Cover Image: Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World

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Member Reviews

I remember reading Arctic Dreams and being gobsmacked. I sort of was again with Barry Lopez's newest book, Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World, a book of essays that is part memoir and part environmental call to action. Lopez is an insightful writer, his ability to eloquently describe the natural world riveting. Truly profound.
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This posthumously published essay collection cements Lopez’s legacy as one of nature’s most important voices — and he still has a lot to teach us.
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The approach Lopez takes towards the natural world is of observation: listening and paying attention. He talks about this in some of the early essays in the collection.

Further along in the book the essays become more autobiographical, more personal to him, what his life was like growing up, the sexual trauma he endured, his house, and finally his health.  

In the earlier sections he writes about people he’s met and who made a great impression on him, friends and other naturalists, native peoples he was honored to spend time with, mostly in the far north in Alaska. Lopez has travelled around the world, but always says the place he most wants to be is at his home. His home is in deep in a forest, near a large river with many acres of woods in Oregon. 

I haven’t read his entire cannon, but I suspect these personal biographical essays are the only ones he writes deeply about himself. He does share his childhood trauma and states that he told very few people about this. 
This will be the last book from Lopez, as he passed away, and the essays he included in this book have that sense of leaving his last words, his legacy. Although, perhaps some of these essays were published elsewhere, as there is some repetition of the material, particularly one right after another.
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Barry Lopez was a humanitarian, environmentalist, world traveler and a National Book Award winning writer. His books (including Artic Dreams, Of Wolves and Men,  Horizon, and Crossing Open Ground) have deservedly earned him something of a cult following. 

His last book, Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World is a collection of essays, mostly about nature and culture with some personal stories (warning: includes sexual abuse).  In all of his works Barry Lopez shared with us his spiritual reverence for the  natural world and everything in it.  His expertise across disparate fields was remarkable.

In Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World,  Lopez is forthcoming about the dangers we are facing and reminds of us of the need to be better stewards of everything found in nature. I particularly enjoyed his respectful portrayal of indigenous populations, recognizing all they have to offer in terms of wisdom and ways of being in the world.

I highly recommend this beautiful memoir of a life well-lived,  We can all benefit from following his example focusing on the journey rather than the destination  and  immersing ourselves in nature as often as possible. 

Thank  you to Random House for a drc.  Publication date is today 5/31/22!
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Barry Lopez is one of my favorite writers. I remember how anxious I was when I learned about his illness, how devastated when I heard about the wildfire that destroyed his home, and how I grieved when the news of his death came. His Horizon is one of the most beautiful and profound books that I have ever read. I am glad that he lived long enough to leave it behind as a gift for us all. And here is another gift from him, the last one – this collection of his essays.

It is a pleasure to be able once more to accompany him on his travels and be inspired by his writing. I think that every fan of Barry Lopez will appreciate it but it can also be a good entry point for someone who doesn’t know his books and was perhaps intimidated by the sheer scale of Horizon, for example. Thanks to this volume a reader can begin with small doses, relishing his words and getting to know him as a human.     

Thanks to the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.
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This posthumous collection of Barry Lopez's essays is both a timely call to attend to nature and our connection to it, and, at the same time, a memorial to Lopez's voice and work. The essays contained in this collection are thoughtful, detailed, and beautiful. A highly recommended addition to any library's collection of nature writing.
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When they first came out, I had read Barry Lopez’s award winning books Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape and Of Wolves and Men. I knew the beauty and insight of Lopez’s writing, but had not read him in decades.

Prepared by Lopez before his death, these essays include autobiographical accounts of his childhood that wrecked me. He endured years of sexual abuse by a family friend. And yet, his love of where he grew up never left him. I understand the longing for one’s first world, our natal landscape, and how it shapes us.

You can never have the childhood again though the desire for the innocence of those days overwhelms you from time to time to time. And then you learn to love what you have more than what you had. Or thought you had.

from Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World by Barry Lopez
Remarkably, he had considered entering the priesthood, inspired by Teilhard de Chardin, “leading a life of inquiry into secular and sacred mystery.” Then, he considered aeronautical engineering before turning to the arts as his major. For which I am thankful, for his writing combines a reverence and deep insight into our connection to the world and each other. His keen observation and scientific and historic and literary knowledge is married to spiritual depth and mysticism.

Lopez asks us to pay attention. “Each place it itself only, and nowhere repeated. Miss it and it’s gone,” he wrote. He traveled to eighty countries and in the essays he writes about how he went into the land to experience it wholly, becoming ‘intimate’ with the Earth. He warns that understanding should not be our goal as much as experiencing, being present. When I was young, when outdoors I would just stop and listen and watch, like an animal does. After paying attention, and being patient, he asks us to be attentive.

Lopez writes about ‘the failure to love’ evidenced all around us, the way we use and destroy the world and each other. In light of warfare and all the social and political ills of our world, in light of the degradation of the environment, Lopez queries, “is it still possible to face the gathering darkness and say to the physical Earth, and to all its creatures, including ourselves, fiercely and without embarrassment, I love you, and to embrace fearlessly the burning world?”

I was reminded again of the remarkable vision and gift of Barry Lopez.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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I recall Of Wolves and Men as one of the earliest contemporary books which helped strengthen my strong interest in the natural world. That said, Barry Lopez never became one of my very favorite writers. I usually found his style a little dry, and I also never really embraced the constant world travel aspect of some nature writing.
 
But this is a good collection including pieces published from 1989 to after his death. The essay from 1989 was a little dated in some of its environmental concerns, but otherwise good. The essays which had the strongest effect on me were about the Arctic and Antarctic, his childhood sexual abuse, and the deterioration of his aging body including his cancer diagnosis. 

The introduction by Rebecca Solnit and the closing words from Lopez’s wife Debra Gwartney are also strong, and made me appreciate Lopez more.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the early copy to review.
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