Thoreau’s Animals


Edited by Geoff Wisner, illustrated by Debby Cotter Kaspari, and published March 2017 by Yale University Press

From Thoreau’s renowned Journal, a treasury of memorable, funny, and sharply observed accounts of his encounters with the wild and domestic animals of Concord.

“Everyone knows that Thoreau is at or near the top of the list of American thinkers and writers. But as this lovely volume reminds us, he was also a world-class noticer, a remarkable and original observer of all things natural.”—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

“Geoff Wisner’s Thoreau’s Animals gives the reader the opportunity to approach the animals of Thoreau’s Concord as Thoreau would: from unexpected angles, from a different view, unhurriedly, with deliberation and sympathy.”—Jeffrey S. Cramer, editor of Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition
“This rich collection makes Thoreau’s encounters in the natural world come alive. It’s a welcome companion for a walk in the woods, or at home on a winter evening.”—James Barilla, author of My Backyard Jungle: The Adventures of an Urban Wildlife Lover Who Turned His Yard into Habitat and Learned to Live with It
“This collection of quiet delight illustrates the naturalist’s alertness to Concord wildlife . . . and the poetry of his prose. . . . Sketches by Debby Cotter Kaspari, as well as small drawings by Thoreau, augment the book and lend it a snug and welcoming feel. Thoreau’s Animals is organized by the days of the year, so one can track the gradual unfolding of the seasons, awake to the sounds, shifts, and mystery of the creatures close by.”—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe
“Following a format similar to last year’s Thoreau’s Wildflowers, which he also produced, editor Geoff Wisner has combed through Thoreau’s two-million-word journal for material. As distilled by Wisner, some of the selections have the opaque sparseness of haiku. . . . Others are prose equivalents of stroboscopic photographs. . . . But the improvisational quality of Thoreau’s Animals is also its biggest charm. Thoreau was a self-styled reporter on the natural world, and his prose hums with the urgency of a scribe on deadline. Pencil illustrations by nature artist Debby Cotter Kaspari give a similar sense of immediacy. In her picture of the deer mouse, . . . the strokes register as boldly as a seismograph’s.”—Danny Heitman, Wall Street Journal

Thoreau’s Animals, edited and introduced by Geoff Wisner, offers an engaging and often entertaining selection of Thoreau’s writings about the wild and domestic animal species he came upon in the forests, farms, and wetlands in and around Concord. It is a companion volume to Thoreau’s Wildflowers, and together the two volumes throw into relief the degree to which Thoreau was almost superhumanly awake to the flora and fauna of his surrounding environment. There is more here than testimony of Thoreau’s much-vaunted ‘powers of observation.’ The volumes offer clear evidence that in his later adult life Thoreau had thoroughly cleansed the doors of perception, and that the world appeared to him as infinite in its local manifestations.”—Robert Pogue Harrison, New York Review of Books

2 thoughts on “Thoreau’s Animals

  1. David Todd says:

    Your drawings are lovely, a real inspiration. I have been fooling with a slow wild goose chase of a wildlife / plant drawing project and your pictures have raised the bar for what is possible. Thanks!

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