My First Summer in the Sierra
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My First Summer in the Sierra

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,955 ratings  ·  144 reviews
John Muir, a young Scottish immigrant, had not yet become a famed conservationist when he first trekked into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, not long after the Civil War. He was so captivated by what he saw that he decided to devote his life to the glorification and preservation of this magnificent wilderness. My First Summer in the Sierra, whose heart is the diary Mui...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1911)
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Jason Koivu
Jun 16, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: good-hearted folk
Recommended to Jason by: the trees
Why would I read this? For one, it takes place in my hood. Two, it's by John Muir, the famous Scottish/American naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, which saved national treasures like Yosemite and the Sequoia National Park.

Without Muir this might no longer exist as it does to this day...

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If it weren't for Muir these living trees, some of which have been here longer than the pyramids, may have been cut down...

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To look at a map of the United States, one would get the impression that moving we...more
Patrick Gibson
Listen to Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 – this is how you will feel while reading John Muir. Exhilarated. Joyous. Passionate. Alive.

This book is never far from my reach. It is my inspiration for life.

Take a few minutes and read a sample:

“Here, we are camped for the night, our big fire, heaped high with rosiny logs and branches, is blazing like a sunrise, gladly giving back the light slowly sifted from the sunbeams of centuries of summers; and in the glow of that old sunlight how impressively...more
Stephen
John Muir became a tireless advocate of conservation, a vocal proponent of creating national parks to protect this country’s great untouched western wild places. But, before that, he had to discover them for himself. He grew up on an improvised farm in Wisconsin with a domineering Calvinist father. He escaped as soon as he could.

Leaving home, he first became a walker and then a writer. He made his first trip into the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1869 as the rest of the country was just beginning t...more
Tina Cipolla
This book was excellent. It covers John Muir's first summer in the Sierra Mountains. I love reading books where I can see life at another point in time through someone else's eyes. For me, the most fascinating parts of the book were his encounters with the Native Americans. His reportage on these encounters are honest, discomforting and sometimes a bit frightening--and they have bear no resemblence the politically correct images of Native Americans you get in today's scrubbed history of these en...more
William
Jul 29, 2009 William rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bryson Patterson
This I suppose was my first book by a naturalist and I enjoyed it. Detailing his own trip to Yosemite as a sheep herder during the summer of 1869, the book is a celebration of Yosemite. I felt a little envy for his unabashed use of exclamation points throughout. He's truly excited--wandering the meadows, climbing the domes, describing plant and animal life, drinking "champagne" water--and isn't restrained in showing it. The enthusiasm is palpable and I was glad to be reading it while in Yosemite...more
Kathy
I vacillated between being completely absorbed in this book to being bored out of my mind. I couldn't place my finger on it at first, but I quickly figured out what my issue was. While I very much enjoyed Muir's description and narration of the animals he saw during his camping, I had zero interest in his descriptions of the trees and plants. The journal is split pretty much 50/50 between the two, so I flip flopped between being interested and disinterested as he switched focus.

I continued readi...more
Cee
My First Summer in the Sierra is a journal, not a novel. As a journal, it garners an A+++ from me.

John Muir's wonderfully descriptive account is a work of art, a labor of love. And it poses the question how can we have become so technologically advanced and yet we have lost the basic skills of journalling? How lamentable.

I deeply appreciate John Muir's prose. It is way above novels that try to tackle the natural world but fall short.

This read is for anyone who has gone to Yosemite National Park...more
Kent
I suspect there is a good possibility that John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra was on the book shelf in my childhood home in California. He was, after all, highly regarded by my parents and the home was filled with books of all types and genre. But, I do not remember it nor have I ever read anything written by John Muir, until this 100th Anniversary Illustrated Edition caught my attention.

Muir's account of his 1869 adventure in and around the Yosemite Valley of the Sierra Nevada range is p...more
joey
A wonderful account. But note that this is a diary. Do not expect it to be "action" in diary's clothing.

Speaking of sheep, this diary follows John Muir's first summer in the Sierra mountains in California as a sheep herder. (Later, I have read, Muir lobbied against allowing sheep to graze in national parks.) Muir pities the pitiful sheep and is put off by their devouring grazing and the commercialism that would promote it:
They cannot hurt the trees, though ... should the woolly locusts [lol!] be
...more
Scott
This short book is an account of naturalist John Muir's first summer in what would later be Yosemite National Park. He worked as a sheepherder, moving a flock of about 250 sheep from meadow to meadow during a few summer months. His only duties seem to be bread baking and rounding up errant sheep, which leaves him plenty of time to appreciate the wilderness. He is a knowledgeable and infectious writer about nature, and the book is full of wise observations and wonder about the plants, animals, an...more
Kristen
Muir's enthusiasm for the Sierras is evident on every page. I would be convinced by him even if I hadn't seen the Sierras for myself. It is a good book to indulge in if you want to imagine that you have a summer to spend hiking in the mountains. The descriptions of trees and clouds are sometimes redundant, but there are lots of keen notes on natural history and interesting human or animal encounters. I particularly liked the story of the shepherd who thought he could scare off a mother bear (wit...more
Jamie
Beautiful and inspiring. I just love Muir's personality. His outlook on the world is so close to my own. I feel like I can really related to his writings. Themes that make sense to me: the natural world as sacred; God speaking to us through nature; spirituality coming to us mostly through the mundane and canny, but with occasional, apparently supernatural experiences that serve to confuse as much as anything.

My favorite passage from the book is Muir's description of going to see the falls:


I took
...more
Emily
Absolutely stunning, Nature with a capital N! I have always admired the work of John Muir and what he stood for but this is the first of his books that I have read. I am surprised at how wonderful and accessible the writing is, he had such an enthusiasm for the natural world that you can not help but be swept up in the joyful discoveries he makes on each page.
Best to be read with a good field guide for trees and flowers at hand so as to have the full effect of the descriptions, how splendidly he...more
Rift Vegan
oh yeah! I just loved the journal format... very much reminiscent of Thoreau's journals!!!

John Muir wrote this book (or edited his journals) about 40 years after the fact. And, *smiles*, he expresses joy and elation every single day. Even when it rains, he is exceedingly happy!

Which makes me wonder if Muir is one of those always happy people that I would have to strangle if I meet them in real life! :) Or maybe it's just rose coloured glasses, years after the fact. *smiles*

Anyway, I enjoyed th...more
John Nelson
In 1869, a California sheep rancher hired a young drifter named John Muir to help take a flock of sheep to the high country for summer pasture. In 1912, Muir, by then well-known as a pioneering conservationist, wilderness guide, and opponent of the Hetch-Hetchy dam, published this recollection of his First Summer in the Sierra.

Muir's employer apparently did not have much for him to do, for Muir spent the bulk of his time wandering over the mountains and observing the scenery, wildlife, and, espe...more
Marlène
Voilà une bonne surprise! Un texte de référence pour bon nombre de naturalistes contemporains, datant de 1869, sans difficulté de langue (si on ne compte pas les noms d'espèces animales, végétales et minérales en latin) et d'un enthousiasme contagieux. On ne peut qu'apprécier l'émerveillement de Muir devant la créativité de la Nature, devant l'incroyable variété des paysages de la Sierra Nevada qu'il nomme joliment Range of Light, et sa capacité à conter les mésaventures de moutons et de leurs t...more
Jodyschro01
Reading the anniversary edition with color pictures of the things and places Muir writes about was really special. Muir's writing is polished and smooth. I found myself having to look up meanings of words he uses. I used my I - pad to look up many flowers and trees he talks about which really added to my enjoyment of the book. It helps if you have been to Yosemite but, if you haven't, the book will surely convince you to go! Muir's enthusiasm is contagious. He went to the Sierra's with a friend'...more
Tim
Aug 14, 2007 Tim rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: granola eaters
Thought it would be entertaining, but it ended up being an exact copy of his journal. BORING.
Cathleen O
each page, each paragraph, is a meditation on nature
RJ Robledo
John Muir's importance to the preservation of America's wilderness treasures cannot be overestimated. With this book, he called attention to the beauty of the Sierra Nevada, causing America to view the land as a potential commercial endeavor.

Much better praise of him and his work has been uttered by much more capable people than I. All I can say is that this book is the first one I lost myself in as a child, where I forgot I was reading and actually saw with my own eyes the gentle wilderness of...more
Rachel
Right now I'm only halfway through this book but I have to say this now before I forget.

I've decided that I really can't read this book for long stretches of time before I zone out. That's mostly because I have a short attention span and, this being a diary and not a work of fiction, not every moment is of much importance in relation to the plot. Moreover, this is not so much a story as it is an account of every thought and experience that Muir can retain long enough to write down. He wasn't wri...more
Jacob
I reread this after taking my kids on their first summer trip to the Sierra. My First Summer in the Sierra is Muir's journal as a shepherd from 1869 - but which he didn't publish until 1911.

As a journal there are ho-hum passages of his wrangling sheep, yet those are forgotten in the surging rhapsody of Muir's prose.

"Contemplating the lace-like fabric of streams outspread over the mountains, we are reminded that everything is flowing - going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as we...more
Matt
I love reading John Muir's writings. He is so passionate, so intense and animated about that which he loves. This, his first trip into the high Sierra country, contains countless exclamatory passages and endless quotables. His naturalist interests and tendencies come out as he analyzes and categorizes and theorizes, on geology, botany, zoology, meteorology (the man is ENTRANCED by cloudscapes).

"How interesting everything is! Every rock, mountain, stream, plant, lake, lawn, forest, garden, bird,...more
Liza
The most important thing to note is that this isn't meant to be a novel with a story line. This is a journal, an experience really, of a man encountering nature and becoming amazed with it on a spiritual level. Muir's beautiful description of the landscape and his detail to specific tree types and animals were enchanting at first. He's fixated by the wild and believes in some ways humans are at odds with nature. Being it was written around 1869, I found his views on Native Americans a bit distas...more
Michael Savage
Muir was undoubtedly a lover of nature in the highest degree and as it turns out not a bad writer either. It was interesting to read his account of his first summer excursion (while in the employ of a rancher from the central valley escorting a flock of sheep) into the Sierra Nevada region. It was this trip that gave Muir a better chance to explore the magnificent Yosemite Valley & surrounding regions. Muir basks in the awe and grandeur of nature and all it has to offer. He gets pretty excit...more
Jaclyn
Aug 17, 2009 Jaclyn rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: botanists and geologists who LOVE nature as much as Muir
Recommended to Jaclyn by: The cashier at the John Muir house in Martinez
I always finish books I start. I can't stand not to know what happens at the end. It was a hard decision for me to finally admit defeat to this one, but I had to. Reading it was just so painful and boring! Someday I may try to finish it just so I can say I have, but after 6 months of trying, I have to finally admit that, at least for now, I am not going to get through this one.

I just moved to the Bay Area last year and John Muir's name is everywhere. On a trip to visit his home with my daughter...more
Geoffrey Benn
“My First Summer in the Sierra” is a compilation of edited diary entries from John Muir’s first summer in the Yosemite region, where he worked as a shepherd. Over the course of the summer, Muir ascends the Sierra through Yosemite with his herd of sheep, making frequent side-trips to explore the surrounding countryside. He offers extensive descriptions of the region’s plant and animal life, as well as descriptions of the many different geological features he encountered. I was deeply struck by Mu...more
Brett Anderson
What a splendid book. It follows the journal of the naturalist John Muir as he spent the summer of 1869 in in the High Sierra of California. His writing is laced with refreshing insight, as well as his geological, botanical, and practical observations of the country around him.

I began this book in the spring and followed it loosely across the span of the summer. At the start, I had many unused wildlife field guides on my shelf. Muir's writing rapidly inspired me to put those reference materials...more
Judd
You get a sense of the spiritual need that John Muir inherited from his father, who was a religious zealot. John didn't go back to the church, but he is forever seeing spiritual presences in Yosemite. And it is not difficult to have a spiritual experience in the spectacular mountains of the High Sierra. Muir's writing suggests a nearly Bambi-esque tenderness towards and within nature, and one gets the sense that Muir has carefully tucked away all the exertion and dirty work of months of hiking d...more
Jon Stout
Sep 27, 2012 Jon Stout rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: naturalists and nihilists
Recommended to Jon by: Bob Nichols
Because several of my naturalist friends are inspired by John Muir, and one friend is a descendent of Muir, I read his best known work, My First Summer in the Sierra. It’s a beautiful book, largely because of the detailed descriptions of wildlife in what would later become the Yosemite National Park, but also because of the unremitting enthusiasm of the author. The book is full of descriptions of inspiring scenery, including mountains, waterfalls, trees and clouds, for which Yosemite is notewort...more
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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...
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) The Mountains of California Travels in Alaska The Wilderness World of John Muir A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

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“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.” 176 likes
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.” 100 likes
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