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Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis


"Gessner shows us how, rather than burying ourselves in old books, we might use them to go out and meet the world, in all its wild and broken beauty.”

—GINGER STRAND, author of The Brothers Vonnegut

When the pandemic struck, nature writer David Gessner turned to Henry David Thoreau, the original social distancer, for lessons on how to live. Those lessons—of learning our own backyard, re-wilding, loving nature, self-reliance, and civil disobedience—hold a secret that could help save us as we face the greater crisis of climate.

June 2021 | Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-48-5| 350 pp| $19.95

Gessner_author photo debbie lorenc.jpg

DAVID GESSNER is the author of Leave It As It Is: A Journey Through Theodore Roosevelt’s American Wilderness and the New York Times–bestselling All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West. Chair of the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and founder and editor-in-chief of Ecotone, Gessner lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with his wife, the novelist Nina de Gramont, and their daughter, Hadley.


“Gessner vividly recounts his rich daily experiences of wildness . . . He also admits to wondering if it is too late to save the planet and to raise consciousness about the perils of materialism and anthropocentrism. Yet despite evidence that sometimes overwhelms him, Gessner, like Thoreau, finds hope in every new morning and joy in the world that Thoreau so eloquently extolled. A grateful homage to the iconic naturalist.”


“A fast-paced but powerful, moving treasure trove of life lessons Gessner divined by spending a year making the best he could of a global tragedy. He doesn’t try to make sense of the pandemic—that’s impossible. Instead, he assesses what he can learn from his life amid this mess and, by extension, what we can learn from ours.”


“Like Walden itself, Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight is a potpourri: part edited journal, part memoir, part nature narrative, part philosophizing.”

"Contrary to the prevalent image of Thoreau the unsocialized, intolerant loner, the figure emerging from Mr. Gessner’s book is, like Mr. Gessner himself, complexly alive, passionately in love with being on this planet.”


“It’s fashionable today to deride Henry David Thoreau as a privileged white dude mooning around a suburban ‘wilderness.’ Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight doesn’t deny this, but it digs deeper. Does Thoreau have anything to tell us at this vexing moment in history? For David Gessner, the answer is yes: Thoreau becomes a conduit to thinking about friendship, parenting, race, aging, technology, home, climate change, justice, and death. Gessner shows us how, rather than burying ourselves in old books, we might use them to go out and meet the world, in all its wild and broken beauty.”
—GINGER STRAND, author of The Brothers Vonnegut


“In a dynamic and illuminating exploration of the strange wilderness that has been a year of pandemic-induced seclusion, David Gessner succeeds brilliantly in using Henry Thoreau to make sense of the quarantine, and vice versa. While the signature Gessnerian humor, irreverence, and lyricism are all here, Gessner also offers a profound meditation on how we might live, write, and parent in a bewildering age of global catastrophe. Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight is a powerful and timely book from one of the most provocative and engaging voices in contemporary environmental writing.” 
MICHAEL P. BRANCH, author of Rants from the Hill and How to Cuss in Western


“Gessner is my favorite medium and his work is always a reliable literary Ouija board. He consorts with and interrogates ghosts—Bate, Stegner, Abbey, and Teddy Roosevelt among them—and now he has added Thoreau to the ghostly chorus. These are dark times. This book helps us through.”
—JOHN LANE, author of My Paddle to the Sea

“The havoc caused by the pandemic is only a mild foretaste of what climate disruption will bring, not merely for a year or two but for the foreseeable future. To imagine how we might preserve our humanity as the world unravels, you could start by reading this lively, captivating book by David Gessner. Drawn in part from his journal of what he calls ‘this endless night of a year,’ it weaves together memoir, natural history, travelogue, and literary homage to reveal a mind fully awake to our dire situation, yet able to relish birds and books, family and friends, and the living Earth.”
—SCOTT RUSSELL SANDERS, author of The Way of Imagination

“In Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight, Gessner finds Henry David Thoreau an admirable ‘guiding spirit’ for his pandemic year. But don’t think of this book as a celebration of retreat from hard times or merely learning to live with less. Rather it is a book about engagement with the difficult world, about living with impermanence. A book about friendship with writers living and dead, neighbors, ospreys, skimmers, a floating shack, and a family. Reading this book is a beautiful experience, an antidote to the toxins that dominate the news.”
—ALISON HAWTHORNE DEMING, author of A Woven World 


A TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO THE END OF THE WORLD: Tales of Fire, Wind, and Water

With sharp intimacy and visionary scope, David Gessner asks what the world will be like in 2063, when his daughter, Hadley, is the same age he is now. What is the future of weather? Of heat, storms, and fire? In this eye-opening tour of climate hotspots, Gessner takes readers from the Gulf of Mexico and the burning American West to New York City and the fragile Outer Banks, where homes are being swallowed by the seas. With his usual sense of humor and a willingness to talk to anyone, Gessner considers earth's extremes in a story of climate crisis that will both entertain and shake people awake to the necessity of navigating this new age together.


“With his signature humor, Gessner manages to show us the worst while helping us hope for the best.”
—ANNE HOLMAN, The King’s English Bookshop

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