Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of The Height of Our Mountains
Cover image of The Height of Our Mountains
Share this Title:

The Height of Our Mountains

Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley

Michael P. Branch and Daniel J. Philippon
foreword by John Elder

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

This is an anthology of nearly four centuries of nature writing about one of America's premier regions—the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Beginning with Captain John Smith's eager gaze westward in search of gold and ending with contemporary essayist John Daniel's transformative gaze inward in search of wilderness, The Height of our Mountains features the work of seventy of the nation's finest writers on nature, from 1607 to 1997.

Responding to Thomas Jefferson's claim in Notes on the State of Virginia that "the height of our mountains has not yet been estimated with any\u2026

This is an anthology of nearly four centuries of nature writing about one of America's premier regions—the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Beginning with Captain John Smith's eager gaze westward in search of gold and ending with contemporary essayist John Daniel's transformative gaze inward in search of wilderness, The Height of our Mountains features the work of seventy of the nation's finest writers on nature, from 1607 to 1997.

Responding to Thomas Jefferson's claim in Notes on the State of Virginia that "the height of our mountains has not yet been estimated with any degree of exactness," Branch and Philippon have gathered a diverse collection of written perspectives on the region in an effort to "measure" the remarkable richness of this landscape through a variety of literary forms and styles.

The result is a wide-ranging survey that includes the colonial narratives of William Byrd and George Washington, as well as the natural histories of John Bartram and John James Audubon; the travel narratives of King Louis Philippe of France and the diaries and memoirs of Cornelia Peake McDonald, Walt Whitman, and John Burroughs; works of fiction by Edgar Allen Poe and Willa Cather; speeches by James Madison, Herbert Hover, and Franklin Roosevelt; and contemporary writings by Donald Culcross Peattie, Edwin Way Teale, Roger Tory Peterson, Annie Dillard, Donald McCaig, Peter Svenson, and Jake Page.

The book contains a lengthy and detailed introduction on the character and form of nature writing, the concepts of place and bioregionalism, and the literary natural history of the Blue Ridge country itself. Ample notes, beautiful illustrations and amps, and a lengthy bibliography make this book a lasting treasure.

Reviews

Reviews

A strong sense of place is evoked in this impressive anthology of nature writing from the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. Seventy selections drawn from four centuries of writing include excerpts from letters, travel journals, diaries, novels, speeches, government reports, and personal essays that explore the interaction between humans and the natural world.

All Virginia outdoor enthusiasts have visited the Blue Ridge, and all of them with a taste for reading will want to own The Height of Our Mountains.

With its mixture of fiction, personal, and scientific writing, the book has something for everyone... From colonization to contemporary times, the list of writers represented (70 in all) is both impressive and surprising, including Jefferson's former slave Isaac, James Audobon, Walt Whitman, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, and Annie Dillard.

A model of regional nature-writing anthologies.

The Height of Our Mountains will without a doubt be an extraordinary resource for the residents of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley, but because of its remarkable inclusiveness and the vividness of its selections, it will also be invaluable for the rest of us, who—as teachers, writers, citizens, family members, and naturalists—are striving to identify ourselves more knowingly, joyfully, and faithfully with our own homes in nature.

See All Reviews
About

Book Details

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Michael P. Branch

Michael P. Branch is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno.