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A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

by Donald Worster

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir by Donald Worster book cover

( 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.

Inspired 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 remains unsurpassed.

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 Pacific Library.

Oxford University Press

[Back cover]

"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."
- Bill McKibben, author of The Bill McKibben Reader

"A magnificent 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, Yale University

"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."
- William 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, Sierra Club

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