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Wilderness and the American Mind

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  978 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Roderick Nash's classic study of America's changing attitudes toward wilderness has received wide acclaim since its initial publication in 1967. The Los Angeles Times has listed it among the one hundred most influential books published in the last quarter century, Outside Magazine has included it in a survey of books that changed our world, and it has been called the Book ...more
Paperback, Fourth Edition, 432 pages
Published August 11th 2001 by Yale University Press (first published 1967)
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The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard BailynAnti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard HofstadterThe Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 by Gordon S. WoodThe Metaphysical Club by Louis MenandThe Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
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86th out of 125 books — 47 voters
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Eugene Miya
I had Rod Nash as a prof. Rod had me for a student. I lived (as many) a couple chapters of this book (between 1st ed. and 2; giving 3 and beyond as gifts), and I could have used this book at that time, because its first edition preceded me and the work of many others. Warning: this is not a popular history, this is a "fully referenced" academic text, it is not easy reading. In a word: it's dense. But the book is capable of clarifying terminology confusion in the environmental movement.

An aside f
It’s a good reminder every time I’m made aware that our ideas aren’t our own, that our society’s ideas aren’t the only ones, that whatever current intellectual revolution we find ourselves in, it’s the temporary result of hundreds or thousands of cumulative years of ideas. If it comes in the form of a book on wilderness, so be it. And even, it’s all the more apt that it should come from a book on wilderness.

“A millennium is almost meaningless geologically; in terms of human history, however, it
I believed that this book would be an exploration of the concept of "wilderness" as it relates to the American mind. And it is, for about one hundred pages. Since this is a four hundred page bok, that leaves a lot of space to fill.
I found the first two hundred pages to be interesting, the last two hundred to be a slog. Nash spends an interminable amount of time covering "contemporary" environmental struggles. Were it my book, I would have omitted the chapter about Alaska. I imagine that most who
I read the fourth edition (2001) of this work that first appeared in 1967.

Nash's book provides a foundation in the history of the idea of wilderness in the New World, and specifically the United States. He argues that concept of wilderness resides close to the heart of what it means essentially to be American. This account references Cotton Mather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fennimore Cooper, Mark Twain, Jack London, Gertrude Stein and many others, but the main line of philosophy recognizing val
Nash chronicles American attitudes toward their country's wild places in hopes of answering the big question: What role does thou unspoiled, unaltered, natural place serve in our society? As I read Wilderness & the American Mind, I found not only is this answer politically & emotionally charged as say the question of creation versus evolution, but the answer changes depending on where and when you ask it.

The book masterfully depicts the dramatic periods of change in the American psyche a
This book is often credited as the fountainhead of the field of environmental history. Roderick Nash has chronicled here the intellectual history of the concept of "wilderness" in the American mind. From Puritans who feared the wilderness as the God-forsaken realm of the Devil to Transcendentalists who romanticized it as tantamount to communing with God to contemporary (mid-twentieth century at the time) debates between conservationists (utilitarian-minded views of wilderness) and preservationis ...more
A good book, but kind of tedious. At times it felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again.
Nash provides a great primer on the evolution of the wilderness construct in American history. Although less postmodernist than Cronan, he introduces the idea that wilderness is a "state of mind, a perceived rather than an actual condition" (i).
I found the strengths of this text lie in Nash's ability to document the historical evolution of the wilderness idea while simultaneously engaging several prominent themes including: man vs. nature (chaos vs. control), the normative wilderness, the roots
This book is an outstanding resource for the student of American wilderness history up to the 70s. Keeping in mind this is an older edition, the newer one may be equally useful through the end of the 20th century. The bibliographical essay at the end alone is worth the purchase.

However, the book itself is not particularly inspiring. The writing is slow and plodding. Sometimes theories are arrived at that are not necessary to the discussion and rest on shaky ground. While comprehensive, its organ
Vance Dubberly
A really nice history of on the American approach to wilderness from pre-inception to modern times. It's not, shall we say, an environmentalists handbook, more a reasonably objective history of how we have approached wilderness, whether it be as resource, spiritual retreat, enemy, or teacher. The book doesn't linger very long on any period or subject, except maybe the debate over the Hetch Hetchy where it seems to get mired down a bit to much in gossip and hearsay.

Sadly the book totally glosses
One of the most memorable and most thought provoking books I have ever read. This really makes you think about what wilderness really is and the perception of wilderness. Yes, it was difficult to get through at times but it was worth it. I had to read this for school and I'm glad I did. Absolutely loved this book.
Julie H.
I started this while traveling, ironically, home from Yellowstone. I thoroughly recommend the fourth edition, published in 2001, which benefits from the writer's insights into changes in environmental policy and the changing perceptions of wilderness and wildness since the first appearance of this book in 1967. In other words, this is a marvelous historiography of American society and its evolving notion of wilderness. While pretty dense, and a bit intimidating for recreational reading (i.e., sm ...more
I was a little disappointed given this book's monumental status. A more apt title would be "Wilderness and American Attitudes"- Nash's technique is more to survey than to analyze; he rarely delves beneath the surface of what newspapers reported, philosophers wrote, or politicians said during a given period. This makes for a repetitive read- a word count on "wilderness" and "civilzation" in this book would yield grotesque sums. The fourth edition adds almost nothing except an Afterword in which N ...more
This is an excellent survey of the history of the concept of wilderness in America. Originally published in 1967, the latest edition contains four additional chapters. The even-handed treatment of the topic has made this a classic of its genre, and its themes and lessons resonate through time. Our current debates about global warming and oil exploration echo the many (seemingly) forgotten political battles of the past, laid out here in lucid detail. Noticeably absent, however, is any discussion ...more
Cecilia Lane
I read this for a class. It's a good look into the evolution of the conservation movement. Although it does indeed read like a textbook.
Pretty fascinating look at how thought concerning wilderness has changed in the U.S. since pioneers first set out to conquer it. Nash focuses on a few intellectual leaders as catalysts for changing attitudes and I especially enjoyed reading about early 20th century efforts to begin protecting wilderness areas in a significant way.

Additional chapters in this edition concerning Alaska and the International perspective started to strain my interest, but the chapter titled "The Irony of Victory" was
This book is a history of wilderness preservation in the US. The author argues that Americans have gone from fear of wilderness to a preservation ethic. I think it's good overview with lots of useful facts. However I was frustrated by the authors failure to critically examine the idea of "pure wilderness". For example he never acknowledges that Native Americans changed their environment, but instead argues as though North America was "untouched" before European settlement. I also wish the that t ...more
i wish i can read more freely
Exhaustively researched, Wilderness and the American Mind is required reading for anyone interested in the history of the American environmental movement. Nash packs tons of information into each chapter, but he ties it all together with a compelling, enjoyable narrative. Like all historiography, Nash's narrative is just one perspective on a wide, deep field. Nevertheless, he provides the reader with a firm foundation to conduct his or her own research.
Jenna Los
This book is the ultimate go-to resource for a course on Nature Writing. It covers the history of our perception of nature, including the changing views of artists, authors, and explorers. Nash also covers the lives of a few of the more influential people in nature like Thoreau and Leopold. Most resource books used in this way tend to be dull accounts of facts, but this was actually a pretty easy and interesting read.
Suprisingly really enjoyable!

good history and context.
Todd Haines
So the content was OK but the dates cited kept going back and forth making it tough to follow. The last chapter almost warented losing a star in my book. Fairly neutral until then. Sorry I don't think people will live on little people islands and let the world become wilderness. Good quotes though.

At least the preaching didn't come at the beginning so I could read it all.
terribly slow start...but some really interesting thought-provoking chapters follow. makes me want to work for the forest service or national park service. also left me with a strange dream about "wilderness" in the future, where drones take pictures of the last remaining untouched forests to avoid invasion of humans on the "wild" - i could go on...ask me about it sometime
Jan 19, 2009 Nancy marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Let's face it. I started this book in March. It is January. I have finished aver 50 other books since I started this one. I am not going to finish this book. The topic sounds interesting, but the writing style is too academic for the general reader like myself. It may be a very good academic thesis, but is not the book for me. To be fair I did not rank it.
While I am sympathetic to the ideas presented in this book, it still reads like the master's thesis it started out as. The histories of people like Thoreau, Muir, and Leopold could have been told in a much more engaging narrative. The endless citations and paragraphs that were 3/4 of a page long were ultimately more soporific than fulfilling.
So poorly written and organized that the value of the otherwise useful history of the American conservation movement contained in the book is almost entirely lost. Read all the way through the chapter on Alaska, but then had to put it down and move onto greener pastures (or, if you prefer, forests).
Mike Eckhardt
Before Ken Burns put it on PBS, Mr. Nash compiled an extensive work detailing the American wilderness as "America's Best Idea." It's not a light read but it is a well reserached perspective on what helped to shape our identity as a nation.
Dan Herman
Sorry to my friends who teach environmental history but nothing surpasses this book as an introduction to the subject. Nothing. Not any of the post-structuralist stuff nor any of Cronon's books. None of it. Yes, I love this book.
The scholarship seems slightly arbitrary at times, and seems like a bit of a reach at first, but the reality of the main ideas is undeniable. It shows the enormity of what is often passed over as a small or relatively boutique subject.
An anthology of philosophies, history, development and establishment of the Wilderness Preservation System. Nash is a great historian with an easy and interesting writing approach. Most Americans would benefit from reading this book.
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Frazier Nash, Roderick
Nash, Roderic Frazier
Nash, Roderick F.
Nash, Roderick Frazier
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