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Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  283 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Hailed by book reviewers as a "masterpiece," "gorgeous and fascinating," and "sheer pleasure," Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape was published in fall 2006 in hardcover. It was met with outstanding reviews and strong sales, going into three printings. A language-lover's dream, this visionary reference revitalized a descriptive language for the American landsc ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Trinity University Press (first published September 15th 2006)
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Dec 24, 2011 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
Kristen Gunther
Feb 26, 2012 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.
Alyson Hagy
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't finished HOME GOUND yet. It's a book to savor. But I know it's going to stay on a shelf in my study for a very long time. It connects my instincts about landscape to language. If gives context to words I've loved my whole life--cataract, playa, quagmire. It keeps the world both poetic and strange. A new encyclopedia for my imagination....
Uh boy. I really have no idea how to rate or even shelve this one.

I admit that I didn't read all of it. It's just not the kind of book you can sit down and read through. I thought it might be like MacFarland's Landmarks. Nope. It's almost as good as Landmarks in some ways, but very different format and style. It's more...encyclopedic? Dictionary-ish? List-y? Let's go with "reference book." It's a reference book full of wonderful descriptions of landscapes and things that make up landscapes. All
George Seaton
Apr 17, 2013 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
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Keith Taylor
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perennially useful book. It presents itself as a kind of dictionary, but it is one of landscape terms, some of which are shared and basic, others of which -- and they are the most interesting -- are deeply local, almost private. I read this book 13 years ago (see review linked below) but I return to it several times a year
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To say that I am finished with this book would be a lie. A wonderful collection of contributions from a variety of poets and authors on the terms used to describe nature across the American landscape, I can only say that this is magnificent. This guide is exemplary for those who write of the American landscape, for those who have traveled the regions and wish to bathe in the poetic description of these natural wonders, or for those wishing to travel the country and soak in its natural beauty.

I i
I didn't read straight through and didn't read the whole thing. This book is more of a life project in all good senses. The entries, all by writers and naturalists, are lyric testament to how knowing the words sharpens vision.
This is a book for nerds who love the outdoors and words.

If nuances in words are fun for you, and you enjoy reading about the outdoors, you may really like this.

If you don't like both of those things, this book will bore you to no end.
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its an encyclopedia of land terms. Although i did not agree with all of them, this helped me look at how I can use language to better describe the beautiful,world around me. “I’m not okay, but i will be”.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book to leaf through again and again and again. Really happy to have this at hand. A keeper
East To
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the names here - they read like a poem. Angostura to Zanja...
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really great reference book.
Scott Martin
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book bringing a new appreciation for how vocabulary and landscapes can elevate one another. And it is super fun and enjoyable to boot!
Patte Harding
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is full of words used to describe the American landscape as defined by a group of writers.
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. The concept, the execution, and the content are brilliantly done. Buy this book. You'll want to pick it up again and again.
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partly-read
I will be a long time reading this book. It's more of a reference book or a book in which to take a stroll and get lost wherever you like. I love it!!
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a wonderful surprise. It is essentially a dictionary of landscape-related terms, words with specialized geological, biological, or land use meanings. How exciting can it be to read a dictionary? But the 45 contributors draw from the pantheon of America's best writers and nature writers, including Gretel Erlich, Jan DeBlieu, Charles Frazier, Barbara Kingsolver, Ellen Meloy, Luis Alberto Urrea, and a bunch of other folks I didn't know. The definitions are accurate, but also grounded i ...more
Beckie Elgin
Mar 05, 2012 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
Jason Zimmerman
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book for those who love land. Not just the majestic peaks of high mountain ranges or grandeur of deep western canyons, but also the subtle gradations of the seemingly mundane. It is a book for those who pay attention to the world around them. "Home Ground" is structured as a glossary, but is not strictly a reference work; there is a enough scientific and technical information to satisfy, but the beauty of this work are the literary and cultural references sprinkled througho ...more
Aug 11, 2008 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
Feb 23, 2009 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
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 07, 2007 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.
Maggie Nowakowska
"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.
El L
Jan 15, 2008 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."
John Orman
Mar 16, 2014 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!
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 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.
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Barry Holstun Lopez is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its environmental and social concerns.

Lopez 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

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