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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,672 Ratings  ·  1,468 Reviews
An exhilarating meditation on nature and its seasons—a personal narrative highlighting one year's exploration on foot in the author's own neighborhood in Tinker Creek, Virginia. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published 1974)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
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480th out of 6,514 books — 44,282 voters
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Best Nature Books
4th out of 423 books — 374 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 21, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cynics, those in need of perspective
Recommended to Jen by: charlie
one of those things that came almost literally from the sky, dropped on the table in front of me with a shrug an nil explanation. my absolute favorite book, I LOVE THIS BOOK. i've so far read it five times and bought it for four others. highlighted to hell and took lots of notes, referenced it past the point where people are beyond over it. so all i'll say is: minutiae in nature are extraordinary.

"About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a
I'm throwing this out again, I know it's not the review I wanted to write about the book, but I do believe a couple people might see the review and then read the book, and find much to wonder at ...

I have since only very rarely seen the tree with lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.


pilgrim. One who embarks on a quest for some end conceived as sacre
"Thomas Merton wrote, 'There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.' There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge ...more
Lindsay Robertson
Jul 04, 2007 Lindsay Robertson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: memoir
I read "Pilgrim" every year. In high school I wrote my diary as a series of letters to Annie Dillard (so gay). It's basically about a really smart young woman wandering the forest and thinking about nature and god and philosophy and stuff. Think Thoreau reincarnated as a 24 year old chick in the 70s. It didn't win the Pulitzer for nothing! It's a great book to read when you're in a "none of this shit matters" mood. No celebrities. No pop culture references. No boys.
Sep 04, 2007 Melissa rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nature-Loving People
Shelves: books-i-hate
This was not a badly written book. However, it should not be forced upon poor innocent high school students! I have had to read a lot of boring books in my high school career, but this tops them all. Just when you thought something interesting was going to happen she watches birds or something for hours. True, there were moments of great beauty and her philosphy were not always crazed. I respect her art and her view of the world, but she has even said that it's silly for schools to make 16 and 1 ...more
Nov 26, 2010 Jimmy rated it it was ok
For me, two stars means "I disliked it" (even though GR says it means "it was okay"). I usually don't finish books that I dislike, that's why I have so few 2 star reviews here on this site. However, this one seemed harmless enough, and there were aspects of the book I liked (at least when I started). For example, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes about nature that were really interesting:
"On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meado
Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside)
O my god.

I just finished this book and there is not much I can say about it, because I am still in the grips of its quiet, beautiful power. If you want to know what it's about, read others' reviews. Here I can only tell you that my life is changed for having read this book. I will never look at the world the same way again, and I will spend every day I have.

Annie Dillard reminds me that if I live for a thousand years and write every day I will never achieve this simple, perfect beauty, but I nev
Mar 04, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
I love this book, but it frustrates me too. Maybe it's because Dillard was so young when she wrote it. But it doesn't deserve to be compared to Walden. Thoreau is arrogant and has a prescription for every one of society's problems. Dillard asks hard questions and agonizes over the answers. It's never an open and shut case for her. I'll read her books again and again, but I might be done with Thoreau.
May 09, 2007 Ramsey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: someone fascinated by nature and willing to go on a spiritual journey
Shelves: faith-related
There is way too much to say about this book. At times, I was bored out of my mind not knowing where she was going. At other times, I was moved to laughter, moved to tears, disgusted, uplifted, fascinated...

This is different than any book I've read before. It's more like a nature observer's journal, and it therefore is written in a stream-of-consciousness style. It's all over the place! But, just when I thought I couldn't follow Annie Dillard's "random" thoughts, I would get smacked with clarity
Jan 15, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
This book didn't so much change my outlook, as give words to feelings I had had for many years but never been able to articulate. It's like Walden, if Thoreau had a passion for weird nature facts and wasn't so insufferably boring or arrogant half the time. It describes Dillard's time living in the mountains of VA when she was about 27 (I hate that) and is told through a series of remarkable vignettes, each lumped under perceptive thematic headings. It's a relentless parade of the horror, fear an ...more
May 27, 2008 A rated it it was amazing
"Not only does something come if you wait, but it pours over you like a waterfall, like a tidal wave. You wait in all naturalness without expectation or hope, emtied, translucent, and that which comes rocks and topples you; it will shear, loose, launch, winnow, grind.

I have glutted on richness...I am bouyed by a calm and effortless longing and angled pitch of the will, like the set of the wings of the monarch which climbed a hill by falling still."

Annie Dillard "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"
Winner o
Feb 01, 2015 Ken rated it it was amazing
After graduating college, I entered the high-paying, hard-charging world of retail -- bookselling, to be specific, where I served as an assistant manager for a chain. I will never forget certain books that were the rage then. One of them was Annie Dillar'd Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I may be wrong (memory is as suspect as Lee Harvey Oswald, remember), but I recall a picture of a woman sitting on the bank of a creek staring down on it. It looked none too appealing.

Many decades later, with the odome
Jenny (Reading Envy)
You think Annie Dillard is talking about parasitic wasps and then WHAM she's talking about God or humanity. That's what the journey of reading this book is like. She writes throughout one year at Tinker Creek in Virginia, observing and pondering in a way only she can.

Between this book and Holy the Firm, I suspect Dillard considers herself a bit of an anchorite. She specifically mentions that while she is writing this book, she is reading the Apophthegmata, and I think I'm learning that it is the
Sep 15, 2013 N rated it really liked it
As a student of nonfiction I'm always conscious of how an author's voice (perceptible personality) can contrast with what they say. When reading _Best American Essays_, for example, I often hear unappealing voices (stuffy, self-satisfied, etc.) expressing smart or worthwhile ideas; in other words I like the thinking but not the thinker. With _Pilgrim_ I felt differently: I loved--loved--the voice without always loving what was being said. I don't like nature writing. I don't like sentence after ...more
Tiffany Reisz
No idea what I just read but it was beautifully written and strange and I'm glad I read it.
Jul 24, 2014 Michelle rated it it was ok
Annie Dillard does not know when to quit a description. Not when she's exploring or contemplating the land that encompasses Tinker Creek. One overwrought sentence follows another in her tedious meditation on the natural world and our place in it. "Our" in a generous sense; I'll give her that. She contemplates the muskrat's place in it, the Osage orange's place in it; the blood fluke's place in it; beauty's place in it; the creator's place in it; fecundity's place in it; death's place in it. But ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in nature
This book was all about nature. This woman really knows her Bible and Koran. She has an extensive vocabulary and is very intelligent, especially in science. She must have no job, because the whole book is about her wandering around the woods for hours and hours every day. She made me aware of some interesting facts. Like how bamboo torture really works. She has an interesting section on fecundity, and how humans aren't disturbed by plant fecundity (probably because we view plants as food) but we ...more
The narrator in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek expresses awe at the wonder of nature in four seasons in very poetic prose. There were parts of the book that were exquisite in their beautiful phrasing. The narrator often had a playful voice when she described "stalking" creatures in the natural world at Tinker Creek, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia near Roanoke.

Annie Dillard is also seeing the Divine in nature. Looking at creation, which is often imperfect, she brings up many good questi
Jan 25, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Heather
An amazing and inspiring piece of literature. Annie Dillard may not be for everyone (due to the lack of plot/storyline and the general passionate rambling for the natural world, both scientific and experiential), but she exudes a love for everything--seriously, everything. You can sense it in her words and metaphors, her daily excursions to the creek and its environs, always looking for something new, satisfied to just sit and wait and observe, to be one with and part of everything surrounding h ...more
Doug Dillon
Jun 11, 2012 Doug Dillon rated it it was amazing
Yes, this book won the Pulitzer Prize quite a few years ago. Just based on that, you know you will probably like it, right? Even so, I'm going to tell you why it has been of value to me.

You see, besides being a writer, I'm also a meditator in the Buddhist Vipassana tradition. Being very "mindful" of my thoughts and the world around me, even when not meditating, is an integral part of that practice.

One evening while talking with my meditation teacher, he recommended I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Aug 07, 2007 Lindsay rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Religious Tree-Huggers
Although this book is advertised as environmental literature, it is more focused on theology than nature. Annie Dillard writes on theodicy- the attempt to understand how death and horror factor into a world ruled by a merciful god. She uses nature as a spring-board for this topic, and her brilliant descriptions and use of literary devices are breathtaking. Dillard is truly a master of the English language, and it was refreshing to read anything by such a talented writer.

Although I found the writ
Laurel Hicks
Jun 27, 2009 Laurel Hicks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost every sentence of this book is a miniature miracle. What a great primer for would-be writers of any genre! It's hard to say what impressed me more--the observations Dillard made in a year around, on, and in the creek, her wonderful style, her evolving philosophy of life, or her vast variety of literary allusions. They all work together to form a memorable experience that I will want to return to again and again. I don't know why it took me so long to discover this wonderful volume.
Tina Cipolla
Aug 24, 2012 Tina Cipolla rated it really liked it
My favorite chapter in Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is The Horns of the Alter. It contains all of the elements that made this a good read. The descriptions of the snakes, the bugs and the parasites are all fascinating. It takes some mighty fine writing to make parasites interesting.

Earlier in the book Dillard spends several pages discussing the hunting habits of the apex predators of the bug world, praying mantises. Although I am one of the people in this world who "turns from insects
Juliet Wilson
Dec 02, 2010 Juliet Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the Pullitzer Prize in 1975. I found this copy on a Bookcrossing bookshelf a couple of months ago. This is an amazing book! It's a journal of the author's year in her home near Tinker Creek in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, including her observations and thoughts on solitude, writing, religion, and nature. She records everything in amazing detail, making you wish you could see more yourself when you're out observing nature. Woven seamlessly into her observations are ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it did not like it
Shelves: aborted

I got to p. 70 and couldn't take any more of Dillard's masturbatory nature writing.
May 15, 2014 Krista rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge o ...more
“We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence.”

Whatever Dillard came searching for down at Tinker Creek in Virginia, she found this. It emerged in simple forms of mantises, sycamores, muskrats, and parasitic insects.

No matter how I slice the book, I will drain it of its juice. Dillard is a masterful wordsmith with an eye for mundane richness. She dabbles in biology, theology, philosophy, entomology, and physics. While standing on old stumps, she reaches handfuls
Julieann Wielga
Jan 27, 2013 Julieann Wielga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book somewhere in the middle of high school. I have given it as a gift several times and I wondered if I could trust my adolescent taste. Coincidetally, I went to seminar on the chapter on Seeing lead by a ST John's tutor. I was totally moved by the seminar. I went from reading the book casually (which I think I do far more as an adult than I did as a kid) to reading it seriously. I felt like the seminar did not get where I got, but I personally came to an understanding about the spi ...more
Jan 10, 2011 Rebecca rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
At first I hated it, then I tolerated it. Very tedious to read someone else’s stream of consciousness about stuff I don’t care about. Now that I’ve finished it, I feel that I’ve learned a few things about nature, although I’m still mystified about why so many people sing the book's praises and why it got a Pulitzer Prize. I liked the part where she told about a different book—where the blind people got sight. That was cool. I also liked the part (p 126) where she looks through the microscope. th ...more
Jan 06, 2013 Mom rated it it was amazing
Just reread Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for the ninth or tenth time. Would I still find it stunningly beautiful and inspiring?..... Yes!

This book is about seeing the world deeply and consciously, with wonder and awe. Annie Dillard is a naturalist and a lover of quirky facts, but, besides seeing and describing, she asks what it all means. Reading Dillard convinces me that I must slow down so that I can truly see what is around me. The author is an expert at this: she sees the world in incredible deta
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Mentor Texts: Mentor Text for Nonfiction Writing 1 11 Nov 11, 2015 06:42PM  
Discussion Questions 3 1 4 May 25, 2015 04:31PM  
Nature Literature: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek discussion 33 30 May 25, 2015 01:33PM  
Discussion Questions 2 1 4 May 21, 2015 04:04PM  
Discussion Questions 1 2 May 19, 2015 03:04PM  
500 Great Books B...: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard 4 18 Sep 19, 2014 10:50AM  
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  • A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There
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Annie Dillard (born April 30, 1945) is an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published works of poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two novels and one memoir. Her 1974 work Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Dillard taught for 21 years in the English department of Wesleyan Unive ...more
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“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” 131 likes
“The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” 109 likes
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