March Garden Book Review

“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”
― Aldo Leopold


I am just going to come out and say it; I absolutely love this book. It is rare that I come across a book that I cannot put down, and feel compelled to reread passages savoring every word.  But this is one of those books.  I was unsure when I started the book if I was going to be able to read the whole book or even relate to it.  I am not sure what my apprehension was.  Perhaps it was because the book was written in 1949.  But what I found were the observations and musings from a naturalist who lamented what was happening to the environment back in the 1940s and before.  His quote above speaks volumes to me.  I am one who cannot live without wild things.  If you are also one of us, then this book is a must read.  If you like critters and nature, but are unsure about the fuss, please read the book.


A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There

by Aldo Leopold

Paperback:  228 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 30, 1989)
List Price:  $ 12.95
Amazon Price: $10.54 (Paperback)




In a Few Words

 A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There was written by ecologist, forester, and environmentalist Aldo Leopold. The observations in the first part of the book take place in Sauk County, Wisconsin.  The book is a collection of essays where Leopold’s talks about “land ethic”, or a relationship that man has with the land, animals and plants.  The book was published a year after Leopold’s death.  Two million copies have been printed in nine languages to date.  I find it sad that Leopold was not alive to see the impact his book has had on the American conservation / environmental movement.

A Sand County Almanac combines natural history, Leopold’s philosophy and many beautiful natural sketches. One of the most well known quotes from the book is, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  


What I Liked

As I began reading Leopold’s essays, I was struck by the love he had for the land.  I think it is what drew me into the book.  His words touched my soul, my core being.  They spoke of  rivers receding and painting a picture with flowers that suddently bloomed.  He  described in incredible detail, the sunrise and being able to identify each bird as they broke into song.  There was an essay like this for every month, and I found I had to read on to get to the next month.  I couldn’t wait to see what beauty was in store for me through his words.

“On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.”  ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

And while he spoke of the land and animals on it, he also described the history of the land, what is now gone, what is in danger and why and what we need to do.  Now mind you this was 1949. But his message is still strong.  It is our message, those of us who speak about nature and preserving it.  And yet, has much changed…I don’t think so.  I see many similarities to today although I think we are in such worse shape, and at a critical point where we must do something about our habits of living or we will surely reach a point of no return.  I know I might sound like an alarmist, but trust me I am not.  I am a realist at this point and so was Leopold.  Much of what he talked about has happened or is still happening.

The second section of the book, “Sketches Here and There,” takes you to some places around North America that Leopold visited.  He recounts his experiences particularly hunting  experiences.  I enjoyed his description of the mountains in northern Arizona where I have visited.  And of course some of the thoughts about hunting were of the time and not necessarily ascribed to today.

 “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”  ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

The last section of the book ends with philosophical essays where Leopold talks more about conservation and some of its ironies.  He describes how we encourage recreation in the wild to appreciate it, but ultimately end up destroying it.

“The problem, then, is how to bring about a striving for harmony with land among a people many of whom have forgotten there is any such thing as land, among whom education and culture have become almost synonymous with landlessness. This is the problem of conservation education.”  ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac



Not So Much

Leopold doesn’t mince words, but I find his candor refreshing and needed.  Others may not.  The biggest issue for me was that I had to constantly check Google or another resource to see what plant or animal he was describing.  Sometimes he used technical and scientific terms that I was not familiar with.  But this did not deter from the poetry of his words, and was just a minor issue that took a bit of my time to discern.  But as an educator I am not averse to learning and that is exactly what I did.

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac



Final Thoughts

I find it hard to believe that the book went unnoticed when it was published.  It was not until the 1970s and the birth of the modern environmental movement that this book became a best seller.  I am sad that I did not find this book then.   I agree with critics that Leopold’s work ranks up there with Thoreau’s Walden.  

“Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.”  ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

There are many different editions of this book and it depends what you are looking for.  The one pictured here is the commemorative edition that is no longer in print even though I bought it with in the last year.  There are hardcover editions with wildlife pictures from Leopold’s wonderful Sand County area.  And there are other paperback editions.  So you choose, but I strongly urge you to read this book.  Read it for the shear beauty of his words, the incredible nature he brings to you or the strong message we must begin to hear.  But whatever you do, read this book!


“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
― Aldo Leopold


**All pictures of nature were taken in and around my garden or at Beaver Lake Nature Center nearby.



Next up on the blog:  I will have our Seasonal Celebrations Revealed on Wednesday the first full day of spring.   And don’t forget to join Beth@PlantPostings for Garden Lessons Learned this week.  Wildflower Wednesday next week will be about my last color post, green.

Please  join me for my weekly posts, every Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


  1. Alistair says:

    Ah, to think of how Aldo Leopold would feel to have such a review in the year of 2012. I have known so little of the USA yet in the course of one year I hear the name Wisconsin pop up time and time again and I know a couple of folks there, (well in the blogosphere world.)

    • Donna says:

      Alistair I hope he would be encouraged that people may finally be listening. Wisconsin is a beautiful state to visit if you ever get to the States!

  2. Donna says:

    I agree with Alistair. 2012 would seem a bit foreign compared to 1949. I read Silent Spring at University and felt a little of the same way, but times change, but hopefully, not philosophies of life.

  3. Janet, The Queen of Seaford says:

    Great review. I have read some books written in the 1930’s and found the vocabulary broader than what is used in writing today. Add that to the scientific language you were reading, I imagine you come away feeling better educated.

  4. Alberto says:

    Very good review, Donna! It seems this book is ‘must have’! 🙂
    The first picture is fantastic, did you take it near your home?

    • Donna says:

      Alberto it is about 45 minutes from my house at Beaver Lake Nature Center although much of the natural areas near my home look like this too…so glad you liked the pictures and review!

  5. Elaine says:

    Hi Donna,
    How did I miss this book all these years? It does sound very familiar, and now I want to read it for sure. I like nature books that don’t just paint a pretty picture, but rather slowly get their tendrils around us and make us a part of this planet we call home. Thanks for the review!

    • Donna says:

      Elaine I think it is even more than a nature book..the author definitely has a message..the interesting thing is the message is as relevant today as it was then…that was such a surprise to me!

  6. tina says:

    His words ring true, especially about living in a world of wounds. I envision someday everyone will cherish the natural world and hope it comes to pass. I’ll have to check out his book.

    • Donna says:

      I was very touched by these words too Tina…it is my hope as well!! Perhaps now over 50 years after his message initially went out we may actually listen and do something..

  7. Grace says:

    Wow. I guess this proves that there is nothing new under the sun. To think that this author understood and touted the symbiosis of human and earth well before its time is amazing. I believe the biggest hindrance to his point of view is greed–developers who grab at an opportunity to make money instead of preserve the integrity of the land. But things are improving. I remember when the local Costco came to town. The developers couldn’t begin construction until a family of killdeer finished their fledgling. Then they named the street after them: Killdeer Avenue. Kinda cool, I think.

    • Donna says:

      Grace that is so cool..I agree it is greed stopping us. The author’s point of view in 1949 is what struck me as well…I hope we can continue in a positive direction…

  8. HolleyGarden says:

    What a wonderful review. To imagine that some of our environmental worries and problems were already a topic in 1949! He has a powerful, yet melodic way of writing. I can see why you would like this book so much. The relationship of man to land and animals is so very important. Sounds like I would learn a lot by reading this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • Donna says:

      Hope you do enjoy it Holley…I think you will…I was amazed at his intense dedication to nature and the environment in 1949…let me know what you think if you do read it!

  9. Cat says:

    He sounds like a very thoughtful writer; I especially love the last quote you used. Thanks for the review, Donna…this sounds like a really interesting read.

    • Donna says:

      Glad you enjoyed the review Cat…it is too bad we only discovered his work after he was gone…he would be a force today!

    • Donna says:

      Ellen I do hope you love it…several native plant gardeners said to read it and I got a nudge from one recently…why I waited I don’t know…let me know what you think!

  10. Christina says:

    It truly sounds like something we should all read; it’s sad that not only have we lost habitat and species in the last 50 years but also the vocabulary that should so enrich the English language. Christina

  11. ramblingwoods says:

    I had that book and hadn’t read it. Now half-way through. The message is clear and wonderfully written and the concerns haven’t changed since he wrote the book..wonderful..I am reading it while sitting on my deck listening to the birds.Michelle

    • Donna says:

      Perfect place to read the book Michelle…you have captured it perfectly…”message clear and wonderfully written..concerns have not changed”…which is surprising and sad

  12. Dorothy says:

    After reading your very thoughtful review, I put in a request for the book from my library. It sounds like just the type of book I enjoy reading. Thank you for reviewing this book!

    • Donna says:

      Carver I am so glad you enjoyed the pictures. Some were taken in my garden and some at a local nature center..hope you enjoy the book!

  13. Libby says:

    I had not heard of this book before but it sounds very compelling! I am going to look for it next time I go to the library! Thanks for telling us about it 🙂

  14. Sharon says:

    Thanks for this review. I have also heard of this book but never picked it up for some reason. I think I was afraid it would be a “downer,” even though I myself have a similar philosophy. But reading your review and the quotes you give made me realize I’ve been doing myself (and Leopold) a disservice by not checking it out. Thanks! I also really like your photos, especially the one of the moss covered hobbit hole.

    • Donna says:

      Sharon so happy to hear you enjoyed the review. The hobbit hole was just too cute to not capture a photo…it is at our local nature center in the bog area…

  15. Aimee says:

    Bravo! Bravo! This is one of my favorite books in the world. It touches the core of my soul too and makes me wish I could have met him. It amazes me how much of what he says holds true today. He was truly a visionary.

    Thank you for this excellent review and for turning so many people on to Aldo Leopold and to this very fine book. I really think the world would be a better place if just half of us read this book and thought about it.

    Well done, Donna!

    • Donna says:

      Aimee this means so much coming from someone who loves this book…I agree…we just need to get people to read this book…

Comments are closed.