Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams

Staff Pick

Profoundly rooted in the landscape and spiritual traditions of the American West, Terry Tempest Williams has long been one of our most passionate and eloquent advocates of the natural world. In forums ranging from children’s books and memoirs to congressional testimony and acts of civil disobedience, she’s mounted a tireless campaign to redirect our priorities from exploiting natural resources to appreciating natural beauty, urging us to understand that “the outer wilderness mirrors our inner wilderness”—if we destroy one, we destroy the other. Written since 2012, the essays of Erosion (Sarah Crichton, $27) redouble the urgency of this message, showing how much we’re losing as the Trump administration cedes public lands to oil companies and cuts the Bears Ears National Monument by 85%. As she witnesses the immense damage of these policies, Williams doesn’t despair but continues to draw strength from the land itself. While statements like “we are one with the land” and “What if the survival of the fittest is the survival of compassion?” may sound like platitudes, over and over, Williams demonstrates their substance. In one of the most moving parts of this affecting book, as Williams mourns her late brother, she takes her grief to the Utah desert that formed her, finding in its red sandstone consolation and even a measure of hope.

Erosion: Essays of Undoing By Terry Tempest Williams Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374280062
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Sarah Crichton Books - October 8th, 2019

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie

Staff Pick

Jamie is generally described as a poet and a nature writer, but these categories only begin to convey her remarkable range. The twelve keenly observed and graceful—yet tensile—essays of this collection take us around the world, from the Arctic to Scotland to China during the Tiananmen uprising, and through time from today to the Neolithic era 5,000 years ago. The collection’s two longest pieces explore archeological sites in Quinhagak, Alaska, and Westray, an island off the Scottish coast, reflecting on change and continuity in both local and global contexts. While some technical aspects of the digs are similar, more striking are the contrasts: few of the Scots would go back to the short and difficult life of those distant days, but for the Yu’pik, the excavations are vital to their daily lives, providing one of the few tangible sources for the culture the Europeans nearly destroyed. For Jamie, the sheer proximity of the past is exhilarating and sobering. It teaches her—as the Indigenous people themselves do—the importance of “noticing” her surroundings, and it sparks some of her most sensitive reflections on the meaning of our earthly existence. So add philosopher to her list of titles, and read her book—as she listened to the Yu’pik’s talk—not for the sake of “information,” though there’s plenty here on native ways, landscapes, and more, but for its ways of “coming at a subject sideways,” that is, beautifully and memorably.

Surfacing By Kathleen Jamie Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143134459
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Books - September 24th, 2019

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Staff Pick

Robert Macfarlane’s Underland (W.W. Norton, $27.95) is profound in all senses of the word. In it he explores the “deep time” of caves, glaciers, and burial chambers as well as reflecting on the meaning of our most ancient myths and primal dreams. It’s no accident that the title rhymes with Wonderland: here are wonders galore, from the magnificent geological formations of limestone and karst to the earliest human art in Lascaux and Chauvet to the myriad surprises waiting in the Paris catacombs. Here also is the wonder of Macfarlane’s prose; rhythmic, dramatic, and fluent in the rich vocabulary of geology, glaciology, and their emotional analogs, Macfarlane is spellbinding as he describes the look, feel, and sound of extreme cold; the amazing variety of blues in a Greenland glacier; and the remarkable life cycle of stone, which, seen in deep time, “folds as strata, gouts as lava, floats as plates, shifts as shingles.” But if the underland is where we store “that which we love and wish to save,” it’s also where we hope to unburden ourselves of “that which we fear.” Macfarlane found as many nightmares as wonders in his travels, and the anthrax spores released by melting permafrost and tons of radioactive nuclear waste also threaten those of us who stay safely on the surface.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey By Robert Macfarlane Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393242140
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 4th, 2019