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John Muir: Nature Writings

The Library of America


( From the book's dust jacket. )

John Muir: Nature Writing
Four original books and 18 essays by John Muir, selected by William Cronon
1997
The Library of America, New York


"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."

In a lifetime of exploration, writing, and passionate political activism, John Muir made himself America's most eloquent spokesman for the mystery and majesty of the wilderness. A crucial figure in the creation of our national parks system and a visionary prophet of environmental awareness, he was also a master of natural description who evoked with unique power and intimacy the untrammeled landscapes of the American West. Nature Writings collects his most significant and best-loved works in a single volume.

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913) is Muir's account of growing up by the sea in Scotland, of coming to America with his family at age eleven, and of his early fascination with the natural world.

My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) is his famous account of the spiritual awakening he experienced when, in 1869, he first encountered the mountains and valleys of central California, of which he wrote: "Bathed in such beauty, watching the expressions ever varying on the faces of the mountains, watching the stars, which here have a glory that the lowlander never dreams of, watching the circling seasons, listening to the songs of the waters and winds and birds, would be endless pleasure... No other place has ever so overwhelmingly attracted me as this hospitable, Godful wilderness."

The Mountains of California (1894) draws on half a lifetime of exploration of the high Sierra country to celebrate and evoke the region's lakes, forests, flowers, and animals in a masterpiece of observation and poetic description: "After ten years spent in the heart of it... it still seems to me above all others the Range of Light, the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain-chains I have ever seen."

Also included are the widely popular Stickeen (1909), Muir's affectionate story of an adventure with a dog in Alaska, and a rich selection of essays - including "Yosemite Glaciers," "God's First Temples," "Snow-Storm on Mount Shasta," "The American Forests," and the late appeal "Save the Redwoods" - highlighting various aspects of his career: his exploration of what became Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks and the Grand Canyon, his successful crusades to preserve the wilderness, his early walking tour to Florida, and the Alaska journey of 1879.


WILLIAM CRONON, editor, is Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is the author of Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England and Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West and the editor of Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature.

The Library of America editions will last for generations and withstand the wear of frequent use. They are printed on lightweight, acid-free paper that will not turn yellow or brittle with age. Sewn bindings allow the books to open easily and lie flat. Flexible yet strong binding boards are covered with a closely woven rayon cloth. The page layout has been designed for readability as well as elegance.


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