Birch Browsings

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Though he was one of America’s most beloved authors for more than fifty years, Catskills naturalist John Burroughs is all but forgotten today. For the Penguin Nature Library, Bill McKibben has selected fifteen essays that will introduce Burroughs to a new generation of readers unfamiliar with his work. A devotee of the Eastern woodlands, Burroughs writes of the trout streams, lakes, dairy farms, and hardwood forests of his native Delaware and Hudson River watershed area.

The essays in BIRCH BROWSINGS emphasize the homey and familiar face of nature rather than its majesty and grandeur. Burroughs seems most at home in the gentle landscape of his native Catskills,“where woodlands gave way to pasture and field, where small brooks ran into the placid Hudson.” His nature writing excels in the close and careful description of birdwatching, trout-fishing and hiking. He is a master of mood and detail, evoking the pleasures of an early spring morning in April, a summer trip down the Delaware in a home-built boat, a walk in a January snowstorm, or a hiking trip across the English Midlands in quest of the nightingale. His is the art of noticing small things and capturing the ordinary pleasures of the passing seasons.

The publication of a new selection of John Burroughs’ nature essays is both timely and appropriate. Neither totally wild nor completely urbanized, his view of nature reflects that of most ordinary Americans. BIRCH BROWSINGS celebrates the quiet charm of nature near at home in the American countryside.