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The Mountains of California
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The Mountains of California

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  493 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A stirring tribute to one of America's most remote and beautiful places by one of the first modern preservationists
This Penguin Classic-Muir's first book-puts a pioneering conservationist's passion for nature in high relief. With a poet's sensitivity and a naturalist's eye, Muir celebrates the Sierra Nevada, which he dedicated his life to saving, and recounts his breatht...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 1894)
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Community Reviews

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Robin
I’d read a later edition of this collection of John Muir’s nature essays once before, while visiting the Sierras for some skiing and snowshoeing. This text is the original 1894 edition, although Goodreads states incorrectly that it’s reprinted from the 1911 edition. The 1911 edition was expanded to include more illustrations and at least two other memorable essays—of Stickeen, Muir’s small canine glacier-exploring companion and the lodgepole pine, which grows so fast that cones are buried by its...more
Thom Swennes
The Mountains of California by John Muir was published in 1894 and was undoubtedly written as a travel log for people that wouldn’t or couldn’t visit the area. John Muir saves no adjectives in painting a wordy picture of the west coast of the United States. No one would ever confuse this author with Mark Twain or Bill Bryson as I found his narrative completely void of humor; leaving the story as a whole, dry and static. Its lack of page turning pleasure doesn’t mean that it has no merits at all,...more
Samuel Kordik
The world of the mountains is a glorious, rough-hewn, life-infusing one; far removed from the simple, boring plains and the concrete-covered city. The joy and beauty of this world is one I have not seen expressed in words before now. Certainly, many authors do a grand job of telling the tales of high adventure, of risk, of danger in the mountains. But none that I've read have come close to extolling the grandeur in such vivid imagery as John Muir.

This book is exhaustively thorough but never bori...more
Pete
Aug 21, 2008 Pete rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like to remember the smell of ketchup
I just ended a seven year affair with this book. No yelling, and I got to keep all my stuff. It was a gift from a friend in 2001, the year of Yosemite, my own life-altering event. The chapter on the various pine trees hung me up-I'm a leafy kind of guy. Rustling decidui are so much more satisfying than quivering needles.

Seven years later, I finish it, heartbroken. And bored. Sometimes shivering with suppressed laughter (I like to think the other people on the bus are weird, but wouldn't have the...more
John Nelson
This book contains John Muir's descriptions of his favorite place in the world - the mountains of California. He also devotes a chapter to describing what he called the "bee pastures" of California's Central Valley at a time when that region remained largely unploughed.

Muir, of course, was a nature enthusiast. It struck me that he largely viewed nature from the bottom up, giving the greatest degree of attention and study to the geology underpinning the area, somewhat less to the vegetation, and...more
Meghan
This was a hard slog. While amazing in pretty much every other way, Muir was not a great writer. I stuck with it -- and plan to read more of his books -- because he saw our greatest natural wonders when they were still untouched. Loved his curiosity and appreciation for the smallest details.

On the glacier lakes in the Sierra range: "they are well stocked with happy frogs. How did the frogs get into them in the first place?"
Carolyn
Not currently on the NY Times bestseller list, but I enjoyed it. I love the mountains and, like Muir, have a penchant for the Sierras. Its not a Dan Brown page turner but Muir writes with some smartly unique turns of phrase that keep you going. And he's talking about the Sierras! and that's enough for me.
Nick Klagge
Read this for free on the Kindle (thanks for being extremely old, John Muir!).

It was hit and miss. I wouldn't recommend it unless you are already a big fan of JM (like me) or live in Northern California (also me). It is sort of methodically structured, with different sections on the glaciology, flora, and fauna of the Sierras. Some of these parts can get tedious, as when he is going over all of the different evergreen species. The book contains the famous story of JM climbing a tree during a st...more
Jen
I've tried so many times to read this. I just can't get into it. The writing is so dry and colorless. I would hope the Sierras would bring more from a writer.
Patrick Murphy
I admit that by today's language standards Muir may be a bit hard to read. And, although his father was a religious zealot known to beat him, he himself turned out quite spiritual... it's just that he turned a great deal of his love toward nature, the grandest creation. Nature is what saved Muir. It is what all his writing focuses on.

I find this man to be a champion: of the environment, of America (though born in Scotland), and of literature.

His life and his writing are a wonderful study.
David
A better title might be The High Sierras, as most of the pieces in this somewhat uneven suite deal with California's east-central mountains. Collected from Muir's journals and magazine articles, there is a fair amount of repetition (Muir makes the point multiple times that he really doesn't like shepherds and their foliage-munching charges).

The best chapter is the longish field guide to conifers of the Sierras, and I appreciated the chapter about one of my favorite western birds, the American Di...more
Rollie Reid
The Mountains of California is John Muir's 179 page (in my free eBook edition) purpose poem in praise of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The book is filled with glorious facts and descriptions of the trees, flowers, plants, animals and birds that he encountered on his travels thru the California mountains, but what I will remember most is the joy with which he describes them. There are so many stories; a mountain storm viewed from the top of a tall tree; the tiny ouzel, who flits about the waterfal...more
X-topher Budz
Who else to capture the sculptural beauty of these mountains and the shimmering lakes and verdant meadows therein than accomplished geologist, botanist, and lover of nature: John Muir. This man learned and mapped the massive, 500 mile-long corridor that comprises the eastern part of California. As much a geological history and botanical catalog as an ode to a beloved, Muir's love and reverence for the natural beauty of the earth and of this country SHINE through. How could this book not give me...more
Robin
Mar 27, 2010 Robin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of nature
Recommended to Robin by: OPB
It's a really slow read full of mind-blowing imagery that will sadden the reader because it isn't imaginary, it's just what once was.
Not only did John Muir have a gift for trekking the wild, he had an eye for what would become of his treasured world and makes several predictions of destruction that absolutely came true.
I feel like camping after every page I read, and a trip down to the redwoods again jumped several spots up my list of things to do, but sadly many of the greatest places he descri...more
Susie
I can't believe how many books I've started reading!... I uncovered this one yesterday, and remember I wanted to read it in anticipation of my backpacking trip through the Sierras. I only got to page 10 so I just decided to start over. I find I have to be in a certain mood or temperament to read, and having found it again have been reading voraciously. The edition I'm reading includes photographs and line drawings from the original which are pretty cool...

My favorite chapter has to be about the...more
Laura
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

You may read online at Sierra Club.
A-ron
This book is undoubtedly a classic. But I could never get through Muir's antiquated prose. What he describes is quite beautiful, but so wordy for me at the time I first read it that I have never gone back to read through the book. I chalk this up to reading the book at the wrong time in my life. I was too young with particular ideas about the primacy of the spare cogency of modern language. (Obviously I don't live up to my own standards.) Someday I WILL return to this and enjoy it. Otherwise I h...more
Bruce
Long stretches of dry analytical information about the geology and flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada punctuated by passages that powerfully convey the experience of spiritual ecstasy in the wilderness. It's definitely not for everyone, most will fall asleep reading about the minutiae of trees and wildflowers and squirrels. But it's a good read for someone who loves the area or likes reading about nature.
John
Descriptions of the Sierra Nevada from Mt. Whitney in the south to Shasta in the north. From the lakes, trees and meadows, to the squirrels, birds and sheep and during all seasons...the enthusiasm Muir had for the 10 years he spent in the mountains and all that go with them makes this a very easy and entertaining read. Nature lovers should read this, especially if you're from the Cali mountains.
Tony
This was so detailed in it's descriptions as to be somewhat sleep inducing, e.g. when the author takes five pages or so to describe a single tree. I'm sure it was beautiful country at the time, and may be so even now, but reading page after page of extremely detailed description just didn't do it for me. I finished it, but it was a slog.
Erin Eve
While I'm a huge fan of John Muir as a mountaineer and preservationist, I can only read pure geographical description - with strong religious background noise and words such as 'glorious,' 'rejoicing,' and 'shining' recurring in one form or another every few sentences - for a few chapters, before I put the book down.
Naseem
I read this years ago, and still Muir's description of strapping himself to the top of a Douglas Fir in order to ride out a coastal storm, or his description of the optimistic demeanor of the Water Oozal, stay with me. Muir reminds us to stop, look and listen.
Bret Richmond
I'm going to Yosemite next month, so this book seems like a great way to learn about the area. Also notable is the data that Muir gives on glaciation in the Sierras. He gathered the data in the late 1800's - It would be interesting to compare that to today's data.
Scott Holmes
John Muir remains a major hero of mine. The Sierra Nevada remains my favorite place to be. Here are these mountains in a near pristine condition. His notebooks began around 1868. This book, published in 1894, derives in part from his notebooks.
Allan
Oh man can this guy write!! His poetic script on the seemingly boring topic of the geography and fauna of the sierra madre range will have you yearning to hop in your car and head for the hills! Truly a must read!!!
Sitting Bull
Absolutely beautiful. Muir has an uncanny ability to express the way we feel about what we observe in nature (and in the mountains in particular) in very descriptive metaphors. A MUST read for any outdoor enthusiast.
Lauren
I love John Muir, and the mountains he traveled. Every time I open this book, I feel a little bit like I'm in the Sierras, enjoying the peace in the wilderness.
Andrea Hickman Walker
This could have been more boring, I'm just not sure how. Possibly, I just wasn't in the mood for this type of book, so I may try it again some other time.
Tony
Nov 23, 2011 Tony is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Just read opening chapter. First impressions: John Muir find much to enjoy about the Mountains of California.
Patrick
Sep 26, 2007 Patrick marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recently acquired at the Friends of the Library bookstore at the La Palma, CA public library.
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John Muir (/mjʊər/; April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park a...more
More about John Muir...
My First Summer in the Sierra Nature Writings: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth / My First Summer in the Sierra / The Mountains of California / Stickeen / Essays (Library of America #92) Travels in Alaska The Wilderness World of John Muir A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

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“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” 523 likes
“We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men.” 36 likes
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