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The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  39 reviews
In a time when our relationship to the natural world is ruled by the violence and greed of unbridled consumerism, Wendell Berry speaks out in these prescient essays, drawn from his 50-year campaign on behalf of American lands and communities

"Mr. Berry's sentences and stories deliver a great payload of edifying entertainment, which I hungrily consume, but it is the bass
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 26th 2017 by Allen Lane (first published 2017)
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Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley

'The World-Ending Fire' by Wendell Berry (selected and introduced by Paul Kingsnorth)

3.5 stars/ 7 out of 10

I have read some previous articles by Wendell Berry, and also have come across several references to him, so I was interested in reading this book.

There are more than thirty articles in 'The World-Ending Fire', written by Berry over a period of more than five decades. In my opinion this is more of a book to dip into, than to read from cover to cover. The articles are a mixed bunch, the
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
It has taken me nearly a year to finish this book, and not because it is hard to get through: Berry actually has a very accessible writing style. No, it has taken me a while because his essays are so full of new (to me) ideas and unusual perspectives that I had to leave some time in between essays to let each of his messages sink in.

Berry is a poet, retired college professor, essayist, and environmentalist. On top of that, he is also a farmer. I knew him mainly as a poet, knew nothing about his
Karen Hagerman
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So happy to have read these essays from a fellow nature and farm loving Luddite. A bit ponderous in parts but so worth it. Wendell Berry is my new hero.
Scott Lupo
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a tough one for me. I don't want to be overly critical or harsh but two aspects of reading Wendell Berry's works came to me: he is too conservative for my taste and many of his arguments have giant holes that a beginning philosophy student could manage easily. And what sucks about that, is I generally agree with what he has to say about the environment, American capitalism, the importance of conservation, and living a slower lifestyle. But his constant drubbing of "scientists" and ...more
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
much to think about!

weird tangent to share with goodreads friends but though these essays are a bit dated, I think there’s a lot of things here that are necessary for consideration for the modern “left” (our relationship to the land we live on, ingrained assumptions about consumption & the morality of innovation to name a couple) and how personal responsibility needs to be figured into our actions. if the goal is to destroy capitalism, then we need to configure a value system of sorts that
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
a beautiful book, perhaps a little idealistic, at times a little cross, but always asking the reader to think with him through what might be the best way to do things, and calling the individual to deeper individual care and stewardship of the earth. Somehow, in these essays, he inspires while simultaneously admonishing, its hard not to come away from reading it with a renewed enthusiasm for looking after our "common home."
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
I really appreciated most of this. The essays on home agriculture, canoeing, Mark Twain, and more all touched me deeply. Quantity vs. Form, a piece about quality of life at the end of a human lifetime, doesn’t leave me easily either. I would say to skip the essay on computers, though.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: conservation
I've long been a fan of Wendell Berry's fiction and finally dove into his non-fiction. Some of it is a little dense, and stern, but Berry's sensibility and genuine love of place, and community, and the earth shines through. My favorite part of the book was the short interlude about motherhood (delivering calves - especially poignant to me since my dad was a vet) right in the middle of the book, as if Kingsworth acknowledges the heaviness of his subjects and offers a little light and levity ...more
Richard Subber
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you’re willing to admit that the domain of the intellect is a world you’re willing to live in from time to time, then you’re waiting to discover the prose of Wendell Berry.

“No expert knows everything about every place, not even everything about any place.” (p. 98)

Berry is a novelist, a farmer, and a poet. He cares deeply about preserving our natural environment. He has been described as “a cultural critic.” He quietly conjures the world-ending fire.

You may say “Anybody can be a cultural
Paul Swanson
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wendell Berry’s essays are somewhat depressing always condemning our industries and calling for small communities and family economies to save us from ourselves.
Mandy Godwin
Can you agree with someone and still think they're being a cranky bastard? Berry's stated aim "is to imagine and live out a decent and preserving relationship with the earth," and I can think of no higher goal, but I wish these essays had built on one another instead of trying to convince me of the same basic precepts from beginning to end. Yes, industrial capitalism sucks ass! But in at least some of the essays I wish he'd get out of the abstract and (literally) into the weeds: I wanted to see ...more
I won an ARC of this thick book of essays in a Goodreads giveaway (and I'm writing this review suffering from bad jet lag, so there's no guarantee I'm going to make sense).

This is a book of well-crafted essays (the author is clearly educated, well read, and has in his life moved between the urban and rural American worlds), and if you are a young (probably white and male) hipster with a passion for the environment, many of the essays will appeal to you the way Walden Pond might appeal.

The essays
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Disappointing. Over the years I’ve heard or read the praises of Wendell Berry, so I was looking forward to finally reading some of his work. This book is a collection of essays ranging from 1968 to 2006, presented in no particular order that I could discern. He was a writer and a farmer; he called himself an agrarian. I suppose he was also a bit of an activist. He wanted to save the Earth - or rather, he wanted to see the Earth saved (other than a lot of words, I’m not sure what action he took). ...more
Adam Carrico
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“And so I will remember, and I ask you to remember, that I am not trying to say what is thinkable everywhere, but rather what it is possible to think on the westward bank of the lower Kentucky River in the summer of 1998.”

I have a lot of thoughts about this book, but mainly I just loved it. I may be a bit biased as a Kentuckian who loves the land, but overall this is some high quality writing about nature that brings the point home better than anyone else I’ve read.

In some ways, it radicalized
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm on the same team as Wendell Berry--I agree that capitalism and greed are ruining the earth's resources, kids spend too much time on electronics and don't do enough chores, and that it's great to know how to make some things with your hands and problematic that few can. He's an excellent writer, although sometimes he comes across as the cranky self-righteous old man, with an air of elitism... not everyone has a family farm to retreat to, and looking at those who have had to move to the cities ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection was my first sustained encounter with Wendell Berry and it does not disappoint. I would wager that he is one of the most important thinkers and writers living today and his ideas should be spread far and wide. A essayist, novelist, poet, and full-time farmer, Berry sits at the nexus of a number of different environmental and philosophical trends but what makes him interesting is that he is very hard to pin down ideologically. This collection (selected by Paul Kingsnorth) deals ...more
Ric Cheyney
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
This anthology of essays and personal pieces has one or two dubious moments, especially in his (in)famous rejection of computers, but they are trivial compared to the beauty and wisdom of Mr Berry's views on the value, importance and proper treatment of land by humans. I loved it so much I gave a copy to everyone I know who owns land or tends a large garden.
If you care about this planet, if you worry about our propensity for wrecking its natural systems, if you want to be reminded of what real
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written essays with many original thoughts. Mr Berry communicates his love of the land and explains why it matters so well that even I, a life-long city dweller, could appreciate. Berry is never dull and always honest. There is an integrity in his way of living and way of writing that won my respect.
Look at the date of each essay before you read it. In many of them Mr Berry is way ahead of his time. In some of them, the passage of time has shown his predictions to be unbalanced but
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was first read f a Wendell Barry book. Fantastic! I really need to read more by this guy. He brings a different view to the debate. He's got plenty here to upset the conservative and progressive viewpoint. He just seems to take Wendell's view. I especially liked the essay Why I will never own a computer. I wonder if he still does not have one. And his responses to readers of his essay was also very nicely done. I still have a few more to read but this was a wonderful book and some essays ...more
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
have long admired him and expected to like this more than I did. Certainly has its moments, and he's nothing if not impressively consistent, but I'm not sure essay collection spanning decades is the optimal format for consumption of his worldview. I should probably have bought it and sampled one every month or so.

Read straight thru, a suburban non-farmer like myself can end up feeling hectored by a somewhat humorless person obsessed with how food is produced, the downside of modernity [computers
Deborah Adams
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wendell Berry wised up a long time ago. While still a young man, and long before Save the Planet became trendy, Berry recognized the importance of humanity's connection to nature. These essays, like most of his work, point out the symptoms and devastating side effects of losing that connection. I'm never sure whether reading Wendell Berry makes me feel hopeful or hopeless, but it always makes me remember that I am part of the wild and powerful environment.
Robert Culliton
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read. Most independent thinker I've read in years.

If you're looking to get a sample, I really enjoyed the individual pieces "Faustian Economics" and "The Rise".

Contrary to how it sounds, The Rise is a fun story about a river raft trip during a flood and is not some dark allusion to upheaval in the wake of global economic collapse :)
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
The first essay was so incredible. That essay made me think I was gonna love the entire book, a new favorite. The rest of the essays were okay not all of it I agreed with and it felt repetitive. When I finished the book however I felt a weird respect for him. He definitely thinks differently than most people I talk to. This book made me think for sure.
Troy Solava
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book gave me a great understanding of Berry’s writing and beliefs. I really enjoyed most of these essays. I want to continually read more Berry!

I particularly like Berry’s emphasis on “local culture” and putting down roots into a community.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really excellent collection of Wendell Berry’s essays, speeches, and other writings. I found his writing eye-opening and incredibly prescient - what he wrote in the 80s and 90s is still very (often depressingly) relevant today.
Patty Sampson-Bouchard
Thought provoking yet comforting for its emphasis on time honored values. It is striking how many of these essays written 30+ years ago are hot topics today like sustainable farming. A wonderful writer- you wish you could be sitting around a fire discussing these matters with him.
Josephine Ensign
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it
A good introduction to the writing and thinking of Berry. While I find much of what he writes hopelessly dated, he is an important American icon for the back-to-the-land movement of the '60's and '70's, the remnants of which survive in surprising ways and places.
Matthew Trevithick
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars - some truly beautiful writing in here.
Mary Nee
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-crafted essays with a passion for the environment.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Berry is a modern Thoreauvian who inspires me to want to live a little more simply as the right thing to do.
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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."
“Our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning.” 0 likes
“And every day I am confronted by the question of what inheritance I will leave. What do I have that I am using up? For it has been our history that each generation in this place has been less welcome to it than the last. There has been less here for them. At each arrival there has been less fertility in the soil, and a larger inheritance of destructive precedent and shameful history.” 0 likes
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