The Bill McKibben Reader Pieces from an Active Life

Bill McKibben

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

464 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
In 1989, Bill McKibben wrote the first account for a general audience of global warming.  The End of Nature has become an environmental classic.  He has since written a score of other books on nature and culture.  Most recently, Deep Economy has helped awaken and fuel a movement to restore local economies. In the decades since The End of Nature, he has also written dozens of essays for many of America's most prominent publications.  In this reader, McKibben's investigations of modern life are collected for the first time in a single volume.  Whether meditating on today’s golden age in radio, the natural place of biting black flies in our lives, or the patriotism of a grandmother fighting to get corporate money out of politics, McKibben's timeless humor and realism calls readers to become better caretakers of the Earth and its many inhabitants.


Praise for The Bill McKibben Reader

“McKibben has just edited The Bill McKibben Reader, an anthology of forty-four essays on topics as diverse as being arrested at a demonstration, spending time with writer Wendell Berry and putting his Christian faith into action.”—Susan Larson, The Times Picayune (New Orleans)

"Those who think in shades of green shouldn't miss The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life, a compilation of 44 previously published works from the author of The End of Nature. The essays, collected over two and a half decades, contain surprising turns of logic—in one McKibben argues for the reintroduction of wolves to the Adirondacks while comparing the embattles animals to SUV's—as well as humor and a refreshing pragmatism."—Adirondack Life

"Collected here are 44 trenchant essays written for various publications over the past 25 years by an astute observer of contemporary life and the environment. In some, McKibben reflects on personal experiences; in others, he discusses the sources of his environmental activism. Many of the pieces deal with global warming—the subject of McKibben's first book, The End of Nature, and the folly of endless growth—the theme of his more recent Deep Economy. All have something to say that is worth hearing, but it is the collection's pervasive sense of hope for the world that sets apart these provocative, beautifully written essays. Though McKibben worries about consumerism and the environment, he sees reason for optimism, too, rejoicing in the simple spirituality he finds in his hometown church, the popularity of old-fashioned state fairs, the return of forests to the eastern United States, the transformation of a town in Brazil into a haven for pedestrians, the success of sustainable farming in Cuba and the recent involvement of evangelicals in the environmental movement. There are all sorts of sweet things in this world, McKibben writes, many of which are us, and many of which are not. Thankfully, McKibben has borne witness to them with grace and style."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An active life indeed—and, as prolific author/environmentalist McKibben writes, even a charmed one. McKibben got out of college in the early years of the Reagan administration and fell immediately into the welcoming arms of The New Yorker, whose editor, William Shawn, sent him out to live on the streets with the army of homeless that sprang up during that time. He escaped the 'velvet prison' when new owner Si Newhouse arrived and Shawn was forced to resign, in the meantime having become aware of the physical realities of the world—that water comes from somewhere, that food doesn't just magically appear, that everything connects to everything else. The result, ever since, has been a string of books, sometimes middling and sometimes quite fine, that reckon with the real world in the strictest sense of the term. McKibben has emerged as a sharp but courtly social critic whose surveys are at once obvious and subtle: the experiment with watching 1,700 hours of cable TV that led to The Age of Missing Information, for instance, that revealed to him the source of our autism in the medium's insistent message, 'You are the most important thing on earth.' Well, you're not, says McKibben. The earth scarcely acknowledges us, but it needs our help all the same. As this collection of book excerpts and magazine pieces reveals, he has been well ahead of the curve in recognizing that fact and spreading the word: A decade ago he was arguing that global warming—an appellation that sounds pleasant enough—needed 'a new, scarier name,' such as 'Hell on Earth,' while two decades ago he was writing presciently of the various strains of damage that would yield what he called 'the end of nature.' A welcome anthology whose constituent pieces, all well written, retain every bit of their urgency."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The Bill McKibben Reader
* I *AT HOME IN NATURE* 1 *A Carefully Controlled Experiment--The Nature of Nature (Harcourt, Inc.), 1994 
June 29--It is a warm, close afternoon, and I am stringing twine around a small patch of the forest behind my home.Why am I stringing twine around a small patch of forest? Because, by God, I am through with being a dilettante. This morning I finished writing a magazine article on the oldest trees in the eastern United States--seventeen-hundred-year-old bald cypresses in North Carolina
Read the full excerpt


  • Bill McKibben

  • Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, and Deep Economy. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Review of Books, among other publications. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and their daughter.
  • Bill McKibben Steve Liptay
    Bill McKibben