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Believers

Believers

Making a Life at the End of the World

Lisa Wells

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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In search of answers and action, the award-winning poet and essayist Lisa Wells brings us Believers, introducing trailblazers and outliers from across the globe who have found radically new ways to live and reconnect to the Earth in the face of climate change

We find ourselves at the end of the world; how then shall we live?

Like many of us, Lisa Wells has spent years overwhelmed by news of apocalyptic-scale climate change and a coming sixth extinction. She did not need to be convinced of the stakes. But what can be done? Wells embarked on a pilgrimage, seeking answers in dedicated communities—outcasts and visionaries—on the margins of society.

Wells meets Finisia Medrano, an itinerant planter and misanthrope leading a group of nomadic activists to rewild the American desert. She finds a group of environmentalist Christians practicing "watershed discipleship" in New Mexico; another group in Philadelphia turning the tools of violence into tools of farming—guns into plowshares. She watches the world’s greatest tracker teach how to read a trail, and visits botanists who are restoring land overrun by invasive species and destructive humans. She talks with survivors of catastrophic wildfires in California as they try to rebuild in new ways that acknowledge the fires will come again.

Blending reportage, memoir, history, and philosophy, Wells opens up seemingly intractable questions about the damage we have done and how we might reckon with our inheritance. “Brilliant in its quest . . … More…

In search of answers and action, the award-winning poet and essayist Lisa Wells brings us Believers, introducing trailblazers and outliers from across the globe who have found radically new ways to live and reconnect to the Earth in the face of climate change

We find ourselves at the end of the world; how then shall we live?

Like many of us, Lisa Wells has spent years overwhelmed by news of apocalyptic-scale climate change and a coming sixth extinction. She did not need to be convinced of the stakes. But what can be done? Wells embarked on a pilgrimage, seeking answers in dedicated communities—outcasts and visionaries—on the margins of society.

Wells meets Finisia Medrano, an itinerant planter and misanthrope leading a group of nomadic activists to rewild the American desert. She finds a group of environmentalist Christians practicing "watershed discipleship" in New Mexico; another group in Philadelphia turning the tools of violence into tools of farming—guns into plowshares. She watches the world’s greatest tracker teach how to read a trail, and visits botanists who are restoring land overrun by invasive species and destructive humans. She talks with survivors of catastrophic wildfires in California as they try to rebuild in new ways that acknowledge the fires will come again.

Blending reportage, memoir, history, and philosophy, Wells opens up seemingly intractable questions about the damage we have done and how we might reckon with our inheritance. “Brilliant in its quest . . . [and] an essential document of our time” (Charles D’Ambrosio), Believers demands transformation: If the Earth is our home, if our home is being destroyed—how then shall we live?

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ACROSS THE DESERT OUR BREAD IS BLOOMING!


I want to argue a paradox that the myth asserts: that the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt...

Praise for Believers

An Observer Best Book of the Summer

“Wells takes heart in the human tendency to tell and make sense of our lives through storytelling… Although she preserves a sense of hope for a better world, this blend of reportage, history, philosophy, and memoir is no rosy prescriptive narrative. Rather, Wells notes, ‘there is a surplus of terror and delusion in the ether, but spare few visions of how you and I, relatively ordinary people, might live otherwise. I believe the future of the world depends on those visions.’”
—Lauren LeBlanc, Observer

“Shocking and vivid… [Wells’s] descriptions of climate change capture the harsh reality of devastation… Climate-minded readers should take note of this roving account of perseverance.”
Publishers Weekly

“Wells offers no pat prescriptions for nurturing 'lived relationships with water and plants and soil'—only an ardent hope that humans will persist in 'fighting and reconciling and reaching across the divide of mutual misapprehension' to save their world. An urgent message gently conveyed.”
Kirkus Reviews

“We are living in an extreme moment, and one where it’s very hard to know what effective action looks like against crises of a scale we’ve not before encountered. These accounts of people trying to grapple with that reality are sometimes inspiring and often cautionary, and always a spur to thinking about how the rest of us might accomplish the most we can.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to … More…

An Observer Best Book of the Summer

“Wells takes heart in the human tendency to tell and make sense of our lives through storytelling… Although she preserves a sense of hope for a better world, this blend of reportage, history, philosophy, and memoir is no rosy prescriptive narrative. Rather, Wells notes, ‘there is a surplus of terror and delusion in the ether, but spare few visions of how you and I, relatively ordinary people, might live otherwise. I believe the future of the world depends on those visions.’”
—Lauren LeBlanc, Observer

“Shocking and vivid… [Wells’s] descriptions of climate change capture the harsh reality of devastation… Climate-minded readers should take note of this roving account of perseverance.”
Publishers Weekly

“Wells offers no pat prescriptions for nurturing 'lived relationships with water and plants and soil'—only an ardent hope that humans will persist in 'fighting and reconciling and reaching across the divide of mutual misapprehension' to save their world. An urgent message gently conveyed.”
Kirkus Reviews

“We are living in an extreme moment, and one where it’s very hard to know what effective action looks like against crises of a scale we’ve not before encountered. These accounts of people trying to grapple with that reality are sometimes inspiring and often cautionary, and always a spur to thinking about how the rest of us might accomplish the most we can.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

Believers is meticulously researched and reasoned and lays out a vast and sophisticated vision like no other writer since Charles Bowden. . . If some measure of a book’s importance is the noise it makes when it falls in the forest, this project reminds me of The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison, for the conversations that will surely follow its release. An essential document of our time.”
—Charles D'Ambrosio, author of Loitering

“This adventurous and outlandish book asks us to imagine a relationship to the land that precedes human memory, an act that requires us to shed our idealism in favor of a more radical leap of faith. In that wild leap it arrives, miraculously, a few steps down the path to wisdom.”
—Maurice Manning, author of Railsplitter

“Everyone who lives on this earth needs to read this book. Believers captures the stories of outliers working way out in the desert, deep in the city, and beyond, who are trying—and often succeeding—to live on this planet not only without harm but with great love. Lisa Wells is whip-smart and insightful, taking us along on her own quest to find another way to be. We grow with her, immersed in the poignant, hopeful, and heartbreaking stories of people she meets as she attempts to answer what has been her life’s refrain: How shall we live?”
—Tessa Fontaine, author of The Electric Woman

“Lisa Wells’s writing is brilliant; her conclusions are profound. If you can take only one book with you while wading through the wreckage of the Anthropocene, this is the one.”
—Kate Lebo, author of The Book of Difficult Fruit

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Lisa Wells

Lisa Wells is a poet and nonfiction writer from Portland, Oregon. Her debut collection of poetry, The Fix, won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have been published by The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, Granta, The Believer, n+1, The Iowa Review, The Poetry Foundation, and others. She lives in Seattle and is an editor for The Volta and Letter Machine Editions.

image of Lisa Wellso
Jaclyn Campanaro

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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