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Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape

4.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  195 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Published to great acclaim in 2006, the hardcover edition of Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape met with outstanding reviews and strong sales, going into three printings. A language-lover's dream, Home Ground revitalized a descriptive language for the American landscape by combining geography, literature, and folklore in one volume. Now in paperback, this visi ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Trinity University Press (first published September 15th 2006)
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Oct 18, 2013 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: geographers, writers
Per FTC guidelines, I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads giveaways.

I don't typically review books that I've not read all the way through, but this is certainly an exception worth making. This is basically an encyclopedia of geographic terms described by the literary world. As such, it's not the sort of book you sit down and read cover to cover. It is, however, entertaining to the point that you find yourself wandering across the pages, reading each entry as though it were
George Seaton
May 06, 2013 George Seaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book, especially for those who write about the land, about the American landscape. Those passionate about traveling rural America, and actually knowing what they're looking at, and reflecting upon those who have seen the same sites, and have written about what they've seen, well, this is an invaluable resource. Indeed, from the work--where authors and poets describe the American landscape, comes Lopez himself: "Whatever their styles and emphases, many American poets and novelists hav ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-geography
A "vocabulary of place", collected and written by writers. Many great literary references in the short definiitions and sidebar quotations.

Not just a geographic lexicon, a travel book and memoir of places to go to and places to have been from.
Dec 24, 2011 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This will probably remain forever on my "currently reading" list as it resembles an almanac or set of encyclopedias...something I'll be referencing for the rest of my life, sometimes because I'm searching for the meaning of a regionally specific geographical term (coulee, arroyo, hillock) and other times because I'll pick it up randomly and be blown away by the sheer poetry of it all.

If you spend time out of doors then you should own this book. If you don't, but you enjoy good writing or are a
Beckie Elgin
Mar 05, 2012 Beckie Elgin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves nature, words, and new places
Recommended to Beckie by: daughter, Hannah Hartsell
A Christmas gift from my daughter, Home Ground is a book I'll put to good use as long as I'm a writer and a connoisseur of nature. What an education, terms related to the environment that were new to me, as well as ones I knew but gained a deeper knowledge of. I loved that the entries came from dozens of writers, John Daniel, William Kittridge and Kim Barnes, to name a few. While I'm sure Debra Gwartney and Barry Lopez worked long and hard to put this text together, I imagine they had a great ti ...more
Jan 01, 2014 Rafe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We found this book by accident, roaming a bookstore, as one does. I'm so glad we picked it up. Each entry is a type of geographic or geological terminology -- esker, delta, moraine, etc. -- but instead of the book being a dry dictionary, the editors asked writers to create definitions based on their own responses to, and knowledges of, the words. The result is gorgeous, both a brilliant reference book and a reminder of the ineffable link between language and land. I will be "currently reading" f ...more
Aug 11, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As handy a reference book as I know. Here, authors and nature writers gather together to examine the language of the American landscape. The definitions (often with illustrations) explore both the etymology and application of the word according to writers who know their regions well. It's especially useful now as I'm rereading All the Pretty Horses, and I can't imagine finding more useful definitions of cienaga or bolson or any of the myriad terms McCarthy uses to describe the land of the Southw ...more
Jun 16, 2009 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Currently reading/(always reading?) Home Ground is a compendium of geographical references compiled by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney with input form ~40 incisive contemporary authors. Although it reads much like a geo-dictionary with a literary flavor... the next time you hear a reference to "a sense of place" turn to HomeGround to dig deeper into the physical contours that helped create that sense for the author... contributors include Kim Barnes, William Kittredge, Charles Frazier, Luis Alber ...more
John Orman
Apr 28, 2014 John Orman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a vocabulary of ways to describe the American landscape, with descriptive words in alphabetical order.

From "a'a'" to "zigzag rocks", pretty much all of it is in there, with entries written by William DeBuys, Barbara Kingsolver, Jon Krakauer, Bill McKibben, Kim Stafford, Arthur Sze, and Terry Tempest Williams.

If you are looking for different ways to word a commentary on landscape, this will be a great tool!
Lisa Lepore
Jan 15, 2008 Lisa Lepore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the introduction by Barry Lopez, this book is about the language that we (do not) use to speak about the land: "In concert with each other [the writers] wanted to suggest the breadth and depth of a language many of us still seek to use purposefully every day. Their intent was to celebrate and inform, and to point us toward the great body of work which they perused in their research and which, along with a life experience of their own, they brought into play to craft what they had to say."
Kristen Gunther
Feb 27, 2012 Kristen Gunther rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I do want to clarify that I have not read all of this cover to cover. That would be impossible, since I've owned it for less than 48 hours. However, I am totally enchanted with it -- the conceit, the execution, everything. The intro is wonderful, the quotes are wonderful, and every time you flip through a section it's like getting all these little gifts in the form of dispatches from X phenomenon, Y term, Z creek slang. A reference book in the best sense.
Jun 07, 2007 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves words and the land
Shelves: nature
This is another great resource and browsing book...a dictionary of words describing the land. All the entries were written by nature writers. So you get beautifully crafted sentences by, say, Barbara Kingsolver. And with Barry Lopez as one of the editors, need I say more?

My only quibble: I wish the actual book was smaller and more intimate. For a dictionary the text seems personal to me, and shouldn't be in such a large volume.
Kayla Kristine
I had really hoped, because of the impressive collection of writers involved, that this would be a more poetic collection of geographic terms.
Maggie Nowakowska
Aug 17, 2007 Maggie Nowakowska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Language for an American Landscape" Wonderful wonderful book for language fans who are into nature and history. 45 writers were asked to describe the lands where they live and they do so marvelously, going into details far beyond mere description. Another book that doesn't have to be read in one sitting, but which can wait for a person to grab a moment or two of enjoyment on the way through to some other activity.
Sep 10, 2014 Susannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: naturalist
After reading this for a few minutes every night before settling down to my main read (all bookworms will know this well - the amuse bouche read is very important), I reluctantly had to return it to the library. This book goes into the "buy" pile. A really wonderful compilation of literary interpretations of the land, with Barry Lopez's editorial supervision.
The size is a coffee table book, but the book itself is surprisingly intimate. It explores ways of describing landscapes through texts by different writers, and so is more than just a reference text/dictionary. Recommended for either writers or people who just enjoy the language of geography. It's also beautifully put together-- don't be put off by the heft.
Jan 06, 2009 Tuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
interesting for geography heads. has americanisms and local words for our landscapes. vega, flatiron, gulley, desire path, eddy, fly get the picture.
lots of contributors like barry lopez, Barbara Kingsolver, William Kittredge, Arturo Longoria, Jon Krakauer, Bill McKibben, Antonya Nelson, Luis Alberto Urrea and Joy Williams.
Aug 28, 2010 Kobeest rated it really liked it
i bought this book for my son and find myself picking it up quite often, reading an entry or two, and musing...there is always something to pique my interest and teach.

npr has readings from it that i catch from time to time, once in a while with the book at hand to read along.
Michael Seifert
Feb 08, 2016 Michael Seifert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I live in a geologically/geographically idiosyncratic place (on the Texas border by the sea--lower rio grande valley), this was a refreshing reminder that the world is so much bigger than my rather interesting small piece of it. . .delightful read, poetic.
Oct 18, 2007 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers
This is an indispensables resource for anyone writing anything that involves the physical landscape of the Americas. It's basically a dictionary of terms you'd find Cormac McCarthy using or others who write well about the American landscape.
Lovely book, in every sense of the word. I am using this book a lot in my current writing project and wishing I had a digital version. I want to carry it with me when I travel and the hardcover is so beautifully hefty.
Apr 07, 2010 Kyla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got as far as the "A's" but then I had to put it down -because I have to own it, I think. Like a literate geographical dictionary that makes you think about the rocks under your feet and the ones you grew up on.
Aug 19, 2008 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic
Stories and descriptions are combined to give the names of geological structures (i.e. landscapes) a poetic slant that makes a person see a hammock in a whole new light.
Jul 26, 2007 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a coffee table type book but very fun. Some beautiful phrases, some beautiful mental images of American landscape. A great book to own.
Sep 26, 2007 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Got this from Grant last Christmas -- lovely, poetic reference book for the place we call "creation".
Great book about the names for landforms that we don't remember anymore.
Like dells and swales.
Mathew Gross
Apr 25, 2012 Mathew Gross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must-have book for those interested in the intersection of language and nature.
Jul 21, 2008 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing and beautiful. I open the book to any page, start reading, and lose time.
Aug 20, 2007 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An awesome dictionary of landscape terms with an impressive list of contributors.
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Barry Holstun López is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its environmental and social concerns.

López has been described as "the nation's premier nature writer" by the San Francisco Chronicle. In his non-fiction, he frequently examines the relationship between human culture and physical landscape, while in his fiction he addresses issues of intimacy, ethics an
More about Barry López...

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