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Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

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Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses. Robin Wall Kimmerer's book is not an identification guide, nor is it a scientific treatise. Rather, it is a series of linked personal essays that will lead general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings, from salmon and hummingbirds to redwoods and rednecks. Kimmerer clearly and artfully explains the biology of mosses, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us.

Drawing on her diverse experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.

Gathering Moss will appeal to a wide range of readers, from bryologists to those interested in natural history and the environment, Native Americans, and contemporary nature and science writing.

168 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2003

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About the author

Robin Wall Kimmerer

22 books3,407 followers
Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (also credited as Robin W. Kimmerer) (born 1953) is Associate Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). She is the author of numerous scientific articles, and the book Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. She is Potawatomi and combines her heritage with her scientific and environmental passions.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,438 reviews
Profile Image for Lucy Dacus.
91 reviews19.5k followers
May 8, 2022
Robin Wall Kimmerer write more books challenge
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 9, 2020

Shout out to this fabulous book, it made a guest appearance in my latest YouTube Video (all about making fun nature things out of felt).

The written review:
There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents.
Dr Kimmerer takes us on a walk through the wild, intricate and utterly unforgettable world of mosses.

She has spent years studying one of the smallest plants on earth - mosses.
Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells.
Mosses are incredibly common but often shuttled into the background. They aren't towering like trees or flowering like plants but they are uniquely beautiful and infinitesimally complicated.

She draws comparisons between her life experiences and the secret lives of mosses.

This book is wonderfully written and provides such an incredibly perspective on a hidden world.
Our stories tell us that the Creator gave these to us, as original instructions. The foundation of education is to discover that gift within us and learn to use it well.
I am a HUGE fan of in depth looks into the mundane and this one was no exception!

I've noticed a tendency when scientists explain their research that it feels almost incomprehensible to the outsider...but that was never the case.

The author truly did a wonderful job explaining the significance of her years of research and experience to a lay audience.

Her love for her subject shown through and truly made this book a delightful read!

The audiobook was extremely well-read - the pacing was spot on and the excitement of the narrator was conveyed perfectly!

All in all, this book was absolutely fabulous!

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Profile Image for Elaine.
23 reviews
February 4, 2013
I just finished reading Gathering Moss and it was a lovely surprise. Not what I was expecting. I was expecting lots of pieces of science detailed and separate. What I got was one whole. A story, woven together with moss. I love this book and I love moss! I see it everywhere. As I'm walking across a gravel pathway at work....there it is! As I lift my eyes to gaze at the trunk of a tree....it's there too! As I look at at a distant stand of Maple and see a green fuzz, it's too early for leaves....could it be moss? I betcha. It's on my roof, under my feet and over my head! So prevalent that we don't notice it any more. So it was with joy that I read Gathering Moss and began to really see it, this diminutive perfect plant. The author teaches with simple instruction as well as analogy. It was easy to discover the world of moss in these 162 pages. But now I want more! Suddenly I need their names, and it seems hard, as I've never identified individual mosses before. Ms. Kimmerer, can you come out to Seattle for a field identification seminar? She says: Learning to see mosses is more like listening than looking. A cursory glance will not do it. Straining to hear a faraway voice or catch a nuance in the quiet subtext of a conversation requires attentiveness, a filtering of all the noise, to catch the music. Mosses are not elevator music; they are the intertwined threads of a Beethoven quartet. You can look at mosses the way you can listen deeply to water running over rocks. The soothing sound of a stream has many voices, the soothing green of mosses likewise.

The author has a beautiful way with words. She speaks of moss and rocks in the beginning. Within the circle of stones, I find myself unaccountably beyond thinking, beyond feeling. The rocks are full of intention, a deep presence attracting life.....The rocks are beyond slow, beyond strong, and yet yielding to a soft green breath as powerful as a glacier, the mosses wearing away their surfaces, grain by grain bringing them slowly back to sand. There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About light and shadow and the drift of continents.

She reminds us that: Mosses are so little known by the general public that only a few have been given common names. Most are known solely by their scientific Latin names, a fact which discourages most people from attempting to identify them. I'm one of those people. Moss names have always been distant and out of reach. Not part of our vocabulary like salal or mahonia. Where have you been hiding dicranum, fissidens, tetraphis??? Let's start at the beginning. Definition. A true moss or bryophyte is the most primitive of land plants. Mosses are often described by what they lack, in comparison to the more familiar higher plants. They lack flowers, fruits, and seeds and have no roots. They have no vascular system, no xylem and phloem to conduct water internally. they are the most simple of plants, and in their simplicity, elegant. I found it very interesting that mosses are much more susceptible to air pollution damage than are higher plants.

Robin Kimmerer tells us the almost impossible, that most mosses are immune to death by drying. For them, desiccation is simply a temporary interruption in life. Mosses may lose up to 98 percent of their moisture, and still survive to restore themselves when water is replenished. It's like a plant with a little bit of magic. And turns out to be very useful. Native Americans used mosses for diapers and sanitary napkins. Magic diapers! Remember that, moms, if you find yourselves out in the woods in a pinch.

This book will also introduce you to the astounding world of the waterbear, or tardigrade. A tiny animal, .5 mm in length, that roams the water ways of the mosses, sucking out the contents of the moss cells. When the moss dries out, they do as well, going into a period of suspended animation. In this state they can withstand desiccation, freezing, boiling, radiation and things that most life on earth can not. They are unbelievable!

In one section the author discusses how two different mosses can inhabit the same log. Ecological theory predicts that coexistence is possible only when the two species diverge from one another in some essential way. This theory made me think of men and women. Maybe the only way that we can coexist is because of our differences, which there are many! But in the case of mosses, she is referring to their reproductive strategy. One moss only grows on top of logs she discovered, because this is a pathway for chipmunks who disturb the area and spread the tiny moss propagules along the way. There are always many parts to a puzzle and how curious that moss and chipmunks are linked together!

I fully appreciate her answer to the homeowner who complains about moss in their lawn. They always want to kill it. Robin responds mosses cannot kill grasses. They simply haven't the ability to outcompete them. Mosses appear in a lawn when conditions for moss growth are better than conditions for grass growth. Too much shade or water, too low a pH, soil compaction--any of these things can discourage grasses and let the mosses appear. Killing the mosses would not help the ailing grass in any way. Better to increase the sunlight, or better, pull out the remaining grass and let nature build you a first-rate moss garden. Hear hear!!!

Ms. Kimmerer poses a thought provoking question at the end of the book. She reminds us of all the things that plants provide for us and asks: In the web of reciprocity, what is our special gift, our responsibility that we offer to the plants in return? I know what plants give to me, food, shelter, beauty, life, but I don't often ponder what I can give to the plants in return. A clean earth? Less pollution? Reduce, reuse, recycle? I guess I can do all those good things not just for me, but for our planet and for the plants as well. Interesting how similar those two words are, plant and planet, one is the other. She answers her question with these passionate words; Our ancient teachers tell us that the role of human beings is respect and stewardship. Our responsibility is to care for the plants and all the land in a way that honors life. We are taught that using a plant shows respect for its nature, and we use it in a way that allows it to continue bringing its gifts....We can live in such a way that our thoughts of respect and gratitude are also made visible to the world.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
429 reviews184 followers
February 23, 2018
Mosses are the final frontier for most botanists. We start with the easy stuff - trees, shrubs, and flowers - and then level up into grasses, sedges, and rushes. But mosses are uniquely daunting, as there are really no beginner books and even basic taxonomy requires a microscope.

Gathering Moss will probably not teach you any mosses. There's a handful of line illustrations of different mosses, but no photos or tips for ID. Instead, it's a collection of essays linked by the subject of moss but ranging widely in topic, from the author's research on a particular aspect of moss ecology to memoir-y reflections on moss and heritage, parenthood, life.

I enjoyed, well, parts of this book. As a plant biologist, I loved the essays on Kimmerer's field work. Published studies are so often the result of grueling, uncomfortable, mishap-ridden days in the field, yet we rarely get to hear the full stories of how a scientist observed, tested, re-tested, re-observed something enough to come to a meaningful conclusion. They are often funny stories in retrospect, and Kimmerer, who worked on a site that required her to be chest high in water for hours at a time, writes:

In the evenings I'd transcribe the tapes, converting my recorded litany to real data. I wish I'd kept some of those tapes, just for entertainment value. In between the hours of droned numbers were bursts of inspired cursing as the canoe started to drift away, tightening the microphone around my neck. I recorded any number of squeals and frantic splashes when something nibbled at my legs. I even had tape of an entire conversation with passing canoeists who handed me a cold Leinenkugels Ale as they floated by.

This rings so true as a description of how data is actually collected and science advances, millimeter by millimeter. And the author's findings about ecological tolerance and competition amongst mosses are interesting as well. Kimmerer avoids a lot of specialized bryophyte terminology and writes about her research in a way that lay readers will easily understand. I enjoyed the more science-oriented essays a lot, even though I cringed at the experiment that involved using plastic beads on a study site to mimic seed dispersal. Even at a polluted site, surely adding more plastic waste isn't the answer?

But. Please, please, please save me from overwritten memoirs. Maybe I just don't have a lot of tolerance for memoirs or mixing in human interest stuff (meh, humans) into the study of plants, but I found a lot of the extended metaphors in Gathering Moss (e.g. sexual and asexual reproduction is akin to her neighbor's kids, one of whom has grown up to pursue the same interests while the other has chosen a very different path) to be forced, saccharine, and wordy. I have a degree in plant physiology specializing in water relations, so hearing the water cycle and moss adaptations to preserving water described thus was an eyebrow raising experience:

The atmosphere is possessive of its water. While the clouds are generous with their rain, the sky always calls it back again with the inexorable pull of evaporation. The moss isn't helpless; it exerts its own pull to counter the powerful draw of the sun. Like a jealous lover, the moss has ways to heighten the attachments of water to itself.

Good grief, woman. Does everything have to be anthropomorphized? Moss does not think, wait, or feel. I also hate how it takes Kimmerer so damn long to get a simple idea across because she's busy, as my friend would put it, #tryingtowritegood. It's not poetic. It's not required for vibrant science writing. It's just irritating. And my skeptic hackles rose when, in her essay on indigenous uses of mosses, she blithely claims, "It's well known that a medicinal plant frequently occurs in the vicinity of the source of the illness," which sounds about as dubious as the medieval conviction that foods that looked like particular organs were beneficial for that organ.

There's some genuinely great stuff in here about Kimmerer's experience and life long study of moss - sections on tardigrades (squee!), sorrow over illegal moss harvesting and the slow pace of moss regeneration, a moss that grows almost entirely in the dark, and even some excellent dinner conversation material ("The indigestible fiber of mosses has been reported from a surprising location - the anal plug of hibernating bears"). But I'm really not sure whom this book is intended for, as it seems a bit too science-y for those who are casually interested in mosses, and yet too memoir-y for scientists.

The best thing I have to say about Gathering Moss, and it is probably worth a full star on its own, is that since reading it, I have been paying far closer attention to the mosses living unobtrusively around me and thinking that yes, perhaps a home microscope would be a worthwhile investment after all.
Profile Image for rose.
77 reviews
August 3, 2007
ok. so i'm obsessed with moss. but it helps that kimmerer is an excellent nature writer, passionate about her topic, but smart enough to keep it personal and interesting. she made me want to shrink down and live in a forest of moss.
Profile Image for Meghan Hughes Ohrstrom.
109 reviews1,949 followers
July 1, 2020
This read has now become one of my favorite nature books (next to Braiding Sweetgrass by Kimmerer as well of course!) But really! This book was a bit dense in scientific terms (that I often had to pause to look up), but it served as an incredible well of knowledge on mosses, the habitats they create, the plants & animals they assist, & the relationship we have with them. I especially enjoyed Kimmerer’s words on the impact deforestation has on moss & how even leaving “straggler trees” behind to “regenerate the mosses” will never be a viable option if there are no groves to assist with shade & moisture collection. She wrote about the lack of ethical harvesting in the moss industry, logging industry, & landscaping industry. I loved those chapters the most because my partner Finley & I would really love to buy land that we can rehabilitate in the future. Hearing directly from a bryologist (bryology is the study of moss) about how to *ethically* grow moss in those environments & introduce them back into a landscape was really helpful for me. I learned SO MUCH from this book, but the #1 thing I want to share is that moss is one of our most helpful companions in the natural world. It filters our water & our air, provides a carpeted home for seed growth, insulates logs to make homes for slugs & mycorrhizae, houses so much life inside just a muffin-sized handful, & should be protected as well as admired by us humans. I now walk through the woods looking for the hair of Dendroalsia on tree trunks, the tangled tufts of Rhytidiadelphus on stumps & logs, the swaying curtains of Neckera on branches, & many more moss friends that color the world around me.
Profile Image for Hank Horse.
38 reviews5 followers
May 12, 2008
This is my favorite kind of science writing, done by someone in love with the physical world, who skillfully communicates how amazing their object of study is. It got to a point where I was dogearing most pages. Moss is awesome, the first stuff to cling to land out of the primordial ocean. You can freeze it to almost absolute zero, then add a drop of water and it's good to go. Kimmerer is an astute observer not only of plants but of people as well. Her chapter 'The Owner,' about her encounter with a deranged, secretive billionaire and his preposterous landscaping, could stand on its own as an ecological manifesto. Excellent.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,717 reviews2,312 followers
September 15, 2019
"Mosses are successful by any biological measure - they inhabit nearly every ecosystem in earth and number as many as 22,000 species."

Kimmerer's linked essays weave personal histories with her research and fieldwork in bryology and forest ecology, and she relates the lives of these small plants into the larger sphere of forests, speaking to the important role they play in temperature regulation, air flow, soil nutrients, etc.

Mosses inhabit this sphere of common yet unnoticed living things. Silent observers. There's wisdom and experience here, for a plant that has witnessed millenia of life. Kimmerer taps into this deep wisdom, sharing stories of her own life as a mother, as university professor, as a Potawatomi native woman.

Her macro approach (the ecology) notes the other life's that rely and use mosses - the snails (as beds), the tree seedlings (as nutrient base), the birds (as lining for nests), the bears (digestives), and the humans (myriad of ways!). There's a particularly insightful essay "The Web of Reciprocity: Indigenous Uses of Mosses" that relates how indigenous groups have used mosses for bedding, for baby diapers, for menstrual padding, for bindings, for food additives.

If you are familiar with Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, this earlier book is very similar in style and tone. Thoughtful and respectful to both history and ecology, highly educational, and delightful to read and ponder.
Profile Image for Leili V..
151 reviews2 followers
August 12, 2022
Heartbreaking, informative, intensely interesting, and joyous, all at the same time. This author is truly talented. I’m so thankful she read her own work for the audiobook version. She is amazing. My only regret after reading this book is that I do not yet have my own favorite type of moss. This is a huge problem that I hadn’t known I even had until now.
Profile Image for Dianne.
278 reviews9 followers
February 4, 2014
I love it when book leads on to book, as way leads on to way. Gilbert made the briefest mention of this book in her credits for "The Signature of All Things", recognizing Kimmerer as the real collector of mosses. And brilliantly, my very own library (Belk Library, Elon U) had a copy right on the shelf. Trust me - this is magically written, and will also introduce you to award-winning Scrabble words like seta, protonema, gemmae. I could read over and over again Chpt 2 about "Learning to See". Kimmerer's Native American sensitivity to the delicacy and strength of mosses is wonderful, and she sees all as part of "the sacred life of the world."
Profile Image for Marisa.
123 reviews400 followers
June 20, 2020
I cannot express how happy I am to have finally picked Kimmerer's work up. Her writing is beautifully descriptive and all-enveloping, deeply personal and yet insightful in the ways of the broader world. Proportionally, Gathering Moss has more straight scientific writing than Braiding Sweetgrass, more factual descriptions of mosses and the role that they play in their surrounding ecosystems. But you can really see Kimmerer practicing the narrative style that comes to define Braiding Sweetgrass, braiding nature writing with memoir and cultural history. It's a grounding read that somehow also had me daydreaming of lush forests and carpets of moss.

I can already tell this is going to be a continuous reread and a book I would definitely recommend!
Profile Image for Sofija.
137 reviews
April 4, 2023
I never cared much about moss until I started reading this book. The author's passion and love for nature, and moss, are so vivid and it reflects mine. Moments like these remind me why I wanted to study biology (but also much more). Two weeks ago I went on a walk through the woods, and I paid close attention to everything, especially moss. I even took some photos of a really cute moss I saw. This book feels like you are on a nature walk with the author, and they're telling you all these cool facts about moss life and reproduction, but you also catch a glimpse into the author's life. Reading this restored my inner peace. I wish I could have a physical copy to annotate.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,427 reviews397 followers
April 17, 2023
Such a beautiful combination of memoir and science, and natural and cultural histories.

Kimmerer is amazing at showing how the smallest of things (mosses, in the case) are interconnected with the rest of the ecological system...and humans. And how humans have disrupted the system so much, how out of balance so many of us are with nature.

It's so wild that this book is twenty years old, and rings so true today.
Profile Image for Ashley Schers.
34 reviews2 followers
May 23, 2022
4.5 ⭐️ This was incredibly well written and is a great foundational read on the significance of mosses in both science and culture.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
651 reviews86 followers
January 6, 2020
"“Just as you can pick out the voice of a loved one in the tumult of a noisy room, or spot your child's smile in a sea of faces, intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world. This sense of connection arises from a special kind of discrimination, a search image that comes from a long time spent looking and listening. Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing, when visual acuity is not enough.”

Gathering Moss is a blend of science and poetry, just the right kind of book I love. I've learned quite a few things about moss. What is moss? Can you distinguish moss from lichen? The reproduction strategy of moss. Ancient moss protection is inadequate in US. The rootless moss can be more difficult to transplant than trees.

American indigenous wisdom is scattered in the book--take only what you need, always remember to practice reciprocity. If you want to know more about indigenous culture and its view of natural world, the author's other book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, is a great source.
222 reviews3 followers
April 2, 2020
So this book is not really 'a natural and cultural history of mosses', which is what I thought it would be. It is more like the author reflecting on mosses, her life, the meaning of things, and how interconnectivity in biology things (including people and mosses). This book is a series of essays about her life, with mosses playing some role in each.

I liked the parts about moss. I liked the parts where she describes experiments that she/ her graduate students have done/ are doing. I like her descriptions of the secret mossy meadow and the rainforest. Something was missing though. I think I wanted more actual mosses and less emotion/ spirituality.

This book is for people who like walking in nature, knowing the names of moss species, and want to read essays mostly about spirituality/ the shortcomings of science/ the connection between parts of nature.
Profile Image for Banshee.
493 reviews48 followers
January 27, 2022
Impressed by the previous book I read by this author, Braiding Sweetgrass, I decided to reach for her older book, even though I was in doubt just how interesting it could be to learn in detail about mosses. And yet, I was positively surprised. I ended up gaining knowledge I never knew I wanted and enjoyed myself in the process.

The scientific facts, tinged by the author's experiences, were woven into intricate narratives which were both engaging and beautiful. Many times, those facts were used as metaphors for completely different subjects, and still, it all made sense and made a coherent whole.

The language used in the book was very poetic and made the experience of listening to it into something extraordinary. It made my mind completely tuned into the stories and made me forget about the daily hardships.

I will definitely never look at moss in the same way again.
Profile Image for Ron.
92 reviews1 follower
December 26, 2019
If you read one book this year about the wild diversity, resilience and charm of mosses - they have their own atmosphere! they can lose 98% of their water and still bounce back with the next rain! - make it this one.

I bought this gem of a book in May after we purchased a little cabin in the Mount Hood National Forest, and I wondered about the abundance and variety of mosses that seem to cover every square inch of nearby ground, rocks, and trees. Now I feel I know a lot more about them. Next up: trying to match some of the sketches in the book to specimens around us. I'll probably start giving names to individual clumps as well.
Profile Image for Sara.
679 reviews
June 2, 2015
Final verdict was... finished it, but only because I'd started it.

The moss information was fascinating. Would have read a lot more of that. The rest was built like a collection of standard "life story" essays from a beginner's writing workshop. And I have read far too many of those already.

Too, there was enough bad punctuation to be distracting.
Profile Image for Susan Albert.
Author 129 books2,228 followers
September 28, 2015
Loved this collection of linked personal essays, all focused on Kimmerer's scientific work with mosses but reaching into her life as a teacher, mother, and Native American. Lovely metaphors here for being present to a community of species that lives in a different world, yet shares the world we live in, too.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
April 25, 2019
I could listen to Kimmerer perform the phone book. Her audiobook voice is just lovely, and it really adds dimension to what she writes about. This is a book about moss, as explored through the scientific and Indigenous knowledge of nature. It definitely made me take pause while wandering the woods recently, and it's a lovely ode to a part of nature that we all so easily overlook.
Profile Image for Miri.
45 reviews22 followers
June 23, 2022
I decided to revisit the audio book and take notes this time around because I'm starting to develop an interest in forest ecology. I'm grateful for moss and the way they are tiny miniature forests <3
Profile Image for Kara Fox.
59 reviews1 follower
April 3, 2022
If you fuck with moss I recommend. More science heavy than braiding sweet grass but also shorter and definitely easy to understand.
Profile Image for Adam Neve.
55 reviews2 followers
March 1, 2018
This is not a cultural history, it's a memoir. This is not a natural history, it's a treatise on bullshit. Aside from a few beautiful turns of phrase and a very interesting discussion of tetraphis reproduction, this book is a groveling paean to New Age-y hippie nonsense hellbent on arguing the claim that indigenous spirituality is an equivalent (or superior) system of knowledge when compared to the scientific method. Rather than discuss actual examples of Native American brilliance, Kimmerer is content to pretend that magic is the driving force behind understanding the natural world.
Profile Image for Max.
750 reviews19 followers
June 19, 2022
This one took me a while to finish. I really loved Braiding Sweetgrass by this author to that's why I picked up Gathering Moss. I liked it a lot, but compared to Braiding Sweetgrass it was a bit boring. Maybe I should have read them the other way around, this one first. Great stories about moss, though!
Profile Image for Ardyth.
639 reviews50 followers
May 22, 2020
It's as surprising to me to write a five-star review on a book about mosses as it is to you to read it. (Well, for those of you who know me)

I picked this up for a reading challenge -- "a book about nature from a culture not your own." I was not excited about this.

The thing is, I don't even have a baseline comprehension of nature. I can't say exactly when it all went off the rails... certainly, I spent most of my childhood out of doors, and have vivid memories of the small wood and creek just across the alley behind our house... but I never *learned* anything about what I was seeing. Despite weekly visits to the bookmobile, and almost-daily to the elementary school library, I rarely read scientific nonfiction because it was so BORING.

I'm still a little mad about that.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is not at all boring to read. These essays on mosses and life are to be read slowly, and savored, or not at all... though, honestly, I find it hard to imagine racing through them. Her style, while not verbose, simply leaves too much in the mind with every paragraph.

My other difficulty with nature books (which may or may not also be yours) is that I live in a concrete jungle. I see a lot of love in bookish circles for Herriot, Burgess, Buckley, et al -- but after sampling have found they have little to offer me. The trouble isn't that they were written for children, it's that they aren't about *here*, you see. Not about city life. They're about someplace else, where Nature is.

Mosses, though... mosses are everywhere. That's how I settled on this title. Even my untrained eye notices moss while running errands on foot, or walking to the dedicated Nature area of town.

The particular species mentioned by Kimmerer may or may not be present in our Special Administrative Region, I honestly have no idea... but the patterns certainly are.

Kimmerer has given me new eyes to see. I don't remember, and maybe never will memorize, the Latinate names. She gave me permission to be okay with eschewing arbitrary data in favor of learning to see life itself.

My own life feels strange, always, but especially now during the pandemic. Gathering Moss was both a respite from the news, and a reminder that Nature isn't and never has been "over there." It isn't separate from us. Our concrete jungle is as much a part of the system as that creek of my childhood. What a heady, terrifying, and reassuring concept.

Just... read this book. I doubt you'll regret it.
Profile Image for Gail.
325 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2018
A book about moss? Really? I hated botany in college so while this was highly recommended by a friend (who happens to be a botanist who studies ...wait for it ... sedges!), I just wasn't sure this was for me. I added it to my TBR list and spent more than a year with it there. I did attempt it once, but didn't get far and the library reclaimed it.

Now, having finally dug in, I only wish I'd read it sooner.

This was Robin Wall Kimmerer's first book. As noted in my review of "Braiding Sweetgrass", Dr. Kimmerer is a national treasure. Any woman who can write a book on moss that is, and isn't, about moss, can hold the attention of someone who isn't a fan of botany (I couldn't read Pollan's "Botany of Desire" either), and that prompts me to stop on the trail on discovering a patch of moss, just to touch it, has a rare writing gift indeed! I loved this book.

Wall is a gifted writer who takes language, science, and memoir to another level. Her drawings of different moss species are themselves engaging (they are black and white line drawings, as if from field notes). We follow her on her personal and academic journey to an understanding of this unique life-form, one that I knew absolutely nothing about before this book. Did you know that moss has no roots? That it dies and comes back to life repeatedly, based on environmental conditions? That it was used by Native people to make diapers?

Moss isn't just fascinating for how it lives, spreads, and is used even today, but it becomes a metaphor for life and its struggle for survival. By seeing moss in a new way, we see the challenges to living in a new way too. While the spiritual dimension in this book isn't as immersive as her second book, we follow her experiences as a wife, mother, and scientist in ways that she doesn't reveal in "Braiding Sweetgrass".

There is so much to this book that one reading isn't sufficient to grasp the depth of meaning. I do not yet own this, but I must get a copy so I can re-read it, likely more than once. My one regret is that it isn't available in an e-copy so I'm stuck with a "real" book, which is not my preference. That said, it's one for a permanent library.

Read it. Then get yourself a hand lens and find some moss. You'll see a whole world in miniature and marvel that a universe of life can exist far beyond our senses but within our grasp. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Eddie Watkins.
Author 6 books5,451 followers
October 14, 2014
This woman really loves moss, and who can blame her. She writes about it as a scientist, with all the Latin jargon and botanical details, but she also weaves into the linked essays that comprise this book a host of details from her daily life as a mother and traveller and what amounts to a sort of natural philosophy.

The only thing about the book that bothered me a little was her almost grudging inclusion of urban moss (the only type I have daily access to) and she seemed to not miss an opportunity to take jabs at cities and city life. Or maybe I'm just envious that she's from the rural northwest where a hundred varieties of moss will colonize even rolling stones.
Profile Image for Anne (ReadEatGameRepeat).
604 reviews49 followers
June 26, 2021
Never thought id be so into Mosses but here i am - This book was so fun to read and interesting and you can tell the authors enthusiasm and passion for plants with every word. I really really recommend the audiobook as it is narrated by the author and she does a great job.
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