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Nathan Coulter

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  1,434 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews
Nathan Coulter begins Wendell Berry's sequence of novels about the citizens of Port William, Kentucky- a setting that is taking its place alongside Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, and Winesburg, Ohio, as one of our most distinctive and recognizable literary locales.
Paperback, 180 pages
Published April 1st 1985 by North Point Press (first published 1960)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
”Grandpa had owned his land and worked on it and taken his pride from it for so long that we knew him, and he knew himself, in the same way that we knew the spring. His life couldn’t be divided from the days he’d spent at work in his fields. Daddy had told us we didn’t know what the country would look like without him at work in the middle of it; and that was as true of Grandpa as it was of Daddy. We wouldn’t recognize the country when he was dead."

There is this moment in time, with proper longe
Nathan Coulter: Wendell Berry's Creation of the Port William Community

This novel was chosen as the Moderator's Choice by Laura Webber, "The Tall Woman", for On the Southern Literary Trail for December, 2014.

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4a time to weep, and a time t
Diane S ☔
Nov 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I think one of the best compliments one can pay an author is to say I felt like I was right there, in Port Williams his made up town, and with Nathan and all his other characters. I felt like I was with them walking through the woods, fishing and coon hunting. At the fair watching Uncle Burly and his ducks, picking tobacco and watching the fight between his brother and father.

The book opens with Nathan and his older brother always together, and then felt the anguish of Nathan as his brother out
A reverence for the land is evident in Wendell Berry's first novel, set in the fictional Port William. Narrated by Nathan Coulter, this is a 1930s coming-of-age story of a boy in a Kentucky family who grow tobacco on a riverside farm. Nathan's father and grandfather are hard men whose lives revolve around working the farm, driving themselves and their family members. The tension between the fathers and sons is broken by Uncle Burley, a relaxed nurturing man, whose vices provide a humorous contra ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When life is work, the rest of the details have to fit around the long days spent farming tobacco, hunting racoons, and fishing. That's basically what this book is, and well written.

I have always meant to read Wendell Berry and would like to read more.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
A nice break from the typical coming of age books I tend to read that have hard lines; journeys that spiral into dysfunctional behavior. This book hits the same points probably, it just does so in a "days gone by" way.

Nathan Coulter is a young man growing up in the transitional period where likely the agrarian lifestyle is waning into a more industrial one. His strongest influences include (in increasing order) his father, his grandparents, and his Uncle Burley (and associates). Lessons from al
Diane Barnes
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I think I love Wendell Berry's books so much because they always make me feel like there's much more to life than my petty little concerns. Nature girl I am not, but even just reading about the working of the land, the turning of the seasons, and good people maintaining connections with land and family makes me feel the whole "circle of life" thing. It sounds like such a cliché, but it's real. As Uncle Burley comments on a day when an old woman dies and a baby is born: "They put one under, and p ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like William Faulkner Wendell Berry created his own patch of fictional land and started to people it with his personages.
The colourful characters of Nathan Coulter are the first literary settlers in this land.
“They’ll grieve in this old land until you’d think they were going to live on it forever, then grieve some more because they know damn well they’re not going to live on it forever. And nothing’ll stop them but a six-foot hole.”
The book is a brilliant coming-of-age story – a very special tal
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this very short novel made up of five chapters, but the only thing holding it together is the title character. Each chapter is a vignette describing an event or scene in the young boy's life. I suppose it is a coming of age piece, at least that is what the fly leaf says. If you like Southern literature, this just might be your cup of sour mash.
Nov 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nathan Coulter is a novel about growing up yes, but more importantly about how we grow into the land and our relationship to Nature. It’s a novel about accepting this land legacy or not for working with the land brings responsibilities and sacrifice; it necessitates unflinching dedication and this process can’t be rushed because if there is one thing that we can be certain of it is that our time to own it, work it and lead offspring along its arduous path will come when it is meant to not before ...more
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Tells of the coming of age of Nathan Coulter, who grew up to marry one of my favorite Port William residents, Hannah Feltner (Coulter.) Berry doesn't sugarcoat the life of a farmer pre-World War Two, but he portrays it with a great deal of respect and dignity. After Nathan's mother dies, he and his brother are sent to live with their grandparents on the neighboring farm. Nathan is profoundly influenced by his idiosyncratic, free-spirited Uncle Burley (one of Berry's best characters.)

This is one
Aug 27, 2012 rated it liked it
More like 3.5 stars (and again, Goodreads, please update your software--a 3.5 is vastly different from a 3).

Kind of interesting to go back and read some of Berry's earlier stuff. Next to Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter, Nathan Coulter--in my opinion--does not compare. Doesn't have that sleepy quality; in fact, it seems almost cut up and choppy. Never felt like I knew Nathan as I did Jayber and Hannah. If anything, Burley steals the show.

Whatever the case, I press on with reading the rest of Ber
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Exactly what I needed this week, being one of the busiest weeks of the year. An account of a portion of Nathan's life and his family relationships. A very relaxing read. Superb story telling.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wendell Berry is quite a unique writer, at least in my experience. His characters are always so tied to the land, it makes sense that Berry ended up writing a whole lot of books about the people of a fictional place, Port William.

This is the first of the Port William books, and although I'm not sure of the chronology of the story itself, I'm pretty sure Nathan Coulter wouldn't be the first book in the series. But I'm choosing to read them in the order in which they were written, because I'm as i
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2017
I'm rounding up from 2.5 stars rather than rounding down simply because I didn't want to join the 32 ratings out of 2,080 to come before me that gave this less than 3 stars. This isn't a bad book, but I never could get into it, and I love a good coming-of-age story as much as anyone. Every time I've seen a quote from Wendell Berry, I've found it brilliant and/or inspiring. I do plan on checking out some of his essays and am acknowledging that this was his first novel.
Paul Counts
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was my first experience with Wendell Berry. What a treat!! Berry doesn’t just write, he composes. I spent the first 14 years of my life in a 200 year old farm house in the middle of a large central Kentucky farm. My playgrounds were the woods and fields, the streams, pounds and creeks. My friends the farm animals and household pets. When I read Berry I am transported back to another time and place. I am reminded of the mystery and magic found in the simple things and the darkness and fear t ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Tricia Culp
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-fiction
I just love Wendell Berry. Nourishing and beautiful.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: great-stuff
Another great book by Wendell Berry. He's one of my all time favorites.
This felt a bit like reading a lengthy story that’s kind of like “The Waltons”, but maybe an HBO version of that show. There’s not so much HBO-worthy sex, but there is a bit of that, and the boys can be meaner and more violent than the family hour network show would have allowed. (If you like ducks, you will have a problem with this book.) I enjoyed the book, a coming of age story that contained well-drawn characters and wonderful description of the land and the times. Berry writes some of his c ...more
A tiny bit disappointing so soon after having read _Hannah Coulter_, which was so beyond five-point stellar that it would be hard to match it. But by the end of this one, it had well earned the four stars I gave it. Set much earlier in time than _Hannah_, _Nathan_ (who later in life became Hannah's second husband) tells of life in Port William KY from a youngster's point of view, as he's soon coming of age. We see his relationships with his brother, parents, uncle, wider small community, and mos ...more
Joel Pinckney
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book, but I think my least favorite of Berry's fiction (a true testament to him that it still gets four stars). This story tells of much of the childhood of Nathan Coulter, whose story is told further in Hannah Coulter. One interesting element of this book: I think it presents characters that are the least likable of any Berry that I've read so far. Part of Berry's greatness is in the characters he creates and the way they draw you into themselves. That's certainly the case in this novel ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book describes life in rural Kentucky during the depression years of the 1930's. Wendell Berry is such a skilled writer, so even this story of an often stark life was a pleasure to read, except for the occasional cruelty to animals by the men and boys--that was not easy to read. But from reading other works by Berry, I think he was depicting life as it truly was. The other strong element in the lives of these rural people was the loyalty and strong bonds between family, and sometimes friend ...more
Jon Biggerstaff
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Berry wields profundity amongst the simple things. Earth, hard work, family. Not a lot happens and when it does Berry does not sensationalize it. Rather he causes the reader to focus less on the event and more on an underlying meaning, like this paragraph -- "While daylight came we sat and looked at the black pile of ashes. We hadn't accepted the fire; we'd been able to fight that as long as it burned. But now, in the daylight, in our tiredness, as if we'd fought all night in a dream, we accepte ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a rich story full of description and beautiful writing. I always enjoy stories set in our country's history, especially in Appalachia, the south and rural America. My grandson has recommended this author from rural Kentucky, not far from Louisville. I googled the area and absorbed the sense of the culture, the hard working farming area. This book is the story of a young boy and his family as he come to terms with life and death, with family values.

I have most of Wendell Berry's book here n
Thing Two
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: state-kentucky
Reminds me a lot of reading Ferrol Sams. His work has been compared to writings by Sherwood Anderson. Like sitting at the feet of your old Southern grandfather and listening to him yarn, except I didn't have an old Southern grandfather ...
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Wonderful writing. More than another coming of age story. The series of vignettes that make up the book piece together a landscape portrait of rural life in early 20th Century Kentucky. We know the land, the rivers, the wildlife and the people. The story unfolds slowly against this sometimes harsh, sometimes pastoral background. Part Faulkner. Part Stegner. Part the land. Beautiful and moving. Thanks for the recommendation William!!
Oct 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This first in the Port William, Kentucky series is about Nathan's boyhood. Having already read Hannah Coulter, I am now ready to try some of the in-between books. Berry is a wonderful writer. His descriptions slide in amongst the tales of Burleigh Coulter to his young nephews and carry you away to another time and place.
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
I don't know for sure why I am giving this book four stars. A quiet, slow, brutal-but-still-hopeful-and-not-graphic, real coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in Kentucky. Not much action, but a good, satisfying read.
David Kern
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Second reading. Great as ever.

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On the Southern L...: December 2014, Nathan Coulter, by Wendell Berry 29 57 Dec 31, 2014 12:11PM  
  • River of Earth
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  • The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
  • The Kentuckians (Kentuckians, #1)
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  • Poachers
  • Wolf Willow
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
More about Wendell Berry...

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“Uncle Burley said hills always looked blue when you were far away from them. That was a pretty color for hills; the little houses and barns and fields looked so neat and quiet tucked against them. It made you want to be close to them. But he said that when you got close they were like the hills you’d left, and when you looked back your own hills were blue and you wanted to go back again. He said he reckoned a man could wear himself out going back and forth.” 1 likes
“Grandpa’s farm had belonged to our people ever since there had been a farm in that place, or people to own a farm. Grandpa’s father had left it to Grandpa and his other sons and daughters. But Grandpa had borrowed money and bought their shares. He had to have it whole hog or none, root hog or die, or he wouldn’t have it at all.” 0 likes
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