A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
by Donald Worster
from the book's dust jacket
A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by Donald Worster (2008); 536
pages; Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgments, Index; hardbound with dust jacket.
"I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer," John Muir wrote. "Civilization
and fever and all the morbidness that has been hooted at me has not dimmed
my glacial eye, and I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature's
loveliness. My own special self is nothing."
In Donald Worster's
magisterial biography, John Muir's "special self" is fully
explored as is his extraordinary ability, then and now, to get others to see
the sacred beauty of the natural world.
A Passion for Nature is
the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra
Club ever written. It is the first to be based on Muir's full private
correspondence and to meet modern scholarly standards. Yet it is also full
of rich detail and personal anecdote, uncovering the complex inner life behind
the legend of the solitary mountain man. It traces Muir from his boyhood in
Scotland and frontier Wisconsin to his adult life in California right after
the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores his marriage
and family life, his relationship with his abusive father, his many friendships
with the humble and famous (including Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson),
and his role in founding the modern American conservation movement.
by Muir's passion for the wilderness, Americans created a long and stunning
list of national parks and wilderness areas, Yosemite most prominent among
them. Yet the book also describes a Muir who was a successful fruit-grower,
a talented scientist and world-traveler, a doting father and husband, a self-made
man of wealth and political influence. A man for whom mountaineering was "a
pathway to revelation and worship."
For anyone wishing to more fully
understand Americaís first great environmentalist, and the enormous
influence he still exerts today, Donald Worsterís biography offers a
wealth of insight into the passionate nature of a man whose passion for nature
Donald Worster is Hall Distinguished
Professor of American History at the University of Kansas and the author of
many books, including A River Running West (OUP), <I>The
Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination (OUP),
and Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (OUP), winner
of the Bancroft Prize.
Jacket design: Amy Trombat
Jacket art: John Muir at Merced River
with Royal Arches and Washington Column in background, Yosemite National Park,
California. © 1909. Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the
Oxford University Press
"A towering biography of a towering
figure! John Muir is one of those very few Americans who reshaped the way we
saw the world. This volume, from one of our most eminent historians, makes
clear both the sources and the meaning of Muir's great and wild epiphany."
McKibben, author of The Bill McKibben Reader
account of one of the principal leaders of the environmental movement in America.
This is an engaging and beautifully written story that illumines the broader
sources and challenges of Muir's passion for nature."
Mary Evelyn Tucker,
"As far as the American environment is concerned, few
figures have wielded more influence than John Muir. How appropriate,
then, that one of Americaís most noted environmental historians, Donald
Worster, should now present John Muir in all his complexity and achievement
in this authoritative and lively biography."
Kevin Starr, University
of Southern California
"America has had no more passionate defender
of wild nature than John Muir, and there is no more passionate chronicler of
the nationís environmental past than Donald Worster. We are
lucky that so insightful and eloquent a scholar has now produced a biography
of Muir that will surely be regarded as a benchmark for many years to come."
Cronon, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"John Muir's battles
to preserve the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite Park, his founding of the Sierra
Club, his final, bitter, unsuccessful effort to save Hetch Hetchy Valley, his
pioneering insights into the geology of the glacial age, and his late Victorian
combination of religion and pantheism have been extensively chronicled. What
is unique about A Passion for Nature is the skill with which
Worster places Muir in a political context. Worster helps us understand
how the love of nature is related to other social movements for equality, that
human indifference to the natural world is morally an example of the oppressive
hierarchies that mar our history."
- Carl Pope, Executive Director,
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