Old Maps


Reading List:

Sierra Magazine

Best Nature & Environmental Books












Best Book Lists


















Favorite Books:
Among Sierra Magazine Readers


Sierra Magazine in their November/December, 2001 issue ran a story about the the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment's (ASLE) "Top Twelve Environmental Books" (See: List)  After the article appeared, many Sierra readers wrote in taking issue with the ASLE list, pointing out omissions and suggesting alternatives.  Based on this input, Sierra editors put together "new and improved list of nature's finest." 


Here's the Sierra list:


A Sand Country Almanac by Aldo Leopold (1949)


What can be said of Sand County Almanac?  It is simply one of the great works of nature literature and from it has sprung the environmental movement.  It was over 50 years ago that the book was first published, but his words and insights are as fresh as ever.  Another Review


Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir (1869)


John Muir (1838-1914) is considered America’s most eloquent spokesman for wilderness. He is often included among the list of great nature writers (such as W. H. Auden, Gilbert White and Henry David Thoreau), but of all nature writers, he was the wildest.  Muir physically immersed himself in great unspoiled outdoors and was ever on the move, exploring the hidden away treasures of the wild countryside.  He hiked literally thousands of miles and climbed dozen of summits. My First Summer in the Sierra is Muir's magnificent view of this great range of mountains, before the advent of grazing, and while it is still in its pristine state.  


Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



Walden  by Henry David Thoreau (1862)


In 1845, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist and transcendentalist, gave Henry David Thoreau the use of a piece of property that he owned along Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts.  On the Emerson property, Thoreau built a small cabin, planning to use it as a quiet place to finish work on a book that he was writing about a boat trip he and his brother had taken on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.  But he had something else in mind, an experiment of sorts.  Having lived with Emerson, and thoroughly steeped in transcendentalism, he wanted to see if he could apply transcendental principles to his life along the pond, working one day and spending the remaining six other days reading, contemplating and developing his consciousness.  His expeniences gradually evolved into his most famous work Walden.  More complete review.  


Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



Silent Spring  by Rachel Carson (1962)


Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is clearly one of the most important environmental books ever published.  Using scientific research and persuasive logic, Carson warned of the consequences of careless use of pesticides. 


Amazon.com: More Information



The Singing Wilderness  by Sigurd Olson (1956)


Sigurd Olson wrote about the north country: that maze of lakes, marshes and rivers which makes up the Canadian and American canoe country.  Of the writers of the north country, Sigurd Olson stands out. He was a natural science professor at a junior college in the small, northern Minnesota town of Ely, often referred to as the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  In Singing Wilderness, as in his other works, Olson combine his understanding of wilderness travel with his knowledge of ecology and the natural environment.  More Extensive Review


Amazon.com: More Information.    



Desert Solitaire  by Edward Abbey (1968)


Edward Abbey is the undisputed the voice of the remote canyonland country of southern Utah and Northern Arizona.  No book describes this harsh landscape better and with more hard-nose poignancy than Desert Solitare.  


Amazon.com: More Information



The Unsettling of America  by Wendell Berry(1977)


Unsettling is a Sierra Club Book and that might have helped tip the scale in favor of its inclusion on the list.  That aside, it can certainly stand on its own.  In this important and eloquently written book, Berry argues that environmental degradation is rooted in the cultural and value changes which have accompanied the loss of family farms to large-scale corporate agribusiness. 


Amazon.com: More Information.



Encounters With the Archdruid  by John McPhee (1971)


John McPhee is a master at painting true-life portraits.  His formula is simple enough: put people in interesting situations and then sit back and watch what happens.  In Encounters, the central figure, the archdruid, is David Brower, a giant in the environmental movement.  The climax of the book is when McPhee gets Brower together with Flyod Dominy, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  The Bureau of Reclamation is the federal agency responsible for building dams.  Brower has spent most of his life fighting dams.  Amazingly McPhee manages to get the two

together on a river trip down the Colorado River. 


Amazon.com: More Information



Of Wolves and Men  by Barry Lopez (1986)


The title says it well:  the natural history of wolves and their ecological importance--and the human history of the uneasy relationship beween wolves and men. 


Amazon.com: More Information



Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  by Annie Dillard (1978) 


Annie Dillard's 20th century version of Walden: meditative, insightful, and edgy.


Amazon.com: More Information



The Song of the Dodo   by David Quammen (1997)


Quammen, who for many years wrote the "Natural Acts" column for Outside Magazine, writes about evolution, biodiversity, and extinction, distilling years of travel and observation into a coherent and beautifully written book.     


Amazon.com: More Information 



Refuge  by Terry Tempest Williams (1994)


Refuge is a very different kind of nature writing.  Williams visits to Utah's Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge are counterpoised against a far more personal theme: the slow death of her mother from cancer. 


Amazon.com:  More Information



End of Listing







Top of Page