The Best Literary Nonfiction

By JG

By JG

The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New

Annie Dillard

$16.99 $15.63

The Abundance includes the best of Annie Dillard's essays, delivered in her fierce and muscular prose. Intense, vivid, and fearless, her work endows the true and seemingly ordinary aspects of life with beauty and irony. These essays invite readers into sweeping landscapes, to join her in exploring the complexities of time and death, often with wry humor. The Abundance highlights Annie Dillard's elegance of mind.

For the Time Being

Annie Dillard

$15.95 $14.67

"Writing as if on the edge of a precipice, staring over into the abyss, Dillard offers a risk-taking, inspiring meditation on life, death, birth, God, evil, eternity, the nuclear age and the human predicament. Her razor-sharp lyricism hones this mind-expanding existential scrapbook, which is imbued with the same spiritual yearning, moral urgency and reverence for nature that has informed nearly all of her nonfiction since the 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek." --Publishers Weekly

An American Childhood

Annie Dillard

$15.99 $14.71

"Loving and lyrical, nostalgic without being wistful, this is a book about the capacity for joy." -- "Los Angeles Times"

The Writing Life

Annie Dillard

$14.99 $13.79

Illuminates the dedication, absurdity, and daring that characterize the existence of a writer. A moving account of Dillard's own experience, The Writing Life offers deep insight into one of the most mysterious professions.

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

Annie Dillard

$15.99 $14.71

"A collection of meditations like polished stones--painstakingly worded, tough-minded, yet partial to mystery, and peerless when it comes to injecting larger resonances into the natural world."--Kirkus Reviews "Teaching a Stone to Talk is superb. As with the flying fish, Annie Dillard doesn't do it often, but when she does she silver-streaks out of the blue and archingly transcends all other writers of our day." -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Holy the Firm

Annie Dillard

$14.99 $13.79

"The violence is sometimes unbearable, the language rarely less than superb. Dillard's description of the moth's death makes Virginia Woolf's go dim and Edwardian. One thinks of Gerard Manley Hopkins, among others--nature seen so clear and hard that the eyes tear...A rare and precious book."-- Frederick Buechner, "New York Times Book Review"

The Annie Dillard Reader

Annie Dillard

$16.99

Annie Dillard -- "one of the most distinctive voices in American letters today" ( "Boston Globe" ) -- collects her favorite selections from her own writings in this compact volume. A perfect introduction to one of America's most acclaimed and bestselling authors."One of the most distinctive voices in American letters today." "--Boston Globe"

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie Dillard

$15.99 $14.71

"A remarkable psalm of terror and celebration."--Time magazine

Modern American Memoirs

Annie Dillard

$16.99

Excerpts from 35 of the finest memoirs written in this century, including contributions by such diverse writers as Margaret Mead, Malcolm X, Maxine Hong Kingston, Loren Eisely, and Zora Neale Hurston. Chosen for their value as excellent examples of the art of biography as well as for their superb writing, the excerpts present a broad range of American life, and offer vivid insight into the real-life events that shaped their authors. Here, readers can learn about the time when Harry Crews, playing as a boy, fell into a vat of boiling water with a dead hog; Chris Offutt joined the circus and watched a tattooed woman swallow a fluorescent light; and Frank Conroy practiced yo-yo tricks.

Brown: The Last Discovery of America

Richard Rodriguez

$15.00

"It may be a while yet before America is as comfortable with the ambiguities of its complexion as Rodriguez is. In the meantime, he injects some desperately needed complexity into America's thorniest debate."--Mother Jones "The recurrent strands of his thought--family, education, race, sex, California, America, Mexico--gain a new resonance each time and stand, in the end, for the complexity of a whole greater than the sum of its parts." --The New York Times Book Review

Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

Richard Rodriguez

$16.00

"[His] refusal to settle for easy answers or fixed assumptions is exactly what makes Rodriguez so essential."--Pico Iyer, New York Review of Books "His sentences are reliable joys: liquid and casual, they slip in and out of philosophy and anecdote noiselessly, like people padding through an empty chapel, expecting to hear nothing more than the sound of their own passage."--Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker

Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father

Richard Rodriguez

$16.00

"The best American essayist."--Village Voice Rodriguez ranges over five centuries to consider the moral and spiritual landscapes of Mexico and the US and their impact on his soul.

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez

$7.99 $7.35

"Superb autobiographical essay ... Mr. Rodriguez offers himself as an example of the long labor of change: its costs, about which he is movingly frank, its loneliness, but also its triumph."--New York Times Book Review

The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky

Ellen Meloy

$16.95 $15.59

In this invigorating mix of natural history and adventure, artist-naturalist Ellen Meloy uses turquoise--the color and the gem--to probe deeper into our profound human attachment to landscape.

Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild

Ellen Meloy

$16.00 $14.72

Long believed to be disappearing and possibly even extinct, the Southwestern bighorn sheep of Utah’s canyonlands have made a surprising comeback. Naturalist Ellen Meloy tracks a band of these majestic creatures through backcountry hikes, downriver floats, and travels across the Southwest. Alone in the wilderness, Meloy chronicles her communion with the bighorns and laments the growing severance of man from nature, a severance that she feels has left us spiritually hungry. Wry, quirky and perceptive, Eating Stone is a brilliant and wholly original tribute to the natural world.

The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest

Ellen Meloy

$19.95

"Meloy celebrates the stark beauty and plumbs the deadly ironies of the Colorado Plateau with words as piercing as the thorns of a claret-cup cactus. Her prickly, penetrating style reflects a deep but unsentimental love for the land she shares with bighorn sheep and Navajo skinwalkers. . . . An intense regional attachment has rarely carried weightier global implications." —Booklist

Seasons: Desert Sketches

Ellen Meloy

$14.95 $13.75

"Profound, sometimes deceptively breezy... A slim volume, but you shouldn't be fooled. Seasons telescopes decades spent exploring home and the desert, two terms that for Meloy became synonyms." --High Country News

This Desert Hides Nothing: Selections from the Work of Ellen Meloy with Photographs by Stephen Strom

Ellen Meloy

$15.95 $14.67

"She's smart and witty. She's laugh-out-loud funny. She's self-deprecatory and never preachy. She always gets her natural history right. And her writing is sufficiently gorgeous for her books to be finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award."--Stephen Trimble

The Alphabet of Grace

Frederick Buechner

$13.99 $12.87

A forgotten gem. Good for all seasons of life.

The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

Frederick Buechner

$13.99 $12.87

A story of loss and discovery, beautifully told.

Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers

Rebecca Solnit, Mark Klett, et al.

$29.95 $26.96

Together, the photographs and essays reconsider the iconic status of Yosemite in America's conception of wilderness, examine how the place was interpreted by early Euro-Americans, and show how our conceptions of landscape have altered and how the landscape has changed--or not--over time. Arresting and incisive, Yosemite in Time explores the environmental and photographic history, science, and politics of a site that has long captured our collective imagination.

Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

Rebecca Solnit

$26.95 $24.26

These startling insights on current affairs, politics, culture, and history, always expressed in Solnit's pellucid and graceful prose, constantly revise our views of the otherwise ordinary and familiar.

Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas

Rebecca Solnit

$29.95 $26.96

What makes a place? Infinite City, Rebecca Solnit's brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about place.

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Rebecca Snedeker and Rebecca Solnit

$29.95 $26.96

Like the bestselling Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, this book is a brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, one that provides a vivid, complex look at the multi-faceted nature of New Orleans, a city replete with contradictions.

Savage Dreams: A Journey Into the Hidden Wars of the American West (First Edition, 20th Anniversary Edition, with a New Preface)

Rebecca Solnit

$32.34

In this foundational book of landscape theory and environmental thinking, Rebecca Solnit explores our national Eden and Armageddon and offers a pathbreaking history of the west, focusing on the relationship between culture and its implementation as politics.

The Faraway Nearby

Rebecca Solnit

$17.00 $15.64

Rebecca Solnit explores the ways we make our lives out of stories, and how we are connected by empathy, by narrative, by imagination. In the course of unpacking some of her own stories--of her mother and her decline from memory loss, of a trip to Iceland, of an illness--Solnit revisits fairytales and entertains other stories: about arctic explorers, Che Guevara among the leper colonies, and Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, about warmth and coldness, pain and kindness, decay and transformation, making art and making self. Woven together, these stories create a map which charts the boundaries and territories of storytelling, reframing who each of us is and how we might tell our story.

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

Rebecca Solnit

$17.95 $16.51

"Her writing takes wing . . . carrying us on a flight that crosses a landscape of sadness, of happiness, through consciousness, desire--what can only be described as a healing enlargement of one's soul--and toward beauty."-- Mother Jones

Hollow City

Rebecca Solnit

$29.94

"One day, we all woke up and San Francisco had become a bohemian entertainment park, without bohemians. Those were the golden days of virtual capitalism. Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg help us to understand why this happened. Their book is necessary to understanding our new place in a brand new scary world."--Guillermo Gomez-Pena

Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit

$12.95 $11.91

"Feminist, frequently funny, unflinchingly honest and often scathing in its conclusions." --Salon

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Updated)

Rebecca Solnit

$15.99 $14.71

"Time and again she comes running towards you with a bunch of hopes she has found and picked in the undergrowth of the times we are living. And you remember that hope is not a guarantee for tomorrow, but a detonator of energy for action today." --John Berger

Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Rebecca Solnit

$20.00 $18.00

Solnit "joyfully trespasses across disciplines and genres, tracing a path through philosophy, paleontology, politics, religion, and literary criticism."--The New York Times "A tour de force . . . Solnit, a writer of unflagging grace, has a remarkable ability to wrest meaning from the mundane."--San Francisco Chronicle

River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West

Rebecca Solnit

$18.00 $16.56

The world as we know it today began in California in the late 1800s, and Eadweard Muybridge had a lot to do with it. This striking assertion is at the heart of Rebecca Solnit's new book, which weaves together biography, history, and fascinating insights into art and technology to create a boldly original portrait of America on the threshold of modernity. The story of Muybridge--who in 1872 succeeded in capturing high-speed motion photographically--becomes a lens for a larger story about the acceleration and industrialization of everyday life. Solnit shows how the peculiar freedoms and opportunities of post-Civil War California led directly to the two industries--Hollywood and Silicon Valley--that have most powerfully defined contemporary society.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Rebecca Solnit

$18.00 $16.56

"An ode to losing yourself and finding out what's on the other side of familiarity. For Ms. Solnit . . . getting lost is more than a matter of merely physical circumstances. It's a state of mind to be embraced and explored, a gateway to discovering more about yourself in relation to the rest of the world." --The Dallas Morning News

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

Rebecca Solnit

$18.00 $16.56

"A landmark book that gives impassioned challenge to the social meaning of disasters."--The New York Times Book Review "Solnit argues that disasters are opportunities as well as oppressions, each one a summons to rediscover the powerful engagement and joy of genuine altruism, civic life, grassroots community, and meaningful work." --San Francisco Chronicle

A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland

Rebecca Solnit

$17.95 $16.51

"Truly exceptional, a paradise for readers."--Kirkus Reviews

As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art

Rebecca Solnit

$28.95

"Solnit's graceful and trenchant inquiries into our perceptions of nature, women, art, and technology explicate both our nostalgia for lost wilderness and our painfully slow shift from 'a mechanical to an ecological worldview."--Booklist

Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn

Evan S. Connell

$20.00 $18.00

All of Connell's nonfiction is wonderfully written, informative, and surprising. "This book somehow is not anchored in geography, nor sequential time, nor by person, not even thematically and yet it is the most comprehensible book on the American West that I have ever read.... Absorbing to the point of obsession."--online review

The Young Woman Citizen

Mary Austin

$23.75 $21.38

"The significance of this book is its insistence upon conscious preparation for citizenship as wide as the world itself."--from the foreword

Earth Horizon

Mary Austin

$34.95 $31.46

As always true to her special individualism, she wrote this book sometimes in the first person voice and sometimes in the third person. Using this literary device enabled her to speak frankly about her life while also commenting on the events and decisions that formed and influenced her life and writing. "Earth Horizon" is not only unique in its approach but brings a special psychological interest to the subject of autobiography.

The Land of Journeys' Ending

Mary Austin

$32.99

One of the joys of going on a trip is coming home to share with others your adventures and experiences. Mary Austin felt that way, so when she took an extended trip through an area of the American Southwest, she recorded her impressions in The Land of Journeys' Ending. This is no ordinary travel book and she was no ordinary tourist. Her book goes beyond the descriptions of flora and fauna of the land between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. It also covers the history, culture and customs of the area. Austin includes not only figures from the past but people she met on the trip.

Christ in Italy: Being the Adventures of a Maverick Among Masterpieces

Mary Austin

$26.99

"Of Mary Austin there is the largest measure of all. The book is highly original in its viewpoint, in its thought, and in its manner of expression. [... A reader] will find plenty of independent thinking put into language that is now picturesque, now cryptic, now half-concealingly imaginative, and again terse, direct, and commonsensical, and presently rising to poetic fervor. The thinking ranges rather widely."--New York Times

Writing the Western Landscape

Mary Austin, John Muir, et al.

$16.80

Travels in HyperReality

Umberto Eco

$18.95

The title essay is one of the best pieces of travel writing and develops a transformative way of seeing the U.S.

On Ugliness

Umberto Eco

$35.00 $31.50

An exploration of the monstrous and the repellent in visual culture and the arts. What is the voyeuristic impulse behind our attraction to the gruesome and the horrible? Where does the magnetic appeal of the sordid and the scandalous come from? Is ugliness also in the eye of the beholder? Eco's encyclopedic knowledge and captivating storytelling skills combine in this ingenious study of the Ugly, revealing that what we often shield ourselves from and shun in everyday life is what we're most attracted to subliminally.

Chronicles of a Liquid Society

Umberto Eco

$14.99 $13.79

He sees with fresh eyes the upheaval in ideological values, the crises in politics, and the unbridled individualism that have become the backdrop of our lives--a "liquid" society in which it's not easy to find a polestar, though stars and starlets abound.

The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart

Brian Doyle

$17.95 $16.51

In this poignant and startlingly original book, Brian Doyle examines the heart as a physical organ--how it is supposed to work, how surgeons try to fix it when it doesn't--and as a metaphor: the seat of the soul, the power house of the body, the essence of spirituality. In a series of profoundly moving ruminations, Doyle considers the scientific, emotional, literary, philosophical, and spiritual understandings of the heart--from cardiology to courage, from love letters and pop songs to Jesus. Weaving these strands together is the torment of Doyle's own infant son's heart surgery and the inspiring story of the young heart doctor who saved Liam's life. The Wet Engine is a book that will change how you feel and think about the mysterious, fragile human heart.

A Book of Uncommon Prayer

Brian Doyle

$14.95 $13.75

This volume presents a series of prayers unlike any of the formal, orthodox prayers of the Catholic tradition or the extemporized prayers heard from pulpits and dinner tables. Doyle's often-dazzling, always-poignant prayers include eye-opening hymns to shoes and family.

Children & Other Wild Animals: Notes on Badgers, Otters, Sons, Hawks, Daughters, Dogs, Bears, Air, Bobcats, Fishers, Mascots, Charles Darwin, Newts,

Brian Doyle

$18.95 $17.43

"For those of us in the know, the appearance of a new Brian Doyle essay is a mini-event, the first name you turn to in the table of contents, the first click on a literary web site...."--The Iowa Review "When Brian Doyle blurs the line between prose and poetry, he honors both, and when he blurs the line between children and animals, he honors both as well. In his universe, language is too wild to be confined to a single genre, just as living things (human and otherwise) are too wild to be confined to separate niches. Doyle makes us feel the aliveness of all of the above--words, newts, hummingbirds, infants, teenagers--in essays as fervent as prayers." --Anne Fadiman

Leaping: Revelations & Epiphanies

Brian Doyle

$14.95 $13.75

Brian Doyle employs his wit, wisdom, and gusto for life.

Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Brian Doyle

$18.99 $17.47

"Never didactic or overbearing, he showed us occurrences in life that burst with radiance-- small epiphanies with enormous implications. And best of all, he could sneak up on you and really make you laugh. These are wonderful essays by a writer whose work will last and whose reputation will grow. --Ian Frazier

Loren Eiseley: Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos Vol. 1 (Loa #285): The Immense Journey, the Firmament of Time, the Unexpected Uni

Loren Eiseley

$35.00 $31.50

An eminent paleontologist with the soul and skill of a poet, Loren Eiseley (1907-1977) was among the twentieth century's greatest inheritors of the literary tradition of Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, and John Muir, and a precursor to such later writers as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Carl Sagan. After decades of fieldwork and discovery as a "bone-hunter" and professor, Eiseley turned late in life to the personal essay. "Loren Eiseley's work changed my life." --Ray Bradbury

The Star Thrower

Loren C Eiseley

$35.00 $31.50

Includes the original version of the now famous starfish throwing essay.

The Unexpected Universe

Loren Eiseley

$16.95

Eiseley turns to the theme of the voyage of discovery: accounts of the mythical and historic journeys of Odysseus, Captain Cook, and Darwin frame his own more modest wanderings in the environs of Philadelphia. Sometimes he travels no farther than the local dump: and yet, like Homer's hero or these great explorers, he continually finds a universe "not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."

The Firmament of Time

Loren Eiseley

$18.95 $17.43

Loren Eiseley examines what we as a species have become. a lyrical and meditative tour de force, looks back at the many ways in which the sciences have been shaped by the changing cultures in which they developed. Examining the role of metaphor in scientific thought, anticipations of scientific discoveries in the works of poets and novelists, and the "unconscious conformity" of scientific theory to prevailing orthodoxies, Eiseley argues provocatively for the ongoing relevance to scientific progress of dreams, the imagination, and the irrational.

The Immense Journey

Loren Eiseley

$13.00 $11.96

Here are vivid accounts of prehistoric ecosystems, the origins of consciousness, the search for "living fossils" at the bottom of the sea, and the complexities of our evolutionary inheritance. Here too are literary qualities and aspirations that led many to hail Eiseley as a "modern Thoreau" his quest for the ultimate meanings and cosmological significance of natural phenomena, along with his immense expressive gifts.

The Invisible Pyramid

Loren Eiseley and Walter Ferro

$19.95 $18.35

In 1910 young Loren Eiseley watched the passage of Halley’s Comet with his father. The boy who became a famous naturalist was never again to see the spectacle except in his imagination. That childhood event contributed to the profound sense of time and space that marks The Invisible Pyramid. This collection of essays, first published shortly after Americans landed on the moon, explores inner and outer space, the vastness of the cosmos, and the limits of what can be known. Bringing poetic insight to scientific discipline, Eiseley makes connections between civilizations past and present, multiple universes, humankind, and nature.

Loren Eiseley: Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos: A Library of America Boxed Set

Loren Eiseley

$70.00

The definitive, comprehensive Eiseley collection.

Loren Eiseley: Collected Essays on Evolution, Nature, and the Cosmos Vol. 2 (Loa #286): The Invisible Pyramid, the Night Country, Essays from the Star

Loren Eiseley

$35.00

"As captivating as today's best-known science writers might be, no one has ever managed to make the pursuit of knowledge feel more soulful or more immediate than Loren Eiseley did in the essays and books he published in the 1950s, '60s and '70s." --Ben Cosgrove