Wendell Berry Essay Collections

As the United States prepares to leave its long war in Afghanistan, it now must contemplate the necessity of sending troops back to Iraq, recalling General Colin Powell’s advice to President Bush: “If you break it, you own it,” as
the world’s hot spots threaten to spread over the globe with the ferocity of a war of holy terror and desperation.

The planet’s environmental probAs the United States prepares to leave its long war in Afghanistan, it now must contemplate the necessity of sending troops back to Iraq, recalling General Colin Powell’s advice to President Bush: “If you break it, you own it,” as
the world’s hot spots threaten to spread over the globe with the ferocity of a war of holy terror and desperation.

The planet’s environmental problems respect no national boundaries. From soil erosion and population displacement to climate change and failed energy policies, American governing classes are paid by corporations to pretend that debate is the only democratic necessity and that solutions are capable of withstanding endless delay. Late Capitalism goes about its business of finishing off the planet. And we citizens are left with a shell of what was once proudly described as The American Dream.

In this new collection of eleven essays, Berry confronts head-on the necessity of clear thinking and direct action. Never one to ignore the present challenge, he understands that only clearly stated questions support the understanding their answers require. For more than fifty years we’ve had no better spokesman and no more eloquent advocate for the planet, for our families, and for the future of our children and ourselves....more

Hardcover, 196 pages

Published February 10th 2015 by Counterpoint (first published January 19th 2015)

If you are new to Wendell Berry's work, you might start or continue your reading with one of these. The list is based solely on my own preferences ... of course! The important thing is to start.  (Br. Tom)
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Non-Fiction Originals

The Long-Legged House. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1969 (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004).

    This is Mr. Berry's first collection of essays ... and it's a great one, culminating in his three early masterpieces of nature writing and memoir: "The Rise," "The Long-Legged House," and "A Native Hill."

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

    A collection of gems, not the least of which are the title essay and "Christianity and the Survival of Creation." 

The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1977; Avon Books, 1978; Sierra Club, 1986.

    Published almost 40 years ago and, unfortunately, as timely as it ever was. This is a powerful critique of who we are in our relation to the land and how we feed ourselves ... and how things might be otherwise.

The Hidden Wound. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

    In which Mr. Berry explores the heritage and dilemma of racism from his own family, the local culture and the nation.

Standing by Words. San Francisco: North Point, 1983 (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005).

    In which Mr. Berry offers his agrarian insights about the importance of language, especially poetry.

What Are People For? New York: North Point, 1990.

    Provocative reflections on and critiques of the ways we live. How could you not read a book with this title?

 

Non-Fiction Compilations (Re-Gatherings from Originals)

    Recommended if you are seeking a convenient overview of Berry's thought concerning Agrarian Perspectives, Farming and Food Issues, and Economic Woes and Imperatives. Each volume is packed with essential essays.

The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Ed. Norman Wirzba. Washington, D. C.: Counterpoint, 2002.

Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009.

What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010.

 

Fiction - Short Stories

That Distant Land: The Collected Stories. Washington, D. C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004.

    To date, this is the most complete gathering of Port William stories, arranged chronologically (by plot) from 1888 to 1986. Follow this with A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership and you've got virtually the full range of short stories (at least one published story remains uncollected).

But please note that, if you can find them, the individual collections of The Wild BirdsFidelity, and Watch With Me are wonderfully focused, intentionally crafted journeys, as well.

The Library of America volume Wendell Berry: Port William Novels & Stories, The Civil War to World War II contains twenty-three short stories and four novels whose action occurs primarily between 1864 and 1945.

 

Fiction - Novels

Each of the novels is richly rewarding in its own way, read in any order. But here are my favorites in no particular order (though one could do worse than to start with A Place on Earth):

A Place on Earth. Boston: Harcourt, Brace, 1967 (revised North Point, 1983; Counterpoint, 2001).

    A profound meditation on the tight web of personal and communal loss, set in 1945 … and a fine introduction to the membership and the people of Port William.

The Memory of Old Jack. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1974. (revised Counterpoint 2001).

    Jack Beechum's life in his place.

Nathan Coulter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960 (revised North Point, 1985).

    Mr. Berry's first novel, in which he discovers Port William and some key participants in the membership.

Remembering. San Francisco: North Point, 1988.

    An adult Andy Catlett comes to grips with his own realities.

Hannah Coulter. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard. 2004.

    Nathan's widow tells her story.

Jayber Crow. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000.

    Port William's barber tells his story.

A World Lost. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1996.

    Andy Catlett explores the circumstances of his uncle's murder.

 

Poetry

New Collected Poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2012.

    This is an indispensable gathering of Berry's poetry, but it does not include The Sabbath Poems, which have now been published as ... 

This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979 - 2012. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2013.

    The Sabbath Poems are Mr. Berry's most fruitful poetic project. It all began with A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. Sabbaths from 1998 to 2004 are in Given: New Poems. And those from 2005 to 2008 are in Leavings. And they are all (through 2012) collected in This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979 - 2012. A Small Porch (2016) contains nine sabbath poems from 2014 and sixteen from 2015. Sabbath poems from 2013 are, so far, published only in the limited Larkspur edition.

The Mad Farmer Poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2008.  

    There is no shortage of "attitude" and insight in these deeply loved and widely cited poems, gathered here (with extras) in a very handsome edition.

 

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