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

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,216 ratings  ·  346 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,
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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
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Suzanne
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
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Celia
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,
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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
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Robin
Jul 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, favorites, 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
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Rebecca
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
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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
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Claire McAlpine
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
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Lynn
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,
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Ann-Marie
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 ...more
Sally
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.
Laura
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.
Jamie
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
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Lori
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
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Sam
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 ...more
Gloria
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)
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Charles
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 ...more
L.A. Starks
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading in every school. It is that good; the focus on the life of the Cape over a year is captivating. I never realized descriptions of birds, and oceans could be so varied and expressive.
Jeana
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
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Rae
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
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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
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Will
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-undated
21
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge, and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world
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Julie  Durnell
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of living alone on Cape Cod for a year back in the 1920's seemed interesting enough to pick up and read this book. Some of the writing was quite poetic and some as dry as a naturalists would be. But overall his descriptions of the birds, tides, skies, dunes, phosphorescence of the surf and sand, storms or tempests as he calls them were delightful indeed.
"Years ago, while camping on this beach north of Nauset, I went for a stroll along the top of the cliff at break of dawn. Though
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Christine Sharbrough
This is an amazing book with a timeless appeal. One man, one year, one tiny house - what you get is a lyrical almost poetic look at Cape Cod in the 1920s. This is very much a sensory book rather than something that is plot-based or even character based. That is, unless you count the sea, birds, and all other forms of life and nature that are described so well in this book.

Coincidentally, Orion of the Dunes just came out November 2016 (I may have that title slightly wrong) but it is a biography
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Sally Ewan
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In 1928, Henry Beston decided to spend a year in a little house on the beach at Cape Cod. This is the book he wrote about his year on the beach. Reading it made me realize how very unobservant I am. I was impressed by his awareness of the world around him (of course, there were few distractions in that time and at that place!) and his lyrical descriptions. Could you describe a wave, then describe how it varies from other waves, and how its sound is different at various times? Imagine doing that ...more
Laura
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beston writes with a passion matched only by his respect for nature; for every beauty there is a struggle, a tragedy. His celebration of a year on Cape Cod includes weather, seasons, ornithology, the townsfolk and Coast Guard employees, reveling in the strengths and pride in all equally. This is not Walden; Beston does not seek to isolate himself from people, but writes of the whole experience life and nature has to offer. The writing is more like a journal, as it is not bogged down in too much ...more
Larry
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Henry Beston's description of his year on Cape Cod's Great Beach reminds me of Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac" and John Janovy's "Dunwoody Pond," which is high praise. Beston shares Leopold's and Janovy's thoughtfulness, elegenat writing, and natural concerns. "The outermost House" will be worth rereading.
Nick Klagge
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lovely book. Oddly enough, I first learned of it because of "Battlestar Galactica"--the title of one of the episodes of the reboot series, "Islanded In A Stream Of Stars," is taken from this book.

The obvious comparison for TOH is "Walden," also a book about living in isolation for a year and appreciating nature. For better or for worse, Beston is a lot less explicitly philosophical about the whole thing than Thoreau was in his book. He talks very little about why he wanted to live in his Cape
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Old Souls Book Club: Animals shall not be measured by man 1 11 Sep 01, 2016 02:55PM  

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Henry Beston was an American writer and naturalist, best known as the author of The Outermost House, written in 1925.
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” 256 likes
“The world to-day is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and dunes these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year.” 70 likes
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