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The Night Country

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  634 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Toward the end of his life, Loren Eiseley reflected on the mystery of life, throwing light on those dark places traversed by himself and centuries of humankind. Weaving together memoir, philosophical reflection, and his always keen observations of the natural world, Loren Eiseley’s essays in The Night Country explore those moments, often dark and unexpected, when chance ...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Bison Books (first published 1971)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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 ·  634 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Loren Eiseley is where I go to find peace.

It may be a tenebrous peace, in the crepuscular dimming of the world just after sunset, but it is always peace. And his The Night Country is one of the refuges from the human-haunted world I prefer above all.

In one of the essays collected herein, Eiseley describes himself as "a little bone man," i.e., an archaeological and paleontological scientist who never managed to find a treasure-trove of fossils of the sort that would have made him famous and rich
Diane Barnes
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book was like having a conversation with an extremely intelligent man. You get most of what he's telling you, knowing that some of it is over your head, but listening anyway because it's so beautifully stated. You don't want to interrupt with your own opinions on the subject because you recognize that you may be in the presence of a special intellect who may inadvertently hand you the secrets of the universe.

Being in this man's head for the time it took me to read this book was
No civilization professes openly to be unable to declare its destination. In an age like our own, however, there comes a time when individuals in increasing numbers unconsciously seek direction and taste despair. It is then that dead men give back answers and the sense of confusion grows. Soothsayers, like flies, multiply in periods of social chaos. Moreover, let us not confuse ourselves with archaic words. In an age of science the scientist may emerge as a soothsayer.

I'm fortunate enough to
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best books I randomly came across. An amazing discovery for those that aren't familiar with Loren. The cross section of astronomy, philosophy, anthropology, and amazing literature.
Doug H - On Hiatus
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Loren Eiseley is a kindred spirit, but my kin are all a bit much.
Although Loren Eiseley has this to say about nature writers such as Gilbert White, Richard Jefferies, and W. H. Hudson, the words apply equally to himself: "Even though they were not discoverers in the objective sense, one feels at times that the great nature essayists had more individual perception than their scientific contemporaries. Theirs was a different contribution. They opened the minds of men by the sheer power of their thought. The world of nature, once seen through the eye of genius, ...more
Graychin (D. Dalrymple)
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m still getting familiar with Eiseley, but I’m so glad to have found him. I feel like I’ve discovered an unexpected teacher, a kindred spirit. How often do you come across a scientist who can quote Sir Thomas Browne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Shakespeare, and the anonymous medieval author of The Cloud of Unknowing while discussing evolutionary theory and paleontology? His work is a bridge spanning the gap that opened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries between science and philosophy, ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was very disappointing to me. I'm not sure what I expected, but what I found in this publication was an author merely bordering on success. There were moments of great insight and wisdom, but overall the book failed to come together in a cohesive way. Unfortunately his attempt to mix themes of anthropology with existential philosophy doesn't lead the reader anywhere. I imagine Loren Eiseley fancied himself a great thinker. Several times in the book he points out that he doesn't sleep ...more
I had Eiseley recommended to me some time ago, but this is the first book of his that I've read. I don't know if this was the place for me to start. These essays, loosely connected with one another by events in Eiseley's past and an affiliation with some sort of darkness (whether that be real or imagined or personal), did not elicit the effect on me that it seemed the author was aiming for. Judging from other reviews, that appears to be a contrarian view.

It may just be that my capacity for
I would call this human sciences but it's so much more than that. Amazing quality of writing that captures the pain of childhood with its gangs and bullies, as well as its joy of discovery of nature and the environment. Plus adult perspective on archaeology, collections of skulls, and other scientific musings in comparison to literature. Fascinating essays, all of them, that show the range of interests in a man's life. I would invite this guy to a dinner party for conversation if I could! Or ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Rating of each essay:

The Gold Wheel - 3/5
The Places Below - 4/5
Big Eyes Small Eyes - 5/5
Instruments of Darkness - 3/5
The Chresmologue - 3/5
Paw Marks and Buried Towns - 3/5
Barbed Wire and Brown Skulls - 4/5
The Relic Men - 5/5 (FAVORITE)
Strangeness in Proportion - 4/5
The Creature from the Marsh - 4/5
One Night's Dying - 3/5
Obituary of a Bone Hunter - 5/5
The Mind as Nature - 3/5
The Brown Wasps - 3/5
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Love Loren Eiseley. His short essay's and stories are the best. A great American thinker, poet (and I don't mean his poetry which I'm not to into), and scientist. Read him by yourself at night or with others out loud. He will introduce you to thoughts and things you have not yet dreamed of.
Aug 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As an educator, I found some amazing insights into the role of education in here. Something about the natural world and education go hand in hand, and I question our industrial approach to schooling. He doesn't indict any of that, but my thoughts ranged down that path as I read this book.
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have all the books the Library of America has published but have only dabbled in reading them (they do look great on my shelves!). A few weeks ago LOA put two e-books, authored by Loren Eiseley, on sale at Amazon for 99 cents each. With Non-fiction November approaching, I thought, why not and purchased them both, even though I knew nothing about Eiseley or the books. The 14 essays in this book were well worth the price and then some!

This is a collection to be savored rather than devoured. I
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I found a few of the stories really captivating, namely: the one about him as a boy exploring the sewers, big-bone hunting in the desert, and the cave with rising water. I liked these for the narrative arc with just the right amount of introspection. Some of the stories were too philosophic for my taste.
Sarah Koz
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tower-road
Loren Eiseley is a melancholy genius. So we have one thing in common. He thought he was dumb and forgettable. As one sad fleeting dusty skull to another, sir, I remember you.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
(My thanks to Dr. Michael Dolzani of Baldwin-Wallace College for the introduction to Eiseley.)

There is a shadow on the wall before me. It is my own; the hour is late. I write in a hotel room at midnight. Tomorrow the shadow on the wall will be that of another.

If you cannot bear the silence and the darkness, do not go there; if you dislike black night and yawning chasms, never make them your profession. If you fear the sound of water hurrying through crevices toward unknown and mysterious
Thomas Harpole
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Eiseley's ability to incorporate his own personal reflection in reiterating the profound flow of the natural world is astounding. I found myself pondering my own place in the universe while also exploring landscapes I had never been too. Easy, exciting read that breathes peace. I will cherish this one.
Petrea Burchard
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A truly beautiful and original book. Eiseley's essays about childhood, anthropology, genius and more might not seem to belong together. But they share the topics of darkness, individuality, learning. His prose is clear and profound, making me grateful to have discovered his work and to know there are more Loren Eiseley books to read.
I read this book on my dad's recommendation, it's one of his favorites, but I just had trouble getting into it. Some sections were interesting, then the next would just be dull and long winded. When he was talking about adventures he'd been on the book was interesting, but it ended up being too philosophical when he talked about humanity and the ages.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, essays
These personal essays are rich with wonder. To be read and savored, but they are not easy to absorb. Sort of an essayists version of rhyming slant. There are easier essays to stimulate your thinking - Such as of Staying Put by Scott Russell Sanders - Eiseley's perspective has a mystical quality born out an anthropologist's understanding of time.
Dave Mills
A bright fellow, but this book of his is sad, dark, and a bit depressing. The drawings in this paperback edition don't help. Essay 9, "The Relic Men," is particularly good. So is essay 12, "Obituary of a Bone Hunter." You'll never think of Pholcidae in quite the same way again after you read his account.
Rob Prince
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loren Eiseley was a wonderful anthropologist. He has a profound sense of the complex interaction between people, nature and history. These essays are not easy reading although each has a point. Highly recommended.
Carol Ann
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I rated it four stars only because I liked certain parts better than others. I like Eiseley's writing. This was a dark collection of pieces, but his genius is obvious again. I couldn't put it down.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel seen, and that doesn’t happen very often. I have tremendous affinity to the author and so many of my internal monologues and digressions feel suddenly validated, long after I ever gave up hope or need for such a thing.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chilton Miller
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book to read when your head is full of meandering thoughts about life, philosophy, and childhood memories.
Hobart Frolley
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like Gaston Bachelard or Roland Barthes, there is a pure joy of discovery and learning in this book that is quite infectious. Loren Eisley writes beautifully and this book was a pleasure to read
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Really dark.
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Loren Corey Eiseley (September 3, 1907 – July 9, 1977) was a highly respected anthropologist, science writer, ecologist, and poet. He published books of essays, biography, and general science in the 1950s through the 1970s.

Eiseley is best known for the poetic essay style, called the "concealed essay". He used this to explain complex scientific ideas, such as human evolution, to the general public.
“To have dragons one must have change; that is the first principle of dragon lore.” 29 likes
“It is frequently the tragedy of the great artist, as it is of the great scientist, that he frightens the ordinary man. If he is more than a popular
story-teller it may take humanity a generation to absorb and grow accustomed to the new geography with which the scientist or artist presents us.... In short, like the herd animals we are, we sniff warily at the strange one among us. If he is fortunate enough finally to be accepted, it is likely to be after a trial of ridicule and after the sting has been removed from his work by long familiarization and bowdlerizing, when the alien quality of his thought has been mitigated or removed.”
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