How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed Americaby Kim Heacox
John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire takes two of the most compelling elements in the narrative of wild America, John Muir and Alaska, and combines them into a brisk and engaging biography.
John Muir was a fascinating man who was many things: inventor, scientist, revolutionary, druid (a modern day Celtic priest), husband, son, father and friend, and a shining son of the Scottish Enlightenment - both in temperament and intellect. Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak, brings us a story that evolves as Muir's life did, from one of outdoor adventure into one of ecological guardianship. Muir went from impassioned author to leading activist. He would popularize glaciers unlike anybody else, and be to glaciers what Jacques Cousteau would be to the oceans and Carl Sagan to the stars.
The book also offers an environmental caveat on global climate change and the glaciers' retreat alongside a beacon of hope: Muir shows us how one person changed America, helped it embrace its wilderness, and in turn, gave us a better world.
In 2005, Californians had to choose a design for its commemorative quarter. Hundreds of submissions the iconic Hollywood sign above Hollywood Hills, the 1849 Gold Rush, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. fell away until one remained: an image of John Muir. 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Muir's death. Muir's legacy is that he reordered our priorities and contributed to a new scientific revolution that was picked up a generation later by Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, and is championed today by influential writers like E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond.
Heacox takes us into how Muir changed our world, advanced the science of glaciology and popularized geology. How he got people out there. How he gave America a new vision of Alaska, and of itself.
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"I found John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire to be quite a disappointment. It was too disorganized and incomplete to be a biography; the travel sections were too sketchy for a book about exploration; it contained far too little information on the nature of glaciers for a scientific work; it relayed some information about the history of the conservation movement, but not enough to satisfy someone interested in the subject; and finally it touched upon how Muir shaped North America's natural places and the country's appreciation of nature, but again, without painting anything close to a full picture. Because the author tried to cover so much territory in so few pages, I felt he never fully explored any of the subjects he mentions, with the end result that those interested in the topics presented here will find it lacking critical detail, while those knowing little about them will find the book too dull and haphazard to finish." - Kim Kovacs, BookBrowse
"Starred Review. Fascinating...A wonderfully personal biography of Muir...The book is an engaging and informative look at Muir and his life's work, as well as a timely call to action." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. A gripping biography of 'a gentle rebel, a talkative hermit, an enthusiastic wanderer, a distant son of the Scottish Enlightenment, inspired by ice.'"- Kirkus
"In this compelling narrative, Kim Heacox brings us the man the Tlingits called the 'great ice chief' and shows that Alaska was an equally powerful force in shaping Muir's views and igniting the passion part religion, part science that burned so brightly in his soul.'" - Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America's Best Idea
"There couldn't be a more gifted or qualified writer than Kim Heacox to tell the story of John Muir's travels to Alaska and his passion for glaciers ... Muir realized more than one hundred years ago that the planet was warming. Ice never lies, Heacox shows us. If only we would listen." - Debra McKinney, coauthor of Beyond the Bear
"Heacox's storytelling is a delight. His portrait of Muir is indelible. For lovers of the outdoors, his new book is a rare treasure, limned in prose vivid enough to chew and to paint with." - Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream?
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Kim Heacox is the author of several books on biography, history and conservation, plus a novel, Caribou Crossing, about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His Alaska memoir, The Only Kayak, a PEN USA Literary Award finalist in creative non-fiction, is now in its seventh printing. Kim was a writer-in-residence at Cambridge University's Scott Polar Research Institute in 1998, and in Denali National Park in 2012. He's written feature articles for many national magazines, and opinion-editorials for The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Anchorage Daily News. He lives in Gustavus, Alaksa, near Glacier Bay.
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