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The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 12, 2015
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“Captivating... A book about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that's increasingly about mobility and self-invention. Hugely compelling” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“It's bloody marvelous.” ―Helen Macdonald, New York Times bestselling author of H IS FOR HAWK
““Rebanks’s family has farmed sheep in the hills of the lake District, in northwestern England, for some six centuries. The work, detailed lovingly in this memoir, has changed little… Rebanks is concerned with the survival of the landscape, of the life that it has fostered, and of its inhabitants’ view of the world.”” ―The New Yorker
“James Rebanks's unsentimental, sharply detailed memoir about his life as a shepherd in England's Lake District gripped me from the first page.” ―The Wall Street Journal
"James Rebanks’s “The Shepherd’s Life” stands in blissful earthbound contrast. Farming the high fells of the Lake District, the first son of a shepherd, who was himself the first son of a shepherd, Mr. Rebanks writes with loving eloquence about a kind of deep-rooted life that is all but lost in the developed world. Herdwick sheep, the local breed, are set free to graze on unfenced commons and could head off to Scotland were they not “hefted”―tied to their home range by invisible bonds of instinct and inheritance. Mr. Rebanks is himself hefted to his land and deftly conveys the worth and beauty of such a connection." - Geraldine Brooks
“A gorgeous book, unsentimental but exultant, vivid and profound, and a fierce defense of small-scale farming against the twin threats of agribusiness and tourism.” ―National Geographic
“A powerful - and quietly electrifying - meditation on the gruelling truth of rural life... Rebanks' prose is beautifully sure-footed.” ―The Sunday Times (UK)
“Rebanks' enthusiasm and talent for poetic writing is infectious... [His] words create not only a gorgeous landscape painting of the Lake District and its inhabitants, human, animal, bird and fish, but also a useful social document... What is most striking about this book is its authenticity; this is the real thing.” ―The Times (UK)
“Beautifully written” ―Alan Cumming, New York Times Bestselling author of NOT MY FATHER'S SON
“May well do for sheep what Helen Macdonald did for hawks.” ―The Guardian (UK)
“Superstar Shepherd.” ―The Daily Mail (UK)
“Affectionate, evocative, illuminating. A story of survival - of a flock, a landscape and a disappearing way of life. I love this book” ―Nigel Slater, author of the internationally bestselling Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger and Tender
“Rebanks writes about his native Lake District with a loving eye for its past and present, its working denizens--humans, dogs, sheep--who continue to shape our picture of what Pastoralism is.” ―Brad Kessler, author of Goat Song
“The Shepherd's Life weaves together the human history of the farmers with factual history of the farms, the spiritual pull of the land with the physical demands it makes, the cruelty and beauty, optimism and pragmatism of the most beautiful corner of the world. A vivid, honest, unforgettably written account not just of one shepherd's year, but of an ancient way of life.” ―Lucy Dillon, author of LOST DOGS and LONELY HEARTS
“THE SHEPHERD'S LIFE is a reader's delight. Rebanks lives, breathes, and works his landscape - which gives him an inside edge as sharp as shears over most of the flock of current countryside writers. He has written a marvelous autobiography - of himself, his family, and the hills themselves.” ―John Lewis-Stempel, author of MEADOWLAND and YOUNG JAMES HERRIOT: THE MAKING OF THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS VET
About the Author
James Rebanks runs a family-owned farm in the Lake District in northern England. A graduate of Oxford University, James works as an expert advisor to UNESCO on sustainable tourism. He uses his popular Twitter feed - @herdyshepherd1 - to share updates on the shepherding year. The Shepherd's Life is his first book.
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Top Customer Reviews
While reading, I kept pausing and thinking of all the James Herriot books I read and reread years ago. The tone and style and passion of the writing is similar - the love and respect of the land, the landscape itself, the enthusiasm and joy for daily farming and shepherding tasks - these thoughts leap out of the pages at you, embrace you and don’t let you go.
Several of my students and co-workers (I, too, needed a money-paying job) used to ask me: Why did I have sheep and chickens and a big garden? Why did I have muddy shoes sometimes at school? How come pieces of hay dropped out of my hair sometimes? Why learn to spin and weave wool? Don’t I know about Wal-Mart? Isn’t that where food comes from?
I tried to explain that the animals, the plants, and the work kept me grounded and in touch with the earth, the seasons, life itself. But this thought process and lifestyle is hard to explain and justify to most people - children or adults.
That is why I am so pleased to have discovered this book. It will always be on my shelf and referred to often. Some of my favorite passages revolve around the attempt to justify a choice of lifestyle and profession and the attempts to resolve living and working in a revered landscape.
The words that come to mind when thinking about this book are - passion (#1), love of animals, love and respect of the land, tradition, history, connectivity to surroundings, a sense of community, cooperation and compromise, reflections, mind-numbing work.
I do like the short chapters and blog-style writing.
I do enjoy Mr. Rebanks’ Twitter account. @herdyshepherd1
He is a great photographer.
I do enjoy the reflections and musings of Mr. Rebanks about land use, landscapes, love of tradition, love of family and love of sheep and farming.
I do highly recommend this book.
The book is the story of his life's journey to show that shepherding demanded high order emotional, physical and intellectual effort, while coming to realize that books, too, could impart knowledge and maybe wisdom. Remember, shepherding is a pre-industrial occupation; The idea that anything that requires hard, physical labor is somehow unworthy, and maybe demeaning, isn't an idea that would have found much traction before the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Mr. Rebanks' road eventually leads him to studies at Oxford. It isn't clear from the book that his professors ever understood why his road took him back to the Lake District of England and the work of shepherding. But, it did. In following his journey, I found myself enriched to see values that I don't generally find in the world of higher education with which my work brings me into contact.
I thought back to the mid-1980s when I represented an agricultural lender and I was meeting with their board of directors. They were in overalls and I was in a suit. But, as I listened to them they spoke of buying expensive farm equipment the way I would speak of buying a pair of shoes and they paid close attention to the Chicago Board of Trade for the prices of farm commodities. The guy at the end of the table was in his early 40s and, as I thought about it, I realized he controlled at least $6M in assets, had a college degree and engaged in breeding dairy cattle scientifically. I realized that, despite how they were dressed and how I was dressed, I needed to give these people some respect. James Rebanks' book brought this thought.
Mr. Rebanks' book challenged how I think about the value of a father, work, learning and a sense of place. I recommend it highly.