inspiration, Reading, Reviews

Book Review: A Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac is a beautiful series of essays about the beauty and bounty and joy to be found in the natural world. Anyone who considers themself an environmentalist or naturalist or outdoorsman should read this book.

The deer and coons had opened the frozen fruits, exposing the seeds. Doves and quail fluttered over this banquet like fruit-flies over a ripe banana. We could not, or at least did not, eat what the quail and deer did, but we shared their evident delight in this milk-and-honey wilderness. Their festival mood became our mood; we all reveled in a common abundance and in each other’s well-being. I cannot recall feeling, in settled country, a like sensitivity to the mood of the land.

– A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

This is a beautifully written book that is essentially a lovely, but ultimately tragic love letter to nature and wilderness and the outdoors. It’s non-fiction. It’s a series of essays, each with its own theme. There are lovely hand-drawn pictures by the author throughout. It’s this very meditative wonderful book.

The mountains in summer had as many moods as there were days… On a fair morning the mountain invited you to get down and roll in its new grass and flowers (your less inhibited horse did just this if you failed to keep a tight rein). Every living thing sang, chirped, and burgeoned. Massive pines and firs, storm-tossed these many months, soaked up the sun in towering dignity. Tassel-eared squirrels, poker-faced but exuding emotion with voice and tail, told you insistently what you already knew full well: that never had there been so rare a day, or so rich a solitude to spend it in.

– A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

On the one hand the reader gets to ride piggyback on the author’s perspective and we get to see through his eyes as this person who has this profound and deep appreciation of the natural world. And the reader gets to be imbued and filled up with the same profound love and joy for nature, but on the other hand, the possibility of human harmony with the natural world is sometimes undermined. The book talks about how much has already been destroyed, how much wilderness has already been lost, and it gets to you. It is enough to darken the most open heart, and that was very difficult to read.

Solitude, the one natural resource still undowered of alphabets, is so far recognized as valuable only by ornithologists and cranes… The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and cranes are wildness incarnate. But all conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.

– A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

This is a book to read in anticipation of a camping trip, a hike, a fishing trip. This is something that will appeal to any sort of outdoorsman, whether naturalist, or hunter, conservationist, or environmentalists. This is a book for anyone who wishes to cultivate a love of the outdoors, the love of nature. It’s a book to savor and to read at a leisurely pace.

So he traveled them all, and so did we. He divided and rejoined, he twisted and turned, he meandered in awesome jungles, he all but ran in circles, he dallied with lovely groves, he got lost and was glad of it, and so were we. For the last word in procrastination, go travel with a river reluctant to lose his freedom in the sea.

– A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The philosophy in it can at times be childish, but at other times it really is quite deep and affecting. My only real complaint about this book is it can get you down. There are sections that are very sad, and we’re reminded of the hell that humanity has brought to the Eden of the natural world, but it can also be a call to action, to reverse those changes, to preserve our natural spaces. And anyone who considers themselves an outdoors-person, naturalist, environmentalist owes it to themself to read this book.

It did not occur to him that they might be busy casting dice against gravity; that mice and men, soils and songs, might be merely ways to retard the march of atoms to the sea.

– A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

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