In a lifetime of exploration, writing, and passionate political activism, John Muir became America’s most eloquent spokesman for the mystery and majesty of the wilderness. A crucial figure in the creation of our national parks system and a far-seeing prophet of environmental awareness who founded the Sierra Club in 1892, he was also a master of natural description who evoked with unique power and intimacy the untrammeled landscapes of the American West. The Library of America ’s Nature Writings collects his most significant and best-loved works in a single volume.
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913) is Muir’s memoir of growing up by the sea in Scotland, of coming to America with his family at age eleven, and of his early fascination with the natural world. My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) is his famous account of the spiritual awakening he experienced when, in 1869, he first encountered the mountains and valleys of central California, of which he wrote: “Bathed in such beauty, watching the expressions ever varying on the faces of the mountains, watching the stars, which here have a glory that the lowlander never dreams of, watching the circling seasons, listening to the songs of the waters and winds and birds, would be endless pleasure…. No other place has ever so overwhelmingly attracted me as this hospitable, Godful wilderness.”
The natural history classic The Mountains of California (1894) draws on half a lifetime of exploration of the High Sierra country to celebrate and evoke the region’s lakes, forests, flowers, and animals, its glaciers, storms, floods, and geological formations, in a masterpiece of observation and poetic description: “After ten years spent in the heart of it … it still seems to me above all others the Range of Light, the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain-chains I have ever seen.”
Stickeen (1909), Muir’s most popular book, is the affectionate story of his adventure with a dog in Alaska. Rounding out the volume is a rich selection of essays—including “Yosemite Glaciers,” “God’s First Temples,” “Snow-Storm on Mount Shasta,” “The American Forests,” and the late appeal “Save the Redwoods”—highlighting various aspects of his career: his exploration of the Grand Canyon and of what became Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks, his successful crusades to preserve the wilderness, his early walking tour to Florida, and the Alaska journey of 1879.