney. For most of those included their work went far beyond Alaska and Brinkley covers a lot of that work. Alaska is just a convenient organizing principle, but it is really not the main thrust of the book. Do not expect a thorough history of Alaska or even Alaskan conservation. For example, the book rarely dives into the view on conservation policy from Alaska itself, though on a few issues it discusses the editorial views of a few Alaskan newspapers.

Also, keep a map close by because the one included in the book is pretty hard to read. That is one of several editorial shortcomings. If you are wondering how Brinkley could come out with such a thick volume so shortly after his last book, the answer is a lack of editing leading to some repetitiveness within the book, such as an explanatory sentence that is virtually repeated a paragraph later.

Another figure included in the book is Justice William Douglas. I mention this because in all my reading, this is the most laudatory treatment of Justice Douglas I have ever seen. It really describes his brilliance, energy, and interest in conservation.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eric Hobart VINE VOICE on March 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've previously read works by Brinkley, and I must say that I admire the man's ability as a historian and an author. This work, however, is (in his own words), the second volume of a trilogy of environmental history, which started with his biography on Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately, I feel that this book was more of an homage to TR - at least for the first portion of the book - than a work on Alaska.

Theodore Roosevelt is the primary character at the outset of the book, despite the fact that he never once traveled to Alaska and was a conservationist for other parts of the nation, and his efforts were also applied to Alaska, though Brinkley does not convincingly show that TR set out to protect Alaska. On the other hand, Brinkley does devote a lot of attention to John Muir, who certainly was one of the earliest conservationists to focus on the region.

As other reviewers have noted, this book is heavy on the "white" history of Alaska, and does not delve into efforts by native Alaskans to protect their land - instead, Brinkley tends to focus on their opposition to preservation as they tout the economic benefits to be gained by drilling & mining in the wilderness areas.

The other big concern I had with this book was the introduction of characters that seemed totally out of place - Alan Ginsburg, the poet, seems an unlikely candidate for a conservationist, yet he makes more than a token appearance, and Brinkley does not really help the reader to understand why Brinkley plays such a large role except that his poetry was well liked and he was fond of natural Alaska.

Overall, it is a book worth reading - but be cautious when reading it; the story revolves around only a handful of major participants, and, for some of them, inclusion in the book introduces a big question about why they are present when we could focus on others that made the Alaskan wilderness the pristine environment that it is today.
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