Book Review: Wilderness and the American Mind (1965) by Roderick Nash

book-review-wilderness-the-american-mind“A peri­od recourse into the wilds… is not to retreat into secret silent sanc­tums to escape a wicked world; it is to take breath amid effort to forge a bet­ter world.”
– Ben­ton MacK­aye (Orig­i­na­tor of the Appalachi­an Trail)


There are cer­tain aspects of nature and explo­ration that can­not be bound by books or words. Deep breaths of fresh air and morn­ing dew on your rain fly, a sun­set on a canyon rim and a win­try bliz­zard that sticks to your coat; some things you have to expe­ri­ence your­self. But, to encour­age that explo­ration, there are books out there that aim to light the fire under your adven­ture spir­it. And here for you today, from one of many, is a brief high­light for a book that should be on every bud­ding con­ser­va­tion­ist book shelf: Wilder­ness and the Amer­i­can Mind.

Span­ning from colo­nial eras, through indus­tri­al­iza­tion, into forestry, and end­ing at present times, Rod­er­ick Nash’s Wilder­ness and the Amer­i­can Mind, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1965, gives a detailed account of how Amer­i­cans have regard­ed those secret sanc­tums of wilder­ness through­out the years since first land­ing on the shores of the New World.

Includ­ing all the big names and leg­isla­tive land­marks, this book will keep you inter­est­ed and informed. Read along as the Unit­ed States moves from hav­ing a pagan-like fear of the great out­doors, to hav­ing a con­quer­ing spir­it that near­ly threat­ens its exis­tence. This book serves as a great tool to gain per­spec­tive on the trees in your back­yard, the trails at your favorite park, and the impor­tance of those wide-opened spots you find as you flat­ten out a map.

And per­haps the most inter­est­ing ques­tion that Rod­er­ick Nash rais­es and attempts to answer, is what is the cur­rent state of the nation and regard towards the great out­doors? Are we con­tin­u­ing this path of push­ing out nature? Are we turn­ing the cor­ner in devel­op­ing sys­tems to pro­tect what oth­er­wise goes unspo­ken for? “Wilder­ness and the Amer­i­can Mind” serves as a good way to under­stand that the wilder­ness still plays in a part in our soci­ety, you’ll have to read it your­self to find the spe­cif­ic answer.