The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

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Award-winning nature author Jerry Dennis reveals the splendor and beauty of North America’s Great Lakes in this “masterwork”* history and memoir of the essential environmental and economical region shared by the United States and Canada.

No bodies of water compare to the Great Lakes. Superior is the largest lake on earth, and together all five contain a fifth of the world’s supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline border eight states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Their surface area of 95,000 square miles is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have never visited them—who have never seen a squall roar across Superior or the horizon stretch unbroken across Michigan or Huron—have no idea how big they are. They are so vast that they dominate much of the geography, climate, and history of North America, affecting the lives of tens of millions of people.

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas is the definitive book about the history, nature, and science of these remarkable lakes at the heart of North America. From the geological forces that formed them and the industrial atrocities that nearly destroyed them, to the greatest environmental success stories of our time, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario are portrayed in all their complexity.

A Michigan native, Jerry Dennis also shares his memories of a lifetime on or near the lakes, including a six-week voyage as a crewmember on a tallmasted schooner. On his travels, he collected more stories of the lakes through the eyes of biologists, fishermen, sailors, and others he befriended while hiking the area’s beaches and islands.

Through storms and fog, on remote shores and city waterfronts, Dennis explores the five Great Lakes in all seasons and moods and discovers that they and their connecting waters—including the Erie Canal, the Hudson River, and the East Coast from New York to Maine—offer a surprising and bountiful view of America. The result is a meditation on nature and our place in the world, a discussion and cautionary tale about the future of water resources, and a celebration of a place that is both fragile and robust, diverse, rich in history and wildlife, often misunderstood, and worthy of our attention.

“This is history at its best and adventure richly described.”—*Doug Stanton, author of In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors and 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers

Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award Winner
Winner of Best Book of 2003 by the Outdoor Writers Association of America

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About the author

Jerry Dennis writes for Smithsonian, Sports Afield, Gray's Sporting Journal, and The New York Times. His books, including It's Raining Frogs and Fishes, A Place on the Water, and The River Home, have won numerous awards and have been translated into five languages. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Michigan Author of the Year Award presented by the Michigan Library Association. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Macmillan
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Published on
Sep 23, 2014
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781466882027
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Language
English
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Genres
Nature / Ecosystems & Habitats / Lakes, Ponds & Swamps
Science / Natural History
Travel / United States / Midwest / East North Central (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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"Our country is lucky to have Jerry Dennis. A conservationist with the soul of a poet whose beat is Wild Michigan, Dennis is a kindred spirit of Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson. The Windward Shore---his newest effort---is a beautifully written and elegiac memoir of outdoor discovery. Highly recommended!"
---Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

"Come for a journey; stay for an awakening. Jerry Dennis loves the Great Lakes, the swell of every wave, the curve of every rock. He wants you to love them too before our collective trashing of them wipes out all traces of their original character. Through his eyes, you will treasure the hidden secrets that reveal themselves only to those who linger and long. Elegant and sad at the same time, The Windward Shore is a love song for the Great Lakes and a gentle call to action to save them."
---Maude Barlow, author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water

"In prose as clear as the lines in a Dürer etching, Jerry Dennis maps his home ground, which ranges outward from the back door of his farmhouse to encompass the region of vast inland seas at the heart of our continent. Along the way, inspired by the company of water in all its guises---ice, snow, frost, clouds, rain, shore-lapping waves---he meditates on the ancient questions about mind and matter, time and attention, wildness and wonder. As in the best American nature writing---a tradition that Dennis knows well---here the place and the explorer come together in brilliant conversation."
---Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto

If you have been enchanted by Jerry Dennis’s earlier work on sailing the Great Lakes, canoeing, angling, and the natural wonders of water and sky—or you have not yet been lucky enough to enjoy his engaging prose—you will want to immerse yourself in his powerful and insightful new book on winter in Great Lakes country.

Grounded by a knee injury, Dennis learns to live at a slower pace while staying in houses ranging from a log cabin on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula to a $20 million mansion on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. While walking on beaches and exploring nearby woods and villages, he muses on the nature of time, weather, waves, agates, books, words for snow and ice, our complex relationship with nature, and much more.

From the introduction: “I wanted to present a true picture of a complex region, part of my continuing project to learn at least one place on earth reasonably well, and trusted that it would appear gradually and accumulatively—and not as a conventional portrait, but as a mosaic that included the sounds and scents and textures of the place and some of the plants, animals, and its inhabitants. Bolstered by the notion that a book is a journey that author and reader walk together, I would search for promising trails and follow them as far as my reconstructed knee would allow.”

ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

In this remarkable collection of essays and stories, winner of the Best Book of the Year Award from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Jerry Dennis demonstrates why he has emerged as one of America's finest writers on nature and the outdoors. In prose that has drawn comparisons with John Voelker, Sigurd Olson, and Aldo Leopold, Dennis celebrates the simple pleasures and complex challenges of family life, the allure of giant trout, the sacredness of secret places, and such wonders as bad weather, quirky fishing companions, and the occasional naked angler. Ranging from northern Michigan to Iceland, Chile, and the fabled rivers of the American West, The River Home is a passionate record of a life lived fully, crafted with clarity, insight, and good humor—by a writer gifted with an instinct for what matters. 

PRAISE:

"This bright and sharply written book is a guide to a life lived consciously, a prerequisite and bonus of the sport done well." —Lisa Faye Kaplan, USA Today

“Collections of essays about the outdoors and fishing crowd the shelves, but Dennis’s fresh writing and marvelous insights merit special attention. This fine collection will appeal to fans of Hal Borland, W.D. Wetherell, and Nick Lyons, as well as to those who enjoy the essays of fiction writers William Tapply and Thomas McGuane.” —Booklist

“Even if you’ve never pulled on a pair of waders, you should read this funny and wise book about fly fishing – and a lot more.” —Georgia Times-Union

“In this book, Dennis elevates the typical ‘outdoor’ essay, usually a mere recollection of adventures while hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, or pursuing other outdoor activities. He has transcended the typical by blending in elements of ‘nature’ writing: observation, research, speculation about the world in which the sportsman places himself.” —The Oakland Press

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