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The Story of My Boyhood and Youth

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  470 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth vividly recreates the formative years of America's premier conservationist and nature writer. John Muir details the "fun and pain" of his boyhood in Scotland, his awakening love for nature, his immigration to America, and the hardships of farm life that put him "to the plough at the age of twelve, when my head reached but a little above th

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Published September 1st 2009 by B&R Samizdat Express (first published 1913)
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After reading Alaska Days with John Muir, written by his friend and traveling companion Samuel Young, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Muir's own account of his early life: beginning in East Lothian, Scotland, where he was born in 1838; immigrated with his father and brother to America in 1849; settled in Wisconsin, near Portage, where they broke ground for their new home and farm; and there worked long, hard hours to make a go of things so his mother and siblings could join them. Being a born and r ...more
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I re-read, this time for a book group, where each student read a different book by a naturalist. They’ve been studying nature writing and the teacher wanted to take them deeper into how the writers were changed by their own environment, thus the group and talk about how we also might be changed by both our reading and our personal experiences. For example, in Muir’s book, I loved the deeply detailed descriptions of all the birds observed in his new home in Wisconsin (he was born i ...more
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a soul stirring and uplifting, even spiritual experiences I had while going through the wondrous and magical moments of young Muir.
His strict, Christian upbringing, thrashing at home and school couldn't kill the wildness and spirit of living, the young lad had. The thrill of running around, playing 'schooters' with his brother David, climbing lessons at the castle, the fright of the 'dandy doctors' haunting the school are reminiscent of how little kids create their own fantasy worlds, takin
Sherry Elmer
This is a delightful story of a curious, creative, inventive boy's youth in the Wisconsin wilderness. John Muir had such an affinity for wildlife, especially birds, and a great memory for the significant detail, making this memoir a treasure. It was also a good reminder to be good stewards of this beautiful planet, as John Muir wrote about the extreme abundance of passenger pigeons in his time. "Extinct" is such a sad word! Most of the book was entertaining and enjoyable, though. My husband and ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

3.5 stars

An insightful and engaging glimpse into the formative years of a renowned naturalist.
Chris Foley
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Work hard, and notice everything.
Muir looks back on his childhood in Scotland and in Wisconsin. From Scotland, where he was until 7, we get the stories of schoolkids fighting and exploring, and of the discipline learned. From Wisconsin, Muir writes an ode to the animals and plants he encountered, as well as his story about growing up. He really focuses on the plants and animals, though -- his mother and sisters immigrate a year after Muir and his father and brothers do, and Muir doesn't bother to tell you much about them. It's ...more
Jill Robbertze
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightful little book about John Muir's early life first in Scotland and later in the US. This man truly delights in nature and his descriptions of his discoveries are beautiful and very engaging. He became one of America's early conservationists and while at University he also created some very interesting inventions. I really enjoyed this book and give it 4.5 stars !!!
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd heard in passing the name of John Muir but knew nothing of him until now. A look into the beginnings of a remarkable life. He writes conversationally, so that the book feels like him sitting next to you and telling you a story.
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book. A wonderful insight into the growing years of an amazing man who was a key player in the creation of our National Parks. One also gets a first person perspective of the early settler's life in the mid west.
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a wonderful! I truly admire how well John Muir respected nature, and what a thinker he was! He really was an amazing person! I can't believe he invented so many things as a child/teenager.
David S.
John Muir: naturalist, humanitarian, inventor, great lover? I know so. John Muir was a fantastic lover; gentle, but a real power house when he needed to be. I remember the first time I visited him at his Northern Wisconsin farm in the peak of summer…
Rivers twisted by, heated all day by the scorching late summer sun. Sometimes, the water laid long and wide across the country, other times, it became forced to pour, chortling, vigorously over mossy boulders. Walking through a patch of Balsam Firs
Mike Suter
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very honest account of Muir's humble beginnings in Scotland, then as a homesteader as a boy in Wisconsin, leading up to his college years and early adulthood. I was surprised to learn that he was required by his devout father to memorize the entire New Testament and most of the Old, and to learn Latin and Greek. He also was an avid inventor, and created elaborate clocks and timers that would tip people out of bed in the morning. He had a brutal childhood, and worked long days and was frequentl ...more
This is a deeply charming book. John Muir's boyhood and youth took place in a world much different, and much wilder, than the biologically impoverished world of today. He had a whippoorwill singing on the post outside his home in Wisconsin and passenger pigeons arrived in droves in the springtime. His observations of nature are oftentimes remarkable and show a keen attention to the natural world (e.g., he saw a shrike go into a groundhog burrow and come out chasing young groundhogs!). A very enj ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always respected John Muir (I first learned about him while learning about our national parks history) but now I feel like he could have been a dear friend. What a likable person! His stories of his rambunctious youth made me smile and gave me hope for my boys. I’m definitely going to have to read more of his writings.
La infancia era bastante salvaje en aquellos tiempos
Barry Cunningham
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, the Project Gutenberg edition on Stanza on my iPhone.

I read Muir's The Yosemite last year and found that book and him utterly amazing. Decided to read some more of his works, and this seemed like the logical place to start.

His origins may not have been that unusual for his time, but where he went from there in his late youth and early manhood seem entirely unexpected.

His early life and his narrative fall into three parts: his early youth in Scotland, his emigration to America and adole
Honestly, I only dabbled in this as there was no audio book available. My book club's discussion was fascinating. Only one of 18 people didn't like the book. Everyone else loved it.
Suzan Powers
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love it when I find a book to look forward to reading at bedtime every night and this was one of those! John Muir's first book and a memoir of his childhood in Scotland growing up in the country under a brutally strict father who used the Christian faith as a rod. The early intelligence of Muir is evident as he discusses the educational methods of Scottish fathers to beat learning into the children. His love of nature is early evident and inspiring in his words of observation of the wildlife a ...more
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Ben by: Sequoia National Forest giftshop
Shelves: travel
John Muir founded the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club headquarters is on the 2nd floor of the building I work in (85 Second Street), so I get to see all of their published books whenever someone too lazy to walk to the second floor gets on the elevator. Sometimes, when I walk up to the 7th, I hope to see someone there to talk to them about other books like this.

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth was one of the last books John Muir wrote. It was a recollection of his youth back to 5 or 6 years old in
Meghan Fidler
John Muir was one of the first influential environmentalists in the United States. We owe his acts of diligence for the pleasures we see at many parks, like Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park. This memoir is another one of the pleasures found in the world that is due to John Muir.
Beginning with a description of his childhood in Scotland, Muir goes on to describe the wealth that was the wilderness in Wisconsin. He is frank about the workload and frank about the nature of life and death on
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this several years ago and came across a little bit about Muir exploring the Amazon in the book I'm currently reading, "The River of Doubt." What I remember most about this book was his enthusiasm for nature - which I share! The story I most remember is about the passenger pigeons. I found that this book is part of The Project Gutenberg" and found where he talks about these incredible birds and the human acts that led to their extinction.

Not less exciting and memorable was Audubon's wonde
Love it! Stands beside Aldo Leopold's work and makes me miss Wisconsin and the UW.
 Ms. Ewing
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

John Muir is familiar to me as an old-time conservationist and old man wandering in the woods. But this is what he wrote about his childhood growing up in Scotland and Wisconsin during the pioneer days. I really enjoyed it. It had a touch of the "Little House on the Prairie" with all the interesting descriptions of everyday life. His father was a real jerk and made him dig a well by chipping through stone for 17 hours a day with poison gas, among other things. But the coolest thing that I didn'
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure
This incredibly keen, articulate man drew me into his childhood so vividly I feel almost that I've just come back home from a brief visit in another place and time. A good place to start I think for delving into John Muir's thoughts because we learn the way he relishes the moments of his life, even during the most exhausting trying times that I could not imagine enduring. Muir's sense of observation is one that I could both appreciate and learn from. This was a beautiful and engaging read.

Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I chose this book to get a glimpse into frontier life, not knowing that John Muir went on to form the Sierra Club and to become a hero to some environmentalists. This book was a pleasant read about his boyhood years.

Muir's father immigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin, when John was just 11 years old. While the book provides a feel of frontier life, my guess is that there are better alternatives. Much of this book tells of the birds and animals that Muir delighted in learning about around his far
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there was ever a Little House equivalent for pioneering boys, it would be this. Not that the Little House series is gender specific. I love the Scottish accents Muir employs in his writing. :) Fun trying to read through it. I fail most of the time. Quick read! And very insightful for those curious to learn more about Muir's upbringing and how that clearly shaped him to be the man he later was. Spartan diet began early (loved reading that passage about his daily meals for nourishment. I really ...more
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a little gem and worth reading.

I never knew John Muir had such mechanical genius. Had he not become a naturalist, he might have been another Edison.

This book makes it abundantly clear that Muir was a lover of nature--and particularly birds--at an early age. Some might tire of the lengthy descriptions of birds, but even if your not an ornithologist you should stick it out and enjoy the little sentimental anecdotes of frontier life found throughout this book.

Toward the end of the Muir
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a fabulous book, hilarious at times, deeply thoughtful, and beautifully, beautifully written. He lived in Scotland until he was about 11, then immigrated to rural Minnesota with his super-strict father. Honestly, it’s a wonder he survived his exquisitely rambunctious early childhood and the ridiculously extreme farm labor of his early teens. He also invented incredible things like working clocks–hand-carved out of hickory–having never seen the inside of a clock before! I haven’t found this ...more
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John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The S ...more
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“When I was a child in Scotland, I was fond of everything that was wild, and all my life I've been growing fonder and fonder of wild places and wild creatures. Fortunately, around my native town of Dunbar, by the stormy North Sea, there was no lack of wildness...” 2 likes
“Several times Muir was threatened with a successful business career, but each time he escaped again into the wilderness.” 2 likes
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