Synopses & Reviews
Never has there been a president less content to sit still behind a desk than Theodore Roosevelt. When we picture him, heand#39;s on horseback or standing at a cliffandrsquo;s edge or dressed for safari. And Roosevelt was more than just an adventurerandmdash;he was also a naturalist and campaigner for conservation. His love of the outdoor world began at an early age and was driven by a need not to simply observe nature but to be actively involved in the outdoorsandmdash;to be in the field
. As Michael R. Canfield reveals in Theodore Roosevelt in the Field
, throughout his life Roosevelt consistently took to the field as a naturalist, hunter, writer, soldier, and conservationist, and it is in the field where his passion for science and nature, his belief in the manly, andldquo;strenuous life,andrdquo; and his drive for empire all came together.
Drawing extensively on Rooseveltandrsquo;s field notebooks, diaries, and letters, Canfield takes readers into the field on adventures alongside him. and#160;From Rooseveltandrsquo;s early childhood observations of ants to his notes on ornithology as a teenager, Canfield shows how Rooseveltandrsquo;s quest for knowledge coincided with his interest in the outdoors. We later travel to the Badlands, after the deaths of Rooseveltandrsquo;s wife and mother, to understand his embrace of the rugged freedom of the ranch lifestyle and the Western wilderness. Finally, Canfield takes us to Africa and South America as we consider Rooseveltandrsquo;s travels and writings after his presidency. Throughout, we see how the seemingly contradictory aspects of Rooseveltandrsquo;s biography as a hunter and a naturalist are actually complementary traits of a man eager to directly understand and experience the environment around him.and#160; and#160;
As our connection to the natural world seems to be more tenuous, Theodore Roosevelt in the Field offers the chance to reinvigorate our enjoyment of nature alongside one of historyandrsquo;s most bold and restlessly curious figures.
"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
"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
Given John Muir's status as the iconic representative of the preservationist wing of the modern environmental movement not to mention his influential work as a writer, amateur scientist and founder of the Sierra Club it is remarkable that a comprehensive account of his life has been so long in coming. But Muir's life story is complex, and an accurate telling of it has required nearly a century of the kind of scholarly sifting and sorting that Donald Worster does so expertly in A Passion for Nature. Michael P. Branch, American Scientist
(read the entire American Scientist review
"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 America's first great environmentalist, and the enormous influence he still exerts today, Donald Worster's biography offers a wealth of insight into the passionate nature of a man whose passion for nature remains unsurpassed.
Theodore Roosevelt first set foot into the field as a very young man, started a natural history museum at 8 years old, and reveled in expeditions in the field throughout his life. His adventures defined him--his policies and his personaand#151;and are wonderfully chronicled in his journals and notebooks. TRand#8217;s constant quest and passion for the outdoors influenced his experiences from the Spanish American War, to negotiations with Cuba, to hikes through Yellowstone with John Muir.and#160;
Michael Canfield uses the notebooks to illuminate the force of nature in TRand#8217;s life.and#160; He isolates the elements that drove Roosevelt-- his love of science and nature, his need to express manliness, his drive for empireand#151;all of which share a common thru line, that of a propelling wish to act these out in the field.and#160; The outdoors to Roosevelt was like a perfect field jacket, which had a specific purpose, and yet which he donned for many pursuitsand#151;hunting, fishing, hiking, natural history study.and#160; This work invites readers to join TR on his adventures, with Canfield as a guide, and in the pages of his writings unearth a better understanding of what drove one of historyand#8217;s most remarkable characters.
About the Author
David Worster is Hall Distinguished Professor of American History, University of Kansas and the author of many books, including A River Running West; The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination; and Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West.