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The Land of Little Rain

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  981 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
“Between the high Sierras south from Yosemite—east and south over a very great assemblage of broken ranges beyond Death Valley, and on illimitably into the Mojave Desert” is the territory that Mary Austin calls the Land of Little Rain. In this classic collection of meditations on the wonders of this region, Austin generously shares “such news of the land, of its trails and ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 8th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1903)
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Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Mary Austin was convinced that the valley [Owens Valley*] had died when it sold its first water right to Los Angeles--that city would never stop until it owned the whole river and all of the land. One day, in Los Angeles for an interview with Mulholland, she told him so. After she had left, a subordinate came into his office and found him staring at the wall. "By God, " Mulholland reportedly said, "that woman is the only one who has brains enough to see where this is going." [Cadillac Desert, b ...more
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writing: pure poetry. Mary Austin's words sing just as brightly more than a century later.

I know there are many, many versions of this volume that are available, but I was lucky enough to read the volume produced in 1903. Inside the dull and worn brown library binding, sits a singular layout, where the 3" x 4" text blocks nestle into the top section of the gutter, leaving a 2"+ U-shaped margin on the sides and bottom of the page sets. And this inviting marginal space is sometimes peppered wi
Bob Nichols
Apparently, Austin viewed her writing as the desert equivalent of Thoreau's writing on New England. There are similiarities between the two. There's much in the way of dry description that is not particularly interesting. The writing is void of Muir-like passion, but is interspersed here and there with sentences that leap out as particularly good ("One must learn to spare a little of the pang of inexpressible beauty, not to spend all one's purse in one shop. There is always another year, and ano ...more
Mia Coolpa
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: excellent
Land of Little Rain is Mary Austin's 1903 account of the deserts of the American Southwest. Her text is as spare and secretly seductive as the deserts of which she writes.
Austin lived, for a time, in Independence, CA, until the water literally went south.
Complex woman; complex environment; straight-up text.
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Mary Austin is an intriguing figure. She was a woman who lived in the California deserts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a familiar of salty miners and Paiute maidens, mourned along with cougars who lost their young to cloudburst wreckage, knew the personal legends of sometimes violent men, and watched the desert plants closely.
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this in an English class I'm taking. I gave this book two stars because it is beautifully written and explores a terrain (the California desert) that is utterly foreign to me and that I knew nothing about. It is, however, long-winded and boring, and a mere 110 pages took me over a week to get through. Still, if you like nature writing, it's got merit.
Perry Whitford
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Land of Little Rain is an enraptured resident's unsentimental and occasionally spiritual love letter to the vast, pitiless deserts of California and the surrounding High Sierras mountain range.

Mary Austin wrote this book like someone utterly in tune with her chosen home who wants to describe it to you, but not have it explained; at least not with any science, but intuitively, not unlike how a Native American would comprehend and explain it.

More a series of essays than a concerted narrative, t
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Any woman to look old man Mulholland in the face and exposed the truth is alright by me. Rise up Owens Valley take your water back!
Adrienne Beatty
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely enjoyed this book in every possible way you can enjoy reading. Each night I treasured the 10 minutes I got (before getting too sleepy) to go back in time to the land and the era she describes. I felt as thought Mary Austin provided a literal time machine for me and all readers, to hop in and get sucked back into the wild nature of Eastern California and Western Nevada as it once were, stark and available and untouched and wild, no pavement, no roads. She describes "the Pocket Hunter ...more
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Land of Little Rain composed itself at the time the twentieth century was being born. The archaic poetry in its prose, and the benign prejudices betrayed by a phrase here and there, attest to the fact. But if you are accustomed to reading classic literature of any kind this will not throw you. And this is a classic, and it is indispensable to anyone with more than a passing interest in the American Southwest. I found the last chapter to be the most compelling: speaking of a manner of living ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 1950 edition which includes photos from Ansel Adams.

p24. "The Pocket Hunter" " "...a labor that drove him to the use of pack animals to whom thorns were a relish."

P72 "No doubt the labor of being comfortable gives you an exaggerated pain to be set aside."

P103. "Come away, you who are obsessed with your own importance in the scheme of things, and have nothing you did not sweat for ... To the kindliness, earthiness,ease of El Pueblo de Las Uvas."

Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This country is gifted with great writer/naturalists, and Mary Austin is one of the best. The Land of Little Rain is an incredibly poetic collection of little essays on the theme of living in the desert. This is a book that is worth reading several times, not only for the sense of what Austin says, but also how she says it.
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful photography combined with historic writing makes the Mojave desert come alive. I have been in a small part of the Mojave desert in Spring Mountain area . I would like to see more of this great desert.
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I return to, again and again. Austin's description of the austere beauty of the Eastern Sierra and Mojave desert and the tough and enduring inhabitants she encountered during her years there is vivid and poetic.
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed every word of Austin's. It's a short book, and I was slow-moving to get through it. But I don't regret that. I feel like part of her eyeopening awareness of the natural world speaks to being slow-moving. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm a desert tortoise.
Gail Richmond
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Mary Austin lived in the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley during the early part of the Twentieth Century. A close observer and recorder of the natural world, her book of essays on the mountains and deserts provide insights into the world as it was, and may still be, in some place. Although most people have heard of John Muir, Mary Austin's essays do for the Owens Valley what Muir did for Yosemite Valley.

Incredibly detailed descriptions of the smallest part of Austin's world--from the sound of t
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Land of Little Rain was hard to get into at first due to the writing, but as I got used to the author's style, I found myself really enjoying her descriptions of the Mohave desert and Eastern Sierra. Ms. Austin has a way of describing common flowers, trees, and geological areas that is not usual in the 21st century. In the chapter The Mesa Trail, she described desert floor flowers "In the shrub shelter, in the season, flock the little stemless things whose blossom time is as short as a marri ...more
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am in that hopeless state of reading too many books at the same time, but they are (almost) all so delicious! One is Mary Austin's _The Land of Little Rain_ which I highly recommend. She is an ethologist and ecologist somewhat ahead of her time, I think, though I know little about the history of either subject. But in writing about the desert, she has a whole-world view that enables her to see the necessary connections among all the parts. And when she wants to show you the desert-dweller's vi ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chuck by: Marlene French
This book is unique and fascinating, but would not appeal to many readers. My attraction came from its purpose which was to give an intimate look at the arid desert southwest of this country at the turn of the past century. It also appealed to me because in my travels around this country and the world, I have grown to love the desolate places like the tundra, the desert, prairies, grasslands, etc. I have no appeal in reading about Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Fisherman's Wharf or the likes. These f ...more
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Go as far as you will dare in the heart of a lonely land, you cannot go so far that life and death are not before you.” (5)

“Somehow the rawness of the land favors the sense of personal relation to the supernatural. There is not much intervention of crops, cities, clothes, and manners between you and the organizing forces to cut off communication. All this begets in Jimville a state that passes explanation unless you will accept an explanation that passes belief. Along with killing and drunkenne
Mossy Kennedy
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic historical insight to the Eastern Sierra. Leans more to natural history than political history. Genuine affection for the region and its quirks.
A nature-themed memoir could be pretty dull reading in some authors' hands, but in Austin's it feels more like poetry. And that's a good thing! While she speaks about desert ecology from the viewpoint of an artist, not a scientist (and I have handfuls of frustrated annotations to prove it), there's a lyricism to the words not unlike Darwin's The Origin of Species that has a way of winning you over regardless, and I can't help but admire it.

Austin describes splendidly and with deep love the bea
Apr 08, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Another book recommendation from Philip Connors in Shelf Awareness 4/8/11:
On your nightstand now:
I just visited a cool little bookstore in Truth or Consequences, N.M.--Black Cat Books--and loaded up on used paperbacks. Among them: The Liars Club by Mary Karr (yes, I'm coming to it awfully late); The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin (her classic about the California desert); and The River Why by David James Duncan (which my friends from the Northwest tell me is great). I also just finished two
Aunt Edie
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The mesa holds very level here, cut across at intervals by the deep washes of dwindling streams, and its treeless spaces uncramp the soul.

The Land of Little Rain has been described as the Walden of the Southwest. I'm not sure about that. What I do know is that this book stretched my vocabulary way past its stretching point. I finally switched to the kindle version where I could easily tap each word I didn't know and get a quick definition - most of the time. Even Google was confounded now and
Megan Elizabeth Crist
Personally, I discovered through reading this that I am not the biggest fan of poetic depictions of setting with little to no plot, no matter how beautiful and thought-out the descriptions are. I just couldn't get into this book; it was definitely not what I would deem a "page-turner" to be.

Certain chapters, such as "The Basket Weaver," were enjoyable. But that was one of the few chapters that I felt involved human presence as the focal point. Mary Austin has a decent writing style, from reading
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unique view of the people and plants of Owens Valley at the beginning of the twentieth century. Austin knows this area and obviously roamed the beautiful east side canyons for many years. A true naturalist, she has the long term vision of how an ecology is related to weather and water in this arid wilderness that still has stories to tell in the present day.

One thing she shared was her experience with the Shoshone women, who lived close to her in woven huts, and their lives into old age. Many o
A short descriptive book on Death Valley around the turn of the 20 th century. Mary Hunter Austin was an ethnologist who studied the area, looking at the lack of available water and how plants, animals and humans survived. She notes the hidden water sources that humans don't notice but coyotes often do. The way plants and animals sustain themselves and the native people who lived surrounding the area but not deep inside it. The settlers would often plan to travel in certain directions and times ...more
Riadiani Marcelita
Another book I had to read for my English class; this one is by far the most boring yet, albeit more interesting than a previous assigned one, The Maltese Falcon. The Land of Little Rain is Mary Austin's personal collection of narratives about the Californian desert and the multitude of lives surrounding it. Each chapter in the book is dedicated to different unique things that could be found or discovered in the desert. The narratives are all right, but I did not quite enjoy it, and to be honest ...more
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have read many great books on nature - Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, The Sand Country Almanac by Leopold, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and...many more. This book was disappointing in that some of her expressions were very dated and she kept herself so far away from the book that it became a set of impersonal observations with no real heart. Nothing really appealed to me, nothing she talked about inspired me to read more about them (which often does when I read books about plants an ...more
Duane Bowker
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published in 1903, it contains a set of 14 vignettes of life in the desert and hills of south-eastern California. Some of the chapters focus on the flora, fauna, weather and water of the area while others recount some of the fascinating characters and communities that the author has encountered while living and traveling in the area. I enjoyed the book very much though some of the chapters were less interesting to me than others. The edition I found in our local library system was pub ...more
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500 Great Books B...: The Land of Little Rain - Mary Austin 1 3 Jul 25, 2014 01:51PM  
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Mary Hunter Austin was an American writer. One of the early nature writers of the American Southwest, her classic The Land of Little Rain (1903) describes the fauna, flora and people – as well as evoking the mysticism and spirituality – of the region between the High Sierras and the Mojave Desert of southern California.
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“Trust Indians not to miss any virtues of the plant world! Nothing” 0 likes
“They trick the sense of time, so that once inhabiting there you always mean to go away without quite realizing that you have not done it. Men who have lived there, miners and cattlemen, will tell you this, not so fluently, but emphatically, cursing the land and going back to it. For” 0 likes
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