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The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,503 ratings  ·  399 reviews
The seventy-fifth anniversary edition of the classic book about Cape Cod, "written with simplicity, sympathy, and beauty" (New York Herald Tribune)

A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in a seaside cottage, bu
Paperback, 218 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Holt McDougal (first published 1928)
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Jim Fonseca
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Outermost House by Henry Beston

I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, about an hour’s drive in those days from the Cape Cod Canal. I have fond memories of fishing with my father off the rocks of the canal. Now via Interstate that trip takes a half-hour.

This book, a follow-up in a sense to Henry David Thoreau’s Cape Cod (1865), was written in 1928 and it is an early naturalist/environmental work. The introduction tells us that Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962) said that it was the only b
I keep this book on my nightstand when I need to transport myself from this world to the natural beauty Beston describes. I love Cape Cod, particularly this Cape Cod, one full of sand and beach grass, salt air and ocean breeze. How many of us would just like to "check out" for awhile? Beston, like Thoreau, did this for a year and chronicled all he saw and felt.
One description is unique to the time it was written. Rather than the traditional Coast Guard stations we are all familiar with, those
The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of nature writing.

In 1925, Henry Beston built a two room cottage on the outer bank of Cape Cod as a vacation retreat. In September of 1926, he went to spend two weeks there, but "The fortnight ending, I lingered on, and as the year lengthened into autumn, the beauty and the mystery of this earth and the outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go."

He left the beach in the fall of 1927, with several notebooks full of material,
Vimal Thiagarajan
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adorations
Poetry is as necessary to comprehension as science. It is as impossible to live without reverence as it is without joy

And what delightful Poetry it was! Not mere wordplay and expression of feelings, but an extremely astute and microscopic observation and description of the very molecules,the very atoms, the very quarks of nature.

Henry Beston wasn't someone whose idea of outdoors is revelry in a crowded beach or DSLR photography in a zoo or botanical garden.His idea of outdoors was to live al
Jul 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, nature, memoir
When I told my sister I was reading this book on a recent trip to Cape Cod, she asked me how many times I’d read it. She remembers me purchasing this 1969 edition when we were kids. I guessed I’d read it in entirety at least 4 times. However, an unusual feature of this book is that you can open it at random, read any chapter, and it will tell a complete story. I have read many chapters this way throughout the years.

This is the most poetic book ever written about Cape Cod. Henry Beston is a care
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars – pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time.” (p. 173)

This is one of the most beloved works of natural history in E
The Outermost House (originally published in 1928; previously out of print in the UK before this reissue) is a charming meditation on the turning of the seasons and the sometimes terrifying power of the sea. The writing is often poetic, with sibilance conjuring the sound of the ocean. Beston will be remembered for his statement of the proper relationship between humans and the natural world. “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals,” he declares; “they are not ...more
Henrique Maia
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The world happens everyday, everywhere. We're often forgetful whence we came and we easily dismiss that seemingly distant background which is always there – nature.

Henry Beston is the willing witness of a year round experience in the sands of Cape Cod beach. Humbled by the very spectacle of change, the author becomes one of us, and through him we see, listen, feel, smell and become united with the majesty of a world thriving with life. We follow the old rhythm of the earth as it follows the Sun
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cape Cod is my happy place and my best friend gave me this book for Christmas. It is an old memoir/nature book written by a man who chose to live on the dunes of Eastham for a year. I read the book in one sitting and it transported me to the sand, surf, wind, and light that I so love.

His descriptions and powers of observation are amazing. He tried to depict all that he experienced: listening to the sound of the ocean, watching deer playing on a beach, witnessing men dying in a shipwreck, decodi
Beth Bonini
Many thanks to Elise from Pushkin Press for sending me a copy of this classic of nature writing because I don’t think I would have otherwise come across it. Although I enjoy nature writing, it was really the subtitle “A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod” that truly captured my interest.

I’ve been to Cape Cod several times, at least the 21st century version of it, but as with so many ‘romantic’ summery places, I find it difficult to imagine living on the island throughout the year - both
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Claire by: Sheila
Originally published in 1928, and still in print today, this is perhaps one of the early examples of literary nature writing, an account of a year spent living among the sand dunes of the great peninsula of Cape Cod, living closer to a rough sea nature in all her aspects than most humans normally do and observing all that passes through all the senses during that time.

Having planned to stay two weeks in his house on the sand dunes, his fascination with the changes of the dunes, the tides, the sk
Anita Diamant
Published in 1928, a beautiful reflection on the natural wonder that is Cape Cod. I've been meaning to read this since I moved to New England many many years ago.
Glad I finally did.
It. Is. Stunning.
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lori by: Sally
Since I read on a good friend's review of this book that this was one of her all-time favorite books and I had never even heard of it, I figured it was time to check this one out. I'm a midwestern gal living hundreds of miles from the nearest beach, I've never been to Cape Cod and it makes me sad that at the rate the world is changing, I probably won't ever get to explore the Cape that Harry Beston writes about in this book.

This is a quiet novel about a year the author spent, alone, in a house o
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very good book for a young, frustrated mother of toddlers to read and treasure, as I did.
Carol Bachofner
Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYone!
Shelves: nonfiction, regional
I first read this book in 1968. Since then (altho I have my original copy which sold for $1.45) I have purchased dozens to give away. It is ostensibly a nature, wildlife book that rivals Walden. However, I found it to be closer to poetry than any other prose I have read. I go back to it again and again. Henry Beston's family is (was) very literary. His wife, Elizabeth Coatsworth was a wonderful writer and their daughter, Kate Barnes, was once Poet Laureate of Maine. She is elderly and still live ...more
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like solitude
Shelves: top-books
as I read this book my mind was totally living Beston's year in that cabin on the beach.It is amazing to notice all the changes in the enviornment throughout the year when separated from populous man and his harried life and man made creations. I read this book about once a year.
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book has been compared to Walden, but it's so much better. Beston's descriptions of the sun, the waves, the sand and the birds made me dream of rustic life on the coast. His tales of shipwrecks and the "surfmen" who walked the beach as watchmen, were fascinating.
Jessica Haider
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Outermost House was originally published in 1928 and was written by a naturalist who built a small 2 room cottage in the dunes of Cape Cod near Eastham, MA. He spent a year living there observing the creatures around him...from birds to fish. We also hear of locals, the weather and Coast Guard rescues. This book was oddly calming. It made me appreciate nature even more.

BONUS FOR MY LOCAL FRIENDS: The author mentions a visit to the Herring Brook and Whitman Pond in Weymouth! Interesting bit
Leanne Schneider
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another book checked off my COVID19/Virus/Quarantine/Isolation Reading List.
I highly recommend this book!
If you like nature writing and beautiful yet simple prose, this is for you. This classic book tells the tale of Henry Beston’s year spent living alone in his cabin on the beach of Cape Cod in 1927. I would read it while sitting on my deck in the evening, where I could hear the crashing surf of the nearby ocean as the sun went down. Or I would read parts of it on stormy, rainy days, under a
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This short book by Henry Beston is an naturalist account of his experience living by himself for a year on Cape Cod, Massachusets, in a house he built in 1925, long before the traffic filled clog of today. One can easily compare this to Thoreau's writing, but this lacks Thoreau's philosophic ramblings and instead reminds me of something that could have been written by my father or whose age would have been within ten years of the author. The writing has a folksy element to it, and though embelli ...more
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Who says there aren't any more Henry David Thoreaus? Okay, granted, Beston wrote this in the late 1920's, but still...
An incredibly fascinating description of the daily observations and musings of someone living on the far eastern tip of Cape Cod. His keen eye and enchanting retelling of nature's annual cycles is beautiful in and of itself. But what I found most incredible was his fiancee's insistance on his doing this (living alone for 1 year in this "shack," in order to complete this book) bef
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, nonfiction
What a lovely book. Simply beautiful, contemplative writing. If you're coming for a story, you won't find it. There's a theme but it is a grand theme and certainly not plot driven. The pleasure here is in the reading, and putting yourself into the world that Henry Beston illuminates as he spends a year on the beach of Cape Cod. It took me quite a while to get through it because it is not a page turner. Instead, one wants to linger on the pages, to see and taste what Beston is describing. It's me ...more
Liina Bachmann
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
The Outermost House chronicles Henry Beston's year of living in his beach hut on the beach of Cape Cod. Each chapter is about a different natural phenomenon or time of the year at the beach. It was written in 1928 and is considered a classic in the genre of nature writing. Being a great lover of the big open water The Outermost House, of course, got me very curious the moment I first heard about it.

I can't say I was disappointed by it but it wasn't quite what I expected. The prose was not as poe
In the late 1920s, Henry Beston had a cottage built near Eastham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, which he dubbed the Fo’castle. He retreated there in search of peace and solitude, intending to stay two weeks, but ended up staying an entire year. This book recounts his experiences on the Cape throughout that year, especially concerning the wild birds that would migrate onto his beach. Boston’s book, published in 1928, became the inspiration for the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: naturalists
I just want to note what I feel when I'm reading this: peace. Amidst the hurrying people and noise around me, when I read about the birds on the beach, I feel like I'm there and that I'm walking down a lonely beach watching and listening to the birds overhead.

Yes, this book is about nothing, but it's a peaceful nothing that helped me relax. There isn't really a storyline or plot, so if that's something you need in a book, then this is not the book for you. It's merely one man's year of watching
Apr 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-the-world
Written back in the 1920s when the author stayed in a little cottage right on Cape Cod. He wrote down his observations and reflections of life on the beach for an entire year. The book starts slow but by the middle I was hooked. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of the beach and the birds in winter.

Rachel Carson said that this book was the only one that influenced her writing and it is considered one of the classics of American nature writing.

"Winter is no negation, no mere absence of summer
Kyle  Tresnan
Sep 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I expected to hate this book. I should have hated this book. The Outermost House is a book about nothing; reading it is like watching a porn movie with no nudity in it. Henry Beston lives by himself in a house on Cape Cod for a year. That is as much intrigue as you will find in The Outermost House. Beston goes on about birds for about 45 pages. You'll think he's done with birds, and then BAM a whole other section about birds. Birds birds birds.

But Beston writes pretty. You get the feeling that
Erik Graff
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Martin and his kind
Recommended to Erik by: Walter Wallace
Shelves: travel
This is a book I would never think of reading, a book I'd pass over on any shelf. I only read it because an old friend went to the trouble of mailing it to me with a letter of recommendation. He, unlike myself, has had some acquaintance with Cape Cod, the easternmost portion of the United States. He compared it to my own familiar beaches of the eastern coast of Lake Michigan.

I wasn't expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised. Somewhat reminiscent of Thoreau's 'Walden' memoir, but better written
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic, own
"the wave is tripped by the shoaling sand-the giant stumbles, crashes, and is pushed over and ahead..."

I love this writing style. I've noted so many phrases & whole passages and pages in this book! Beston's turn of phrase being so spot on and poetic without being too flowery. Through the pages, his reverence and knowledge warmed my heart. I learned about things I didn't expect, including ornithology and shipwrecks. Some of the in-depth bird descriptions didn't excite me as I'm not a bird watcher
Would like to have seen the Cape back when this was written. Pleasant view of the natural history of the beach and dunes through the seasons. Especially liked his observation that people (even then) no longer embrace the night but rather fear it and keep it a bay with lights. He made me long to see the peace and beauty of true night with no human lights to disturb it. The view out my bedroom window is destroyed by mercury lights from a nearby plaza. Also enjoyed learning about how the Coast Gua ...more
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Henry Beston was an American writer and naturalist, best known as the author of The Outermost House, written in 1925.

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