Saturday, January 7, 2012

My First Summer in the Sierra - John Muir

Reading For Sanity would like to thank avid outdoorsman and guest reviewer, Michael Irving for this review.  Michael works as an admissions counselor for Idaho State University, moonlights as an amateur chef, and maintains that has yet to lose an argument.  He's also my younger brother.   I spent such a significant portion of my adolescence tormenting him, I'm surprised he still speaks to me, let alone sends me reviews.  
(Michael at The City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho)

Summary:  In the summer of 1869, John Muir made his first long trip to Yosemite.  When a friend offered him the chance to accompany his flock of sheep and a shepherd to the high pastures of the Sierra, it was an opportunity Muir could not resist.  My First Summer in the Sierra is the journal he kept of those summer days, of the wildlife and plant life, and of his explorations into the magical places of the mountains.

Founder of the Sierra Club, and its president until his death, preserver of his beloved Yosemite as a national park, Muir was a spirit so free that all he did to prepare for an expedition was to "throw some tea and bread into an old sack and jump over the back fence."  In a world confronting the deterioration of the natural environment and an ever-quickening pace of life, the attraction of Muir's writings has never been greater.  (Summary from book - Image from )

Michael's Review: I consider My First Summer in the Sierra one of American Literature's hidden treasures.  The book chronicles the experiences of a young conservationist, John Muir, as he trekked through the Sierra Nevada Mountains outside of San Francisco.  Born in 1838 on the coast of Scotland, Muir immigrated with his family to the United States as a young boy.  Here formal and informal education planted seeds that sprouted deep desires to live, and move, and breathe in wild places.  Consequently a simple trip to San Francisco  sparked a summer of traveling through the surrounding countryside as a shepherd.  Muir's record during his travels recounts everything from harrowing tales of bear attacks, to the simple and sublime silence of a warm summers eve.   

Muir has a unique style of writing. His ability to take the unadorned moments of his day to day life and, with words, dress them in regal attire is what moves this book from good to great.  However for those readers that prefer a writing style that is more technical, Muir offers that as well. His style traverses the entire range of literary thought, moving from poetic to scientific and back again. Thus his writing allows a diversity of interests to feel comfortable and enjoy his words.

His Rating: 4.5 Stars.  This book is a must read for any person who feels a connection with the outside world.  However for those wayward souls that don't feel so inclined, be warned that the passion felt in Muir's writing has the power to persuade even the most hardened urbanites. It didn't receive a full 5 stars because there were times when I felt as if I was drowning in expressive language and I would literally have to stop just to catch my breath. 

Sum it up:  If you are looking at a book to grow, continue or even rekindle that passionate flame of love for the world wild, dive into this book and lets Muir's words wash over you.

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