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The Island Within

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  130 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Here is Nelson's luminously wise account of his exploration of an unnamed island in the Pacific Northwest. This book revises our own relationship with nature, allowing us to observe it and also to participate in it with reverence and a sense of wonder.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 23rd 1991 by Vintage (first published 1989)
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A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldWalden by Henry David ThoreauA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie DillardSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
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157th out of 502 books — 580 voters

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Community Reviews

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LOVING this book, despite how long it's taking me to read it. If anyone wants to know what it's like to live in SE AK, read this! Stunningly written, reflective, fueled by observing and being in nature . . . my kind of book!

Nelson is a master of observing nature and fusing that with insight into our human condition. I particularly enjoyed his explanations of Koykuon ways. At times Nelson's writing can feel a little overdone, but overall this book was a spectacular mental ride. The ending is stil
I completely enjoyed the whole book. Whether he is talking about the lands, the different waters or the sky above and/or birds, animals and marine life. I only found it shame that I have found this book now in my thirties rather than when i was a child and in school.
Beautiful, personal and wordy. It really takes you on a journey, if you are willing to go, and invest the time.
Coho Cabin
Hauntingly beautiful.
This was a reread of a book I read about 10 years ago. It has so many bookmarks to important passages, I have to laugh. I think I may not have remembered how important it was to me because he does a lot of describing his hunting, which I have to admit scares me, I could never kill another living animal other than an insect, and sometimes I have problems with that. But there is so much I learned from this book that I absorbed without remembering where I learned them from: mainly, saying a prayer ...more
Wendy Feltham
The more I read this book, the more I became absorbed in the story Richard Nelson tells of his connection with nature. Influenced by his ethnographic study of the Koyukon people of Alaska, he writes of his visits to an island somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. He doesn't want to name the location because he doesn't want people to go there and try to recreate his own experiences, instead he hopes that people will find their own place to explore. His experiences include encounters with deer, whal ...more
Often poetic and insightful, but far too lengthy and rambling. An account of the author's explorations of an island near his home somewhere in the coastal Northwest or Alaska. It took me a long time to get through.

Within his own jaunts, he includes stories and bits of wisdom of the Koyukuk and other native peoples, who he's spent a lot of time with and written books about. I kept wanting more direct experience of these stories and to learn something of their history and society, and less of Nel
Erin Harrington
A completely astonishing, beautiful, lyrical book about out place in the world. Nelson is a master.
Very beautiful and, at its essence, spiritual. Reminded me of Barry Lopez's writing, and a little bit of John Muir--the part where Nelson described opening the doors and windows of his house to let the rain and wind in during a thunder storm reminded me of John Muir climbing up a tree to take in a thunder storm in the Sierras.

Brian Crime
A very important book. Grandfather Raven.
Daniel Villines
After 48 pages, it became apparent that most paragraphs in every chapter are completely interchangeable without consequence to the ideals of the book (a theory that was tested and substantiated in my mind). To that end, if you are looking for a soulful description of the rain forest and coastline of the American Northwest then read the first chapter. If you are looking for variation after variation of that same description, then read subsequent chapters. For me, the first couple of variations on ...more
Nelson theorizes that we learn more about place when we visit the same ground repeatedly over our lifetimes, observing how it changes with familiarity or perhaps how we change when we choose to belong to a specific place and to enter into a relationship with it. His stories may seem repetitive, given this premise, but they are also captivating.
Oct 13, 2007 Robbin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nature lovers
This is a STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL read. I am currently reading this book and am taking it slow to savor every passage. The book reads like prose and has such amazing lines that I am constantly marking passages!

A wonderful book by a talented, sensitive soul. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves nature.
Rain Trueax
The last time I had the flu was 1989 and it's the year I read this book when I was too sick to do other things. It took me to a world I much love, the Pacific Northwest Coast, with a memoir by someone who saw it from a scientific and spiritual perspective. It still rates a place or honor on my bookshelf.
Christopher Roth
Beautiful writing, much in the Barry Lopez etc. mode. About as good as nature-writing gets. But his description of how much he loved being all alone on that rain-soaked island sure did not make me want to join him there. I like sitting inside a heated home reading books like this much better.
With little exception this book is a literary glimpse of the way that I think and or view the world. So if you want a peek into my simple mind read this book. This is non-fiction nature writing with an anthropological slant to it.
this is about a nameless island somewhere in the pacific northwest. it is an anti-travel book, insisting that finding the places you connect with is as important as finding the people you connect with. read in a field on dreary days
A brilliant meditation on a particular environment, a way of life, and how the author comes to terms with his place within and without. Gloriously detailed descriptions that verge on the transcendent.
Going to try this one again, but I have my doubts...

I was right. 2nd attempt and no can do. Nelson is just a bit too earnest. He has his moments, but the in between is too tedious. Alas.
Pretty much one of my all-time favorites, this book made me appreciate and love the PNW.
Nov 18, 2007 jack added it
Shelves: nature
much better than i was expecting. wonderful, respectful nature writing.
Wonderful northwest imagery in Barry Lopez style.
Takes me back to Alaska so wonderfully!
Aug 17, 2012 Lisa added it
very good
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Richard K. Nelson (born 1941) is a cultural anthropologist and writer whose work has focused primarily on the indigenous cultures of Alaska and, more generally, the relationships between people and nature.He is the host to a public radio series called Encounters aired nationally.
More about Richard K. Nelson...
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“As time went by, I realized that the particular place I'd chose was less important than the fact that I'd chosen a place and focused my life around it. Although the island has taken on great significance for me, it's no more inherently beautiful or meaningful than any other place on earth. What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it's flat or rugged, rich or austere. wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.” 4 likes
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