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On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, Author of Silent Spring

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  770 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movement. She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transforme ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Crown (first published January 1st 2012)
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Elaine Burnes
Apr 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
I give five stars for Rachel Carson and three stars for this biographer.

First, know that I’m no Rachel Carson scholar. I’ve read Silent Spring and this biography, and that’s about it. I don’t usually even read biographies, I’m more likely to read a person’s own words about themselves. Sure they’ll tell you only what they want you to know, but at least you get that much.

Everyone views the world through their specific lens. We can’t help but put our own spin on things. Often in reading this, I f
Description: Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movementShe loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.

Rachel Carson began work on Silent Spring in the late 1950s, when a dizz
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I was excited to find this book. I read Silent Spring when I was a youth and I decided I wanted to go to Woods' Hole and to become a marine biologist (btw - that didn't happen). Carson was a great heroine when there were not many of them for young women. That being said, I didn't like the book. I don't think the author liked Carson. The book was dull and many of the stories about and descriptions of Carson where somewhere between mean and unflattering. He pointed out that her hair style wasn't s ...more
Sharon Stoneman
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Fascinating woman, uneven biography. While I knew Carson's name and the importance of 'Silent Spring', I knew nothing about the woman or her context. I'm glad to know more about her and the times in which she was writing. The 50th anniversary of the publication of 'Silent Spring' seems like a good time to revisit Carson, her book and her life. Her concerns about the environment and what we are doing to it - and it to us - are as relevant now as when Carson was writing.

However.... I found much t
Mikey B.
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An eloquently written book on a most eloquent individual – Rachel Carson.

She was a strongly motivated person who strove constantly to educate herself. She came from a modest background and attended college by loans and taking a lien on the property her parents owned. She was raised inland in the state of Pennsylvania – but when she first saw the Atlantic coast she immediately fell in love with the seashore and spent most of her life within proximity of the coast. She was enamored of nature and
Brian Griffith
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals, ecology
This account focuses on the person who unleashed a vast movement. Souder recounts Carson's girlhood, her literary and scientific heroes, and the best friendships of her life. Only a few pages outline the chain of events following her death, as her insights drove changes in the law. The aim is to convey how Carson's unique combination of poetic wonder, moral purpose, and scientific acumen emerged amid the circumstances of her life. Slowly the portrait forms of a quiet, unpretentious watcher of ou ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
On a Farther Shore is a very well researched and insightful analysis of Rachel Carson's writing career. I was not aware that she had a huge following prior to the publication of Silent Spring, which is one of the reasons she was able to gather such wide readership for her landmark work on the ecological effects of biocides. As a wannabe natural history writer myself, I found it comforting to read that this heroine in the field of science writing also described the process as laborious and stress ...more
Don Gagnon
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: carson, biography
I recommend this outstanding biography, in which Souder, providing insightful contexts, cites paragraphs from Carson’s works, both her beautiful sea trilogy—poetically written guides on natural history and life in the sea—and her highly influential Silent Spring and related environmental writings that shared serious concerns about the indiscriminate use of pesticides and industry disinformation with the American public and the world.
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An in depth look at the life of environmentalist, Rachael Carson – well researched and well written. She worked hard to educate the world about the balance of nature and the disaster mankind can thoughtlessly cause by the overuse of pesticides. It's all connected. Don't pull at the loose threads without expecting the whole sweater of life on earth to unravel. ...more
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't know how everyone else does it, but I don't seem to have any consistent method of choosing which review requests to accept, and which I decline. I have, on a few different occasions, attempted to come up with a "scientific" apparatus to make those decisions for me, but I tend to throw those misguided attempts right out the window. Instead I tend to pick my review books based on if the subject/premise interests me or if I have an emotional reaction to the idea of reading the book. I'm hop ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-2014, biography
I must acknowledge right up front, that I have a bias, in favor of Rachel Carson (1907-1964). I remember reading her “Under the Sea-Wind” published in 1941 and I was in high school when “The Sea Around Us” published in 1951 and “The Edge of the Sea” in 1955, came out and I avidly read. I will admit that it was these books and her various magazine and newspaper article that triggered my interest in science and set me off on a career in science. I was in college when “Silent Spring” came out in Se ...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Souder is a biography of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson. On a Farther Shore is being published on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring. It seems to me that everyone should know who Rachel Carson is and what Silent Spring was about, but, much to my surprise, that is not the case. With its publication in 1962 Silent Spring exposed the dangers of DDT to the general public and really set into motion the b ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am ashamed to admit that I am a biologist/ecologist who has never read Silent Spring. Thanks to every professor ever, I know that Rachel Carson was the impetus for the movement that passed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act. I was fascinated to learn that she did not finish her PhD and had a boring government job, just like me! But she had 3 bestselling books. She also had cancer and angina, and died when she was only 56. Souder treats Carson with kindness, ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography of one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Souder includes a lot of contextual information about people and events during Carson's lifetime, so the reader can better understand the development of her beliefs and her writing. Do not skip the Epilogue. It details the government response to the widespread environmental concerns sparked by the publication of Silent Spring, including the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. It also discus ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I started reading this just because I couldn’t get my hands on “Silent Spring” and I was not disappointed.
Book covers most of Rachel Carson’s life and more closely progress and impact of her work. The author provides vast context for every turn which is very helpful but can be at times annoying and on rare occasions speculative (as in and i’m paraphrasing ‘miss Carson has never seen that movie but she would have supported the message behind it’). At most other times the very detailed retelling o
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had gotten this book from the library...but decided to buy a copy. This is definitely a good read! William Souder makes the history of her life come alive! I had no idea she did some of her writings in the Woods Hole library! I spent 8 weeks at Woods Hole one summer. In retrospect, I am in awe that I lived in the same spaces that she did! Wow!

History--nuclear fallout from tests in the 50's together with tests from Fish and Wildlife on pesticides--brought together a word of caution about misuse
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting biography about Rachel Carson. I was surprised by some things about her personality and her passions. One of her greatest passions was writing and being an author. I always envisioned her as a scientist type first.She was a bit more a difficult personality than I imagined based on the documentary I watched last year about her. This book provided fascinating information about DDT and about our government's hope to rid the U.S. of pesky insects. No surprises here regarding the chemi ...more
Lorrie Savoy
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book through Goodreads Firstreads. I had heard a bit about the book on a radio show and was intrigued by it. Souder does a good job of combining biography with cultural context which helps the reader truly understand the impact of Silent Spring. Some of the connections are not clear at first so at times you find yourself reading about a scientist who studied another scientist who liked Hitler and you've completely lost track of Carson. Still, a solid overview of the lif ...more
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the 50+ years since Silent Spring was written a lot hasn't changed in regards to the same tactics used by various gropus invested with chemicals and the like . This biography of Rachel Carson's life was fascinating as I did not know much about her prior to reading this book. It was a tragedy that her life was cut short and her doctors should have been sued for incompetency. I felt that the author tried to gloss over her 'friendship' with Dorothy Freeman. Overall a nice introduction to Rachel ...more
Feisty Harriet
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Only about one third of this book is an actual biography of Rachel Carson, and it's not super well written. The rest is mini biographies of people in her life, mostly men, some who support her research and writing, some who she admires, and some who oppose her. So, why four stars? Well, because Rachel Carson deserves 10 stars, that's why. I can't help it that this William Souder fellow is a poor biographer. I hope I can find another biography of her, and I'm interested in reading the books she w ...more
MK Gavin
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
It was as much a wonderful thought-provoking biography as it was an introduction to the history of environmentalism, and it was equally compelling on both counts for me to continue reading. I would absolutely recommend it.
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist
Really rewarding to find out more abt one of the most important women of the 20th century. The book can be dry at times but hang in there, as it is worthwhile to explore the non-traditional life of a brilliant and influential woman who was a major player in founding the environmental movement.
Suzanne Auckerman
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I must admit I never read Silent Spring nor knew much about Rachel Carson. What an amazing person! And whatawell written biography. Now I need to read her books.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's really interesting to learn about the woman behind the public persona. One of the most interesting biographies I've read. ...more
Jeremy Fisher
I grew up well after Carson's time, and I was hoping for some background on her character and historical background. However, After reading this work, I still lack a deep appreciation of either. I understand that her fighting chemical companies while fighting cancer was courageous, but I do not (yet) understand why others have said that Carson is their hero.

I read this book because Lear's work (of which I only read the first chapter) embarked on too many tangents; However, this book falls into t
John Behle
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
A true two star--it was OK. I was glad when I closed that back cover, as it drags in parts. It is long. Souder also more than fleshes out his background chapters, he borders on the Micheneresque in painting the oh-so-wide canvas for this bio/social anthropology.

This work does tell the story of Carson's famed "Silent Spring." Many people think they know about this now legendary work, it has become a book often mentioned, often cited, name-dropped in conversation, but seldom really read.

The deve
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
every review of this book calls it well-researched. it is that. it is exhaustive in it's detail ... or is that exhausting?

i can't remember when i first heard of Rachel Carson. i really can't remember a time when i didn't know her name -and although i've never read Silent Spring- i knew of it and the profound role it played in getting D.D.T. banned. so i thought it high time i learn about this woman. unfortunately, i feel like i am still waiting to know her. this book did little to bring her to
Nov 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I am rating this book only with 3 stars because the editing was so bad. The author included lots of information that could have been left out of the book. I once did not read any of this book for several days & when I started reading it again I was reading something so irrelevant I had to look at the title page to make sure I was reading the Rachel Carson book! I still found the book very informative & recommend it.
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Such a great subject for a biography, very extensively researched, and I learned a ton about Rachel Carson. But the author digresses into tangentially related topics frequently and often at length, so it was hard to stay absorbed in Carson's life story. I also wish he'd spent more time discussing her work's long-term impact. ...more
Interesting and informative. I appreciated the portrait of Carson as a person and as a writer. I found the chapters on her influences to be mind-numbingly detailed, as well as chapters on radiation and pesticides. I think this is especially true for an audio book, and I might not have minded so much were I reading instead of listening.
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Read It Forward: * ON A FARTHER SHORE by William Souder 10 13 Oct 23, 2012 06:03AM  

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William Souder’s books include biographies of John Steinbeck, Rachel Carson (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) and John James Audubon (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). He lives in Grant, Minnesota.

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