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The Abstract Wild

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  273 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
If anything is endangered in America it is our experience of wild nature—gross contact. There is knowledge only the wild can give us, knowledge specific to it, knowledge specific to the experience of it. These are its gifts to us.

How wild is wilderness and how wild are our experiences in it, asks Jack Turner in the pages of The Abstract Wild. His answer: not very wild. Na
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by University of Arizona Press
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Richard Reese
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In 1964, plans were being discussed for the creation of the Canyonlands National Park, near Moab, Utah. Some wanted to include the Maze in the park. The Maze is a stunning network of desert canyons, and it was extremely inaccessible at that time. Few living people had ever seen it.

Jack Turner and his buddy were young rock-climbing adventure hogs. Their plan was to fly into the Maze, land the plane on a long-abandoned bulldozer scrape, take some cool photos, and sell them to National Geographic .
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Great message in this thin book. The author is not a great writer but can be very good at using his own style to convey layered and, yes, abstract, opinions on the reasons why our sense of the wild is changing as a species. It takes some concentration to follow him, but it's worth the effort. It's a great companion book to read before or after "Into the Wild". The author does a fine job elaborating on a simple principle: we aren't outraged about the destruction of wild places because we are divo ...more
Chad Zmolek
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the spirit of Thoreauvian insight, it questions our lack of connection to the wild and what it means to our very being -- including rants on the farce that current "wilderness" is set up to create in its place. This is deep ecology.
Christian Kiefer
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ranty and angry throughout but I loved it anyway. We need more angry environmentalists, says I.
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jack Turner ties eight passionate Nature-loving essays together in this book with Thoreau's theme, "in Wildness is the preservation of the world." With brilliant anger he makes war on abstractions, our ways of thinking we know that separate us from the Wild and either stem from or lead to a desire to control the world, all of it. Nature shows a genius for organizing for transformation through catastrophe, he says. Perhaps this is why we seek power over it. We think through knowledge we can have ...more
Rod Endacott
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this I felt deeply resonant with his thoughts on wildness and how it is pretty much a thing of the past . . .
Maybe the cosmos is wild? But the wild I grew up knowing on Vancouver Island in the 1950's, is gone, and having hiked some of the USA's west and southwest, it's gone there too.
I don't see a future without wild. Good to share Jack Turner's words/spirit in these times. Love for the wild is life for us, and it is about to be gone.
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wild-bc
What is your experience and definition of wildness? Turner makes an impassioned case that it's not identical with wilderness. I have a clearer picture of the choices and impacts humans have made.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Turner's writing inspires me to be more gutsy in what I say and mean. I'd give 5 stars for the titled essay alone.
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This powerful collection of essays belongs in the hands of any person who spends their free time outdoors. Jack Turner has compiled eight essays that navigate the complicated and changing relationship between society and wilderness/"wildness".

He is definitely an angry, cranky and passionate pair to Edward Abbey. And, while the spirit of his thematic exploration may be similar to some of Abbey's, the sense of urgency to get out and experience wildness as a reality instead of an abstract is much g
Liz Lockerby
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-challenge
Turner has a very in-depth knowledge of both the natural world and our effect on it. He is able to relate this knowledge in a way that cultivates empathy and a desire to go experience his version of the Wild - a tantalizing quality that is present in the more visceral moments of life.

He presents a modern world that has, in many ways, suffered a sort of sundering from the true wild, and wilderness, that made up such an important part of our ancestors' lives. It is a bleak outlook that highlights
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I came to Jack Turner through an interview in Sun Magazine. “The Abstract Wild” is a broad, more detailed representation of the thoughts expressed in that article.

Turner is an interesting writer, one who admits to having been pushed by friends to write and share his philosophies. And though these essays can be tinged with anger at times (which Turner points out himself) his argument makes so much sense it’s a wonder he isn’t screaming throughout the entire book. “Something vast and old is vanis
Frank Bierbrauer
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the very best non-fiction books I've ever read. It is one of the top three which also includes: The Wholeness of Nature by Henri Bortoft and Animal Forms and Patterns by Adolf Portmann.

This book by Turner, a Rocky Mountain guide, is a set of essays on "the wild", what it means to people, what it means to corporations and what it truly is. It is still the best book I've ever read on the wild. What it means to be in the wild in a truly visceral way, in that deep down in your guts way, in t
John Fredrickson
This was a terrific and unexpected find. I did not, and still do not, know anything about the author, but this will change. I use a 5-star rating to indicate that this is a book to return to for another read.

The book starts out with a passionate exploration of what it means to be wild and how this relates to our wilderness lands. We tend to fence off 'wilderness', making it contained and more safe, but this diminishes what it means to be wild. The author discusses Thoreau and what Thoreau makes
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Linda by: read an interview of the author in "The Sun" magazine
This is not a long book in the manner of pages but it is an important and visionary book of man's relationship to Nature. It is a sad and terrifying book if you love the wildness of lands and all that it offers to the world. The author carefully creates a portrait of what humans have done to Nature, the environment and the planet. How we have destroyed the wildness that was once so abundant on the planet and how we have turned our backs on the ethics of meeting Nature halfway. This is a book I c ...more
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book - reminiscent of the language of Gary Snyder and the philosophy of Neil Evernden. It makes a person want to be more wild.

"Because effective protest is grounded in anger, and we are not (consciously) angry. Anger nourishes hope and fuels rebellion, it presumes a judgement, presumes how things ought to be and aren’t, presumes a caring. Emotion remains the best evidence of belief and value. Unfortunately, there is little connection between our emotions and the wild" (p.21).
May 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In The Abstract Wild, Jack Turner explores the human relationship with nature (or rather, our increasingly diminished relationship). His descriptions of personal experiences--in lonely Utah canyons, on Grand Teton summits, and in various encounters with mountain lions--lend power to his philosophy and arguments. He has set my mind spinning, and placed questions in my heart about how I want to live in this world. This short book is challenging, exciting, wide-ranging and important.
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Turner's background in academia is evident in this book, but it's still accessible. It read more like a collection of essays than a cohesive book to me. It is full of important ideas and is constructively critical, in my opinion, of traditional conceptions of wilderness, wildness, nature, preservation, and environment. A must read for anyone interested in conservation, sustainability, and environmentalism.
Mathew Gross
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that serves as punctuation for all natural history writing of the 20th century. Stands alongside A Sand County Almanac as a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand humanity's relationship to nature in the modern world. Another reviewer wrote that Turner is "not a great writer," to which I must emphatically disagree: these are some of the finest essays I have ever read, on any subject.
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is very interesting and captivating especially if you are into nature and conservation. I agree with Jack Turner, he should have lived in the 1880's and early 1900's in Africa. Where everything was wild from the people to the animals, but white people just had to destroy that. Anyway a good book.
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some great critiques of economistic and scientific management approaches to wilderness and wildness, and some beautiful passages. But while he is a deep ecologist, he sometimes overemphasizes his own personal (very masculine) fulfillment from wildlife as opposed to that wildlife's intrinsic right to autonomy. It's wonderful to include both aspects, but this felt skewed towards the former.
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the 1st philosophy book I have read in a long time. It was an interesting argument for the intrinsic value of "wildness". It seemed like the natural thing to read now that I am living in the middle of nowhere, and pointed me in the direction of Doug Peacock's book. I would recommend this book to anybody who love the natural world.
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I just read this on my trip in Montana. It was amazing book, in which Jack Turner describes the positives of radical environmentalism. The idea that you just leave the wild alone, and let it be wild. His essay detailing the problems of economics, was extremely eye opening. I highly recommend this.
Chris Dancy
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-reads
Go ahead, find your own wildness by immersing yourself in the wilderness for no less than two weeks...
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it
interesting ideas. he references many things i have read already (walden, monkey wrench gang) and his philosophies fit in well with books like ishmael and a language older than words. i liked it.
Betsy Clark
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Pretty abstract. It was alright but I have some pretty differing opinions of this man. Not saying it wasnt worth reading. A little bit of a clunker to read. Youll get through it. ...more
Richard Kravitz
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe that I was in such a good space the year before my demise began.

Another amazing and deep book on our need to get back to nature.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for any Environmental Studies student. Turner explores complex social and environmental ideas through a fascinating lens.
Timmy Fearn
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read on existing with the wild. Deeply philosophical and filled with things to ponder.
Shane Cross
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Some of the coolest essays you could ever sit down by a fire with. True food for philosophical thought. Turner is amazing.
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: civilization
changed my life - i read my own mind in his pages.
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“(After witnessing a young Indian man throwing a popped grain of some sort at a caged, humiliated mountain lion)
That was it. I grabbed his throat and sank my thumb and middle finger into the joint behind his Adam’s apple. I did not want to kill him, though, not even hurt him. I just wanted to terrify him so badly that he would never, ever, ever, ever again even presume to think of throwing something at that lion.”
More quotes…