A Passion for Nature

A Passion for Nature

The Life of John Muir

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"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.
Publisher: Oxford ;, New York :, Oxford University Press,, 2008.
ISBN: 9780195166828
Branch Call Number: 333.72092 M9532W
Characteristics: 535 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
ChristchurchLib Jun 18, 2013

"Born in 1838 in Scotland, raised in Wisconsin, and educated at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, naturalist and pacifist John Muir became synonymous with the appreciation of nature and the modern environmentalist movement. In this detailed examination of Muir's life, biographer Donald Worster reveals the contrast between Muir's love of the outdoors and his father's strict Scottish Calvinism as he explores Muir's intellectual development. A Passion for Nature traces Muir's walk through the south-eastern U.S., his exploration of the Sierras, Alaska, and other parts of the world, and his determined advocacy for the preservation of wild spaces." June 2013 Biography and Memoir newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=645920

Mar 28, 2013

Some books’ ideas stream through your soul like a mighty wind. The unseen power of the wind has inspired many poets and romantics, and John Muir was both. In 1874 during a wind storm in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, he climbed to the top of a 100 foot tree and rode its wild swings for hours, drinking in the sounds, sights, and fragrance of the wind tossed pine forest beneath him. John Muir, the granddaddy of all of today’s tree huggers, should be much better known in Canada. And interestingly enough, he liked Canada and lived here for several years, one of the earliest American draft dodgers.
As an occasional hiker in the Sierras I know the force of Muir’s poetic rhetoric; today his beautiful words adorn many an historic marker or interpretive sign at its trailheads. But I wanted to find out more about who this man was, where he came from, and what else he did. I couldn’t have had a better guide to this exploration than Donald Worster, Professor of American History at the University of Kansas and one of the founders of the new field of environmental history. His biography of Muir is based on the highest scholarly standards and leads us through Muir’s voluminous private correspondence and journals in magisterial fashion. But this isn’t a dull book: at every step it reflects his subject’s passion for nature. Muir was not only a mountain man, writer, and conservationist; he was also a talented scientist with very little formal education, a world traveller, a rebellious son, and an effective (if often reluctant) political activist.
There isn’t space here to dwell on the many and fascinating narratives that made up Muir’s life, or the marvellous subtlety with which his biographer teases out all the interwoven and sometimes contradictory strands in his life and thinking. But I’ll just mention one that particularly resonated for me. Out of the ashes of Muir’s loss of faith in his father’s Scottish Calvinism, he forged his own personal philosophy (religion?) based on a deep optimism about nature’s ultimate benevolence, which nurtured him for the rest of his life. Each of us needs to hold on to that optimistic spirit as we respond to the titanic environmental challenges of the twenty-first century.

Feb 22, 2009

A wonderful portrait of Muir's life and times. For those already familiar with Muir's passion for nature, this book's value is in explaining the many complex influences that shaped the naturalist's world. The most surprising revelation - that he never set out to do what he accomplished. Like a good trail through nature, his life led Muir to a world of unexpected adventure and discovery.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top