Since we’re all in this social distancing thing together, I thought I’d choose a book or two each week from my bookshelf and offer them to you, in case you’re looking for an antidote to cabin fever.

March is Women’s History Month. Before it gets away on me, I thought I’d highlight a foundational female environmental writer.

My last suggestion, A Sand County Almanac, was an obvious choice. Although my next author’s name will likely ring a bell, I doubt I’ve made the obvious choice of female authors. Hers is a book too few have read, or even heard of. If you’d like to join good company, know that Henry David Thoreau was an admiring reader of hers.

Susan Fenimore Cooper came from a famous writing family. Her father was James Fenimore Cooper. In 1850, four years before Thoreau wrote Walden, Cooper anonymously published Rural Hours. Her refreshingly original observations of country life was one of the earliest pieces of American nature writing.

“The varied foliage clothing in tender wreaths every naked branch, the pale mosses reviving, a thousand young plants rising above the blighted herbage of last year in cheerful succession.” Can you imagine a more lyrical description of Spring? It’s not hard to understand why Thoreau consulted her book while he practiced social distancing at Walden Pond.

Although Rural Hours was successful in its time, too few remember Susan Fenimore Cooper today. Her volume deserves a prominent place in your environmental library.

Luckily, both ebook and hardcopy versions of Rural Hours are readily available online. One suggestion: buy the 1998 edition published by the University of Georgia Press. Earlier editions cut out important parts of Cooper’s work.

Good health and good reading!


Bill’s Bookshelf – “A Sand County Almanac”
Bill’s Bookshelf – “The Raritan River: Our Landscape, Our Legacy”
Bill’s Bookshelf – “Sick Puppy”
Bill’s Bookshelf – “A River Runs Through It”
Bill’s Bookshelf: “H2O: Highlands to Ocean”