Sand County Almanac

by Aldo Leopold


“Timeless” is an understatement.  Around page 40 I decided that this was one of my favorite books ever.  It was the passage on the geese I think, when he was speculating on their behavior and basically gave it up as something unknowable to mere humans.  Everything I read was so beautiful and poetic, and it all conveyed such a love for nature and the land that it was really quite breathtaking.  It is the closest thing to poetry that I’ve ever seen in non-fiction — I would even go so far as to call it poetry of a sort.

And apart from Leopold’s disarming style, the sheer scope of his natural knowledge is quite simply incredible.  Leopold doesn’t have to specifically elucidate his love for nature, because the fact that he knows the names of all the birds, flowers and trees (among other things) proves implicitly his adulation.  Only thousands of man-hours spent joyously and patiently outdoors could account for such a proficiency.

The 2nd and 3rd sections of the book do not ultimately sustain the magnificence of the titular “Sand County Alamanac,” but it’s hard to fault a book too much for not maintaining a state of perfect splendor.  Both latter sections are still well worth reading.  One of my favorite qualities of the first part is that it is entirely apolitical.  Leopold doesn’t have to come out directly and scold us for our misuse and destruction of the environment, because his simple devotion is by far the more effective chastisement.  The 2nd and 3rd parts do become more explicitly critical of modern civilization, but it’s never over the top.  Indeed, it provides the reader with an entirely new way to appreciate his writing: as ideas decades ahead of their time.  The fact that he was writing about the desperate need for conservation in the 30s and 40s is astounding.  Leopold makes “youngsters” like Edward Abbey look like a hack.  He is my hero.

Original Review


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