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The Hour of Land

A Personal Topography of America's National Parks

Terry Tempest Williams


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ISBN10: 1250132142
ISBN13: 9781250132147

Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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America’s national parks are breathing spaces in a world in which such spaces are steadily disappearing, which is why more than 300 million people visit the parks each year. Now Terry Tempest Williams, the author of the environmental classic Refuge and the beloved memoir When Women Were Birds, returns with The Hour of Land, a literary celebration of our national parks, an exploration of what they mean to us and what we mean to them. From the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to Acadia in Maine to Big Bend in Texas and more, Williams creates a series of lyrical portraits that illuminate the unique grandeur of each place while delving into what it means to shape a landscape with its own evolutionary history into something of our own making. Part memoir, part natural history, and part social critique, The Hour of Land is a meditation and a manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America.


Praise for The Hour of Land

“A collection of essays that’s a personal journey as much as a meditation on the purpose and relevance of national parks in the 21st century . . . Williams’s language has its own visceral beauty . . . The Hour of Land is one of the best nature books I’ve read in years, filled with seductive prose.”—Andrea Wulf, The New York Times Book Review

"If you have never set foot in a national park, love the wilderness, like history, or enjoy great storytelling, The Hour of Land is calling you."The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Terry Tempest Williams is a force of nature in at least two ways. First, she pleads forcefully on behalf of the natural world, especially national parks, wilderness areas, and endangered species. And, second, she writes as she damn well pleases. . . . The author's trademark poetic prose dominates every page."—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post

"[A] necessary new book . . . Williams shows how national parks can be both symbols of and actual catalysts for the things that are best about America, offering a montage of grandeur that can not only make one tear up in gratitude and an embarrassing sort of patriotic pride but also demonstrate the real value of these 'wholesome' feelings to human emotional life, spurring one to engage differently with the world. . . . Williams' is only one voice in the polyphonic story of the American landscape. But it is an especially valuable one in addressing how land, even that which is nominally preserved in a state of Edenic purity, shifts with this country’s social history as much as it does through geology and time."—Jenny Hendrix, Slate

"Whether contemplating the spiritual life she finds 'inside the heart of the wild' or marveling at the peaks and monuments that comprise 'our best idea'—the National Parks system—Williams movingly urges us to remember that 'heaven is here.'"—O Magazine

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


By definition


IN BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, the Rio Grande is so low because of drought, locals are calling it the Rio Sand. The river that separates...

About the author

Terry Tempest Williams

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS is the award-winning author of fifteen books, including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, and When Women Were Birds. Her work has been widely anthologized around the world. She lives in Castle Valley, Utah, with her husband, Brooke Williams.

© Zoë Rodriguez