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Practice of the Wild

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,263 ratings  ·  117 reviews

The nine captivatingly meditative essays in The Practice of the Wild display the deep understanding and wide erudition of Gary Snyder in the ways of Buddhist belief, wildness, wildlife, and the world. These essays, first published in 1990, stand as the mature centerpiece of Snyder’s work and thought, and this profound collection is widely accepted as one of the central tex

Paperback, 190 pages
Published September 20th 1990 by North Point Press (first published 1990)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  2,263 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, reviewed
Mmmmm, Gary Snyder. I was first gifted this book by my best friend (since we were three years old!) as I was leaving a long vacation stay with her in Yosemite, where she had a cabin in the Valley because she was essential personnel and at that time they were housed there. You could hear The Falls and see the meadow from different sides of the cabin. Yosemite is the most gorgeous place I've ever been. With her or with friends of hers or at times alone I hiked, scrambled and ambled over every inch ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gary is not an armchair ecologist. He earned his title, Poet Laureate of Deep Ecology, by cutting line on wildfires, losing himself in wilderness, reading science and the great poets of Japan and China, and winnowing the wheat from the chaff by diving into Void.

In this seminal, important collection he writes of the etiquette of freedom, and how that relates to wildness. He has learned Nature's great lesson: that wilderness, and wild mind, are not chaotic and out of control, but self-governing.
Walter Michalski
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We absolutely live in a society
Nic King
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A perpetual evil has been at work destroying the nurturing, life-endowing planet, stripping it of its resources since the fifth century with the rise of small cities. Humans began to detach themselves from nature, associating the wild with a negative connotation. The idea that nature as sacred shortly existed during the Romantic period and throughout the ten years after this book was written humanity once again sees nature as something worth protecting, preserving, and connecting with.
This curr
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm going to put my hands up and say, sorry Gary, it's not you it's me, well maybe it is a little bit you. I wanted to love this so much more (not just because it is one of my wife's favourite books). This is clearly a hugely important, far-reaching, and profound treatise on what the wilderness means, the myths and practices surrounding the wild that continue to inform us and the lessons we ought to learn from them. Snyder writes compassionately, with wisdom and eloquence, and the essays combine ...more
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are some gems here which are examples of exceptional writing. But as a whole Snyder is a better poet (read Turtle Island) than an expository writer.

The sections on logging and forestry during his youth in Washington state were the best written and most enlightening. Logging is very personal to him. He also returned to this theme, several times, of how Europeans over a millennia destroyed the Mediterranean ecosystem. A precursor to what Americans were doing.

Snyder spent many years (in the
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gary Snyder has profound things to say about the wild, about recognizing our wildness, and a fair amount about Buddhist teachings.
Tim Weakley
Snyder has, in this collection of essays, written from the heart and the soul about his passion for the wild places. I am not a wilderness type, but reading this book makes plain his passion and spiritual commitment. I placed this book on my Buddhist shelf as well because of the author's repeated touching on those principles with regards to the wild. It has a real sense of thusness about it. ...more
Gary Snyder is one of my all-time favorite writers. He is concise and personable. His point of view is pragmatic without being overt. His love for the wild and for people and our personal responsibility to both comes through.
Tim Weed
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first read this essay collection decades ago I found it revelatory. Re-reading it, I can see why I thought that. It really was a formative book for me and, more broadly speaking, I like to think it may be one of the most important books of the 20th century. It did feel less revelatory on this read-through, which I take as an indication that I've internalized whatever it was that hit me so hard all those years ago. If so, that's good news.

If you haven't read these essays, you really must!
Jimmy Quenelle
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Gary Snyder has long been one of my favorite poets. His calls to incorporate neolithic wisdom in our modern lives are important. Snyder has long fostered a deep sense of place in his works. It's a delight for me to read Snyder's prose, which is colored by the fact that he is primarily a poet. He has an amazingly extensive body of work, from his Rip Rap and Cold Mountain Poems in 1956 to his Pulitzer Prize winning Turtle Island (1975) to this book, which is a literary culmination of the world vie ...more
Elena Kazarov
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was so hard to read, but so necessary. I read it slowly because the book invites you to reflect, and I had to let the words sink in and let my mind go all the places Snyder takes us. The long view of humans' relationship with the Earth made me even sadder than I already was about the state of our planet. That's a warning for those suffering environmental depression, but I don't regret it. Very thought provoking and fresh -- every sentence was something new to me. Wish I could make everyone ...more
Robert Dietrich
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Foundational book for me. Snyder's ideas regarding nature, wildness and wilderness should inform our national conversation regarding environmental policies. Which is not to suggest this is dry, academic stuff, on the contrary, it has wisdom flying off of every page. It speaks to the human condition and it's relation to, and reliance on, the non-human. One you can return to over and over again and gain something different each time. ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
West Coast zen + Eastern philosophy + PNW nature writing + hard ecology idealism + esoteric Japanese poetry + personal anecdotes + beat phrasing + Native American mythology + advocacy + moral outrage + regionalism = Gary Snyder.

Not that he's a formula, but, you know.

He's his own genre, folks.
Tom Morgan
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the best book I've ever read. ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved hearing the voice of a naturalist and Buddhist who also worked as a logger. This was the first Gary Snyder work I’ve read and will definitely pick up another.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Critique of Gary Snyder’s writing feels like a sacrilege against the beauty of letters, nature and the elders. Not knowing if he deems me worthy of such relationship, he makes himself a point to assume the position of the grandfather I never had: My own grandparents certainly didn’t tell us stories around the campfire before we went to sleep. Their house had an oil furnace instead, and a small library. So the people of civilization read books. For som
Ooi Ghee Leng
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Snyder's "Practice of the Wild" is an important book, similar to the kind of which you initiate a teen into adulthood, and in Snyder's thesis, he works to initiate the mind to freedom, wilderness, and what it means to be human. Snyder interweaves Buddhist texts, Asian poems and koans, American publications on nature, scholar texts on human psyche and psychology, bioregionality, anthropology, and tribal myths into a singular tour de force on how we humans, indeed, should practice, and so practice ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The same week I was reading this book I was trekking the St. Mary's riverbank daily and watching the progress of a huge tunnel sewer project that's supposed to stop our city from pouring untreated sewage into the river. Two of the three huge bald cypress trees that were brilliantly planted by the parks dept. in a low lying spring flood area were gone, bulldozed into oblivion. I could still smell them even though all that was left was a raw gaping maw where they'd been. My immediate response was ...more
Daniel Elder
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful essays by poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder, informed by a lifetime spent learning from and honoring First Peoples, practicing as a Buddhist, and living near and exploring wilderness, especially that of North America. The tone he strikes here—something at the intersection of scientific wisdom and spiritual reverence—sat really well with me. It felt right. I have trouble imagining, for myself, a reverence for the earth without a spiritual dimension. He comes across as a cheeky trick ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: deep-thoughts
A diverse and interesting melange of essays that is part memoir, poetry, and philosophy about man and his relationship to the natural world. There are elements from China, Japan, and Native American cultures. It's like a Zen Thoreau. The essays at times seem unrelated to each other but at other times you can sense a seam uniting them. This book was written over twenty years ago and I wonder how the author feels now as it seems his message has been completely ignored. This is one of those books t ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read practice of the wild and now I’m growing my own herbs and trying to grow an avocado tree!

I liked this novel a lot. At times it was a bit to technical and I’m not a big fan of Gary Snyder his prose, BUT this book made me think about our relationship with nature and it motivated to learn more about the fauna and flora of my own area.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another nature read. I met Gary Snyder in the 70s and 80s in SF and at UC Davis and was more tuned into his poetry. Reading these essays helps me reconnect with nature and how makes me sad for the people who are so disconnected from the environment
Eric Baerren
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The best of this kind of writing leaves one adoring to become a rock by a river, sitting and locked in thought as the body slowly modified and becomes one with its surroundings. This book succeeds.
Jim Minick
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many powerful and beautiful essays here.
Jeff D
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The preeminent beat poet takes a look at human presence on Earth, reminding us of our guest status and the fact that we are neither alone or in control.
For a book written 30 years ago from a US PNW point of view, it has aged remarkably well and is applicable to practicaly any region of the world. Same of my favoruite quotes from the book:

*Why should the peculiarities of human consciousness be the narrow standard by which other creatures are judged

*Nationalism... the grinning ghost of the lost community

*It is not nature-as-chaos which threatens us, but the State's presumption that it has created order. Nature is orderly. That which appears to be
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Maybe it's because of too high expectations (built on the dozens of appreciative mentions by other environmental thinkers), but this book somehow didn't resonate with me. I couldn't help comparing it to David Abram's writings which always stir my blood. Whereas reading Synder's essays didn't move me at all and sometimes I even had to force myself to read further.

But maybe the expectations weren't too high, just misplaced. I probably expected more rigorous academic philosophy type of writing (an
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A series of beautiful and profound reflections on nature and wilderness, with particular emphasis on what we can learn from the experiences of pre-industrial cultures. For instance, I learned a lot about traditional Japanese culture.

I read the book for our church's upcoming Advent series "Voices in the Wilderness" but also found it affirming some of my teaching on Wendell Berry in my Philosophical Ethics class.
Noosh Baggins
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyed numerous parts of the book, especially ruminations on Buddhism. A lot of it was very specific to places and fauna in the Pacific northwest that I had a hard time understanding or relating to. The Deep Ecology mindset felt noble and commendable, and I liked the emphasis on the importance of community and connection. That said, the book didn't totally grab me overall, and parts felt a bit meandering and random. ...more
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Gary Snyder is an American poet (originally, often associated with the Beat Generation), essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Since the 1970s, he has frequently been described as the 'laureate of Deep Ecology'. From the 1950s on, he has published travel-journals and essays from time to time. His work in his various roles reflects his im ...more

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