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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  16,058 Ratings  ·  1,606 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, 304 pages
Published October 6th 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1974)
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Jun 21, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 18, 2007 Jacob rated it it was amazing
"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.
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
Sep 04, 2007 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 08, 2013 N rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2008 A rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 20, 2015 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tiffany Reisz
No idea what I just read but it was beautifully written and strange and I'm glad I read it.
Jan 06, 2013 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2013 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sylvain Reynard
Jan 11, 2011 Sylvain Reynard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This non-fiction work is a meditation on the extravagance of God's grace. Or at least, that's how it seemed to me. Follow Annie Dillard as she tells the story of her life while living apart from humanity and studying nature - both animate and inanimate. No one writes like Annie Dillard, but new writers can learn much from the way in which she breathes life into words. Highly recommended.
Opening lines: 'I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest.'
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
Tina Cipolla
Aug 19, 2012 Tina Cipolla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 18, 2010 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  ·  review of another edition
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
This book is an example of a writer taking a subject as simple and complex as nature, and writing detailed, descriptive prose around it. Helps that Annie Dillard was a poet as well. I'll admit, I learned a lot about some of the things I take for granted, and it certainly piqued my interest: Muskrats, squirrels and their immunity to poisoned mushrooms, snakes, frogs, water bugs that suck frogs out of their skin, praying manthis, grasshoppers, fish, you name it. Fascinating and foreign. However, I ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Nathan added it
Shelves: nathan-library
“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
Aug 07, 2007 Lindsay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephen Hicks
Aug 23, 2016 Stephen Hicks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek dwells somewhere between fiction and non-fiction, fantasy and reality, sobriety and insanity. To read Annie Dillard is to drink a potent punch that makes one realize what an absolutely horrendous, wonderful, beautiful, and brutal world surrounds us every moment of every day in every direction. "Intricacy, then, is the subject, the intricacy of the created world," Dillard writes. And she does this with gusto. Mellifluous prose drips off the page like molasses; or maybe shu ...more
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.
Jan 25, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aborted

I got to p. 70 and couldn't take any more of Dillard's masturbatory nature writing.
Jan 05, 2010 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek as a lover of nature and creation; I read it as a writer also, examining it for craft. Dillard walks through the woods to spend time in nature, to find species she hasn’t seen before and to see old friends with new eyes. While reading, I tried to parallel her journey by doing the same: spending time in her words to find new writing strategies while seeing old strategies anew. What does a close-reading of Dillard’s craft reveal?

Contrast. Contrast between long and sh
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Mentor Texts: Mentor Text for Nonfiction Writing 1 15 Nov 11, 2015 06:42PM  
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Nature Literature: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek discussion 33 32 May 25, 2015 01:33PM  
Discussion Questions 2 1 6 May 21, 2015 04:04PM  
Discussion Questions 1 4 May 19, 2015 03:04PM  
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  • Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay
  • The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
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  • Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
  • A Natural History of the Senses
  • Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
  • The Norton Book of Nature Writing
  • Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water
  • Annals of the Former World
  • Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
  • Practice of the Wild
  • The Singing Wilderness
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.” 145 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.” 118 likes
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