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We Took to the Woods

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  850 ratings  ·  146 reviews
In her early thirties, Louise Dickinson Rich took to the woods of Maine with her husband. They found their livelihood and raised a family in the remote backcountry settlement of Middle Dam, in the Rangeley area. Rich made time after morning chores to write about their lives. We Took to the Woods is an adventure story, written with humor, but it also portrays a cherished dr ...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published April 19th 2007 by Down East Books (first published January 1st 1942)
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Devon Goodwin
Favorite passage:

"At night, after being at Prospect, I lie in bed and see great clusters of berries slide by endlessly against my closed lids. They haunt me. There are so many of them yet unpicked, so many that will never be picked. The birds and bears and foxes will eat a few, but most of them will drop off at the first frost, to return to the sparse soil of Prospect whatever of value they borrowed from it. Nature is strictly moral. There is no attempt to cheat the earth by means of steel vault
This book made me want to take to the woods, to wear my comfy clothes with no waistbands, to not fight the winter, to cook creatively, to enjoy my house and its surroundings, and to live simply. Though the story preserves some quaintness from a less modern time, Louise Rich still appeals to the modern reader.
Don't ask me how I happened to stumble upon this book published in 1942. Serendipity at work...and an on-going fascination with books set in Maine of late. There it was amongst the Dewey Decimal Code 917.4 books (geography of and travel in North America--New England). There I found a book to treasure.
Ralph Rich bought a piece of land in rural Maine for a summer camp, after having spent boyhood summers there and feeling a fierce desire to return. On his first day there, as fate would have it, alo
Jul 31, 2011 Natalie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ivy
Recommended to Natalie by: Amazon
Shelves: nature-books
I read on an Amazon review that We Took to the Woods was the real deal compared to Anne LaBastille's "Barbie-doll-like" accounts of living in the wild. I have to agree, though I like Anne.

Louise Dickinson Rich wasn't wealthy. She wasn't connected. Her husband was working class. And Louise Dickinson Rich was a writer by trade, naturalist by passion.

So of course you're going to get better prose than Anne LaBastille (sorry, Anne) and less soap-boxing.

Killer Quote:
"Happy people aren't given to soul
Jim Aker
Aug 15, 2009 Jim Aker rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any who love the outdoors.
She Took to the Woods

A review of Louise Dickenson Rich’s tale of family life in the great northern forest of Maine, ‘We Took to the Woods.’

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
The Road Less Traveled- Robert Frost

“For there are some people who can live without wild things about them and the earth beneath their feet, and some who cannot. To those of us who, in
Jeanette Thomason
Loved and just reread for a tenth time: memoir of making a home in the wild with respect, wonder, and good humor during the Depression. Enchanting. Inspiring. Funny. One of my favorite stories is of the time Louise is asked to cook for a logging crew at the dam. She has potatoes, coffee, a salmon, and not much more, but goes at it like Christ with the loaves and fishes. The hungry foreman tells her the time the crew will break for lunch and Louise sets a timer. The hungry foreman keeps sneaking ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Hannah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Armchair hermits in disguise, nature lovers, Maine lovers
A really good read that satisfied the armchair hermit that lurks very close to the surface of my life. Louise Rich's account of her life in backwoods Maine during the 1930's and 40's was filled with insightful, witty and meaningful observations of what it takes to live this kind of life and how much she really loved it. I enjoyed all 11 chapters with their cute, questioning titles such as:

Chapter IV: Isn't Housekeeping Difficult (Louise says: NO, as she's no housekeeper).

Chapter V: Aren't the Ch
Oct 25, 2013 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
Loved this. Another book I won't part with. Another autobiographical account of a woman's life in a time and country long gone. Not feminist, simply an account. Simply written and a lovely way of life recounted. Another read that makes me fear I was born in the wrong time, envious of a more simple, even if more difficult (compared to today's standards) , way of life. I wish I'd been able to personally know the author, she was a Classy Broad.
I liked this. Yes, it is a tad dated and sometimes the narrative seems a little childish but overall it was a wonderful story. Part of what was rewarding is that I'm very familiar with the area in which it takes place, adding to my positive experience. I also gravitate to tales about people living in extraordinary situations. And, I love tales about nature. The only negative comment I would have is that while it did have a beginning and a middle it really didn't really seem to have a finish. The ...more
Carrie Fitz

I stumbled across this book during a sleepless night while staying at my parent's house in Maine last week. I am wary of homesteading books that write from a sentimental, self righteous perspective, and was thrilled to find this book to be the polar opposite. Louise Dickinson Rich is funny, practical, often self effacing (but not in a weird insecure way) and just plain downright real! My family roots are in Northern Maine, so perhaps that helps to explain the connection I felt with this memoir.
There's not much more that can be said about this book, probably up there with the top 10 memoirs of the 20th century. It's never, ever been out of print, which says a lot! If you read it, you'll feel like it was written yesterday and not in the 30's, such is Rich's tone---clear and humorous and ageless. For anyone who has dreamt of living it all behind and living in the woods, this is a book not to be missed.
Susan Gill
I first discovered this book years ago when I was in jr. high school and my mother handed me a copy of Yankee magazine. In this now forgotten issue of that regional magazine, was a story about a woman who lived in a remote area of Maine with her husband and small son. Liking as I do, even at 12, stories about remote cabins and rural living, I sought out the book itself. I read it, of course, and then years later, found my own copy in a used bookstore in Oyster Bay. Louise Rich wrote in a familia ...more
This book is really about nothing in particular. It's just the author's observations on life in the woods. However, it is excellent! She has a phenomenal way with words and it turns this "about nothing" book into a "can't put it down" book. I highly recommend.
Denny Stein
About half way through - it's wonderful!
Sarah-Mae Adam
Beautifully written in a conversational style, this account of one woman taking "to the woods" is potentially one of my favourite books of all time.

Louise Dickinson Rich is an average woman in the 1930s, she is not rich, she is a second wife, a step mother and a mother to one boy, Rufus, and all whom visit the woods of Maine. Answering questions she is often asked, such as "but how do you make a living?", "but you don't live here all the year round?", and "don't you ever get bored?", Louise spi
I heard about this book a few years ago on the radio. I couldn't find it at the library so I ordered a used copy from Amazon. I was surprised when it came that it was published in 1942. It was such a nice trip into the wilderness. I like how she referred to civilization as "the outside"! She met her husband when she happened upon him on a canoe trip. He was a former business man from Chicago. She left everything she knew to live in the woods and really found herself. I google Louise Dickinson Ri ...more
This a classic woman's memoir of the first half of the 20th century, but like Betty MacDonald of The Egg and I fame, Louise Dickinson Rich was a good deal tougher and more self-reliant than her time claimed women to be. This isn't just a back-to-the-land memoir-- in fact the Riches subsisted primarily on providing services to sportsmen and lumber companies in their area. But for the first four years of her marriage, Rich found she never had time, what with one thing and another that she wanted t ...more
One of my all time favorite books, right up against The Winter of Our Discontent and Redwall.
I have always dreamed of moving up into the woods and the daily life that comes with it- getting your water, hunting food, keeping warm, etc. And this books tells it exactly how it is in a casual, well written story. I felt close to Louise and her family and all the characters that inhabit the North Woods of Maine. I was very excited to learn that her home, Forest Lodge, isn't far from Lake Umbagog (whe
1/11/14 update: reread this book in three days flat. Quite the difference from last reading although I think my change in circumstances has made me feel even more like the author than ever before. To explain, Rich wrote this book in 1940s backwoods Maine. Most of the book is written from the "winter" perspective. Below freezing temps, snow, wood stoves heating spaces, wool clothes, limited access because of snow, ice, blizzards. When I first read this book I lived in moderate climate Pacific Nor ...more
What a remarkable book! Reminiscent of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's Cross Creek, (also published in 1942), this collection of stories of Depression Era years spent in the Rangeley area of Maine is a delightful escapist fantasy for the vicarious Back to the Land folks among us. Titling each chapter in an FAQ format, Ms. Rich well-describes life's joys and hardships with humor and a most readable style. Throughout, she shares wisdom which is timeless, reminding us of the importance of simple values ...more
From 1933 to 1945, Louise Dickinson Rich lived on the Rapid River in remote northwestern Maine with her husband, Ralph, and son, Rufus (and, part of the time, her stepdaughter, Sally). We Took to the Woods, a bestseller in 1942, is her frank, fond account of life in the backwoods.

The book is structured around a series of questions typically asked by folks on "The Outside": Isn't Housekeeping Difficult? Don't You Ever Get Bored? Aren't You Ever Frightened? Though Rich is given to some lengthy dig
Interesting to read about life in the 30's in the woods of Maine near Rangely Lakes. Not only a different lifestyle but a different age from what we live in now. Wonder, however, if it is in fact so different for those who are living "in the woods" now. Enjoyed her writing style, smiled and sometimes laughed at her observations. Interested me enough to follow up on the internet, only to find out that her husband died within a few years after the end of the book and she moved back to Massachusett ...more
Louise Dickinson was an English teacher in Boston when she met Ralph Rich on a summer vacation canoe trip in Maine. He had just "sold some patent rights" and moved from Chicago to an old log cabin in the Rangeley Lakes area, miles from anything. They married & "took to the woods", where Louise Rich wrote this book in 1942 to answer all the questions she got from friends on "The Outside," like "How do you make a living?", "What do you do with all your spare time?" and, my favorite, "Don't you ...more
A 1930s account of living in rural Maine. Two of my favorite books ever are "We Live in Alaska" and "We Live in the Arctic" by Bud and Constance Helmericks, accounts of the time they spent in northern Alaska living off the land - surviving off the land through the winter - building their own cabin and trying to survive through the winter by getting enough fat in their diet. (With plenty of meat but no fat, they were slowly starving. Their diet and the traditional diet of Alaska Natives is an int ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Sydney added it
This memoir proves that really good writing is what makes a book sell decades after publication. Sure, it's interesting to see a different way of life in the rustic Maine woods, but it's the way Rich tells a story that makes this book a real treasure. I was happy to see it for sale in several places during my Maine vacation this summer!
Mrs. Rich lived up near or on Rangely Lake in Maine in the years immediately preceding and during WW 2. She describes life in the extreme back woods, no t.v., no electric, no plumbing. Harsh.

She doesn't quite go into the backbreaking work it must have been to simply keep body and soul attached. Oh, from time to time she mentions the orneriness of the wood stove, the difficulty of heating, the trips to the outhouse in subfreezing weather. However, she assures us that the peace and beauty of the "
"All ordinary people like us, everywhere, are trying to find the same things. It makes no difference whether they are New Englanders or Texans or Malayans or Finns. They all want to be left alone to conduct their own private search for a personal peace, a reasonable security, a little love, a chance to attain happiness through achievement. It isn't much to want; but I never came anywhere near to getting most of those things until we took to the woods." Louise Dickinson Rich, 1942
Sep 21, 2011 Thomas rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Outdoor Enthusiasts, History/Historical Fiction readers.
Recommended to Thomas by: Lionel Herring
In the 1900's Louise Rich, her husband, and her children left civilization and took to the woods in western Maine. They built two cabins, and lived fairly remotely, with the nearest communication to the outside world being miles away on a dirt path. This is a great nonfiction of taking off, abandoning all of what you know, and taking to the woods. This book is especially personal to me because I've spent summers kayaking and wilderness camping in the area surrounding where Rich spent her life. I ...more
True story of Louise Dicikson Rich living in the remote Maine woods with her husband and young son in the early 1940's. Rich has a way with words. You could almost hear here talking as she was narrating the book. Loved all the 1940's expressions as well.. such as "that's just swell."
As a fervent fan of memoirs about returning to the land/roots I am a little ashamed that I only discovered Louise Dickinson Rich's work recently. Even more surprised was I, given her modern voice, when I realized that "We Took to the Woods" was written in the 40's. References to using Model T's to haul logs (sacrilege now) clued me in.

It is sure fun to read about how even back then people wondered how someone could stand living in the backwoods of Maine. Louise answers such questions with a deli
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Writer known for fiction and non-fiction works about New England, particularly Massachusetts and Maine. Mrs. Rich grew up in Bridgewater where her father was the editor of a weekly newspaper. She met Ralph Eugene Rich, a Chicago businessman, on a Maine canoe trip in 1933 and they married a year later. Mr. Rich died in 1944. Her best-known work was her first book, the autobiographical We Took to th
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