Best of Fall 2019 at Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and Literary Hub
A Top Ten Book of October at The Washington Post
One of "5 Boss Lady Books of Nonfiction" at BookRiot
"Williams makes a poignant connection between the political and the personal . . . If Williams’s haunting, powerful and brave book can be summed up in one line of advice it would be this: try to stare down the grief of everyday life, speak out and find solace in the boundless beauty of nature.”
Diane Ackerman, The New York Times Book Review
"Erosion is a spiritual and profound anthology that could not be more appropriate for our time."
Juliana Rose Pignataro, Newsweek
“Weaves together personal experiences with the larger world in order to produce shattering emotional truths . . . [Williams] delivers . . . something permanent and beautiful in the face of wanton destruction.”
Lorraine Berry, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Beautiful . . . stunning and heartbreaking . . . a hybrid of Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking. [Williams has an] incredible ability to describe the tininess of human beings in relation to the majesty of human nature."
Elisabeth Egan, The New York Times Book Review Podcast
"Terry Tempest Williams is a voice of hope in the dark. In a time where climate change and greed have ravaged everything many of us hold dear, Williams gives us the words to understand it. She makes it easier to feel both the sacredness and pain of grief for an ever-imperiled natural world."
Gretchen Lida, BookRiot
“Williams marshals dazzling prose to summon activists to resist and revolt.”
Kitty Kelley, Washington Independent Review of Books
"A must for anyone who loves the desert."
Emily Temple, Lit Hub
“Explosive and unflinching . . . Erosion is a call to action, a cry in the dark . . . written with the hope . . . that we might honor the earth, our only home, as she continues, even in her diminished state, to teach us.”
Pam Houston, Alta
"An apostle of life and earth and a soul-revving teller of true stories, Williams (The Hour of Land, 2016) brings lyricism, candor, mystery, and factual exactitude to the deeply affecting essays collected here . . . Williams’ exquisite testimony of wonder and wisdom is vitalizing and crucial."
Booklist, starred review
"In a collection of passionate, galvanizing essays, activist and teacher Williams shares her intimate connection to the as-yet untamed landscapes of the American West . . . Williams writes with a poetic optimism . . . Stirring."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This anthology of grief, anger, and even hope capably reflects Williams' wise voice."
“These essays are wide ranging and heartfelt and will attract dedicated environmentalists.”
David R. Conn, Library Journal
“These essays are a joy to read. Terry Tempest Williams is a wise and fierce defender of the wild Earth.”
Leslie Marmon Silko, author of The Turquoise Ledge
“Terry Tempest Williams’s voice in the clamor is like a hot desert wind blowing away the litter in a crowded room and leaving behind only what has weight, what is essential. These are essays about the courage to face what is most brutal and monstrous, by finding what is most beautiful and merciful.”
Rebecca Solnit, author of Call Them by Their True Names
“Luminous, fearless, brutally honest. But with this latest book, Williams takes her spiritual love of the American Westalong with her grief, anger and exasperation at what we continue to do to this placeto a new level. If John Muir ever wrote like this, most of the West would be in wilderness protection by now. As well, she knows her way to the human heart.”
Timothy Egan, author of The Immortal Irishman
“Terry Tempest Williams has rewritten the rules for the way we must engage the natural world and each other. Erosion is both a shout from the edge of what we were and a beckoning to what we must become. Pick up your courage and this book; be prepared to take notesand action.”
Alexandra Fuller, author of Quiet Until the Thaw
“Terry Tempest Williams is our great activist laureate. Working out of the lineage of Dickinson, O’Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence, and, later, Abbey and Peacock, she is nonetheless singular and extraordinarily original. She is rooted as juniper yet ephemeral as a sand dune. The forces that have eroded her are rapture and grief. What remains is elemental beauty.”
Rick Bass, author of For a Little While
“These are the most dangerous of all days for humans on Earth, and Erosion is the book for our time. Writing on the edge of the sacred, Terry Tempest Williams's message bears the power and emotional gifts of a close call with a charging grizzly. There are no stray words. Terry writes with a purity glimpsed in certain outcrops of crystalline rock or the waters filling a chain of alpine lakes. I believe there is no more important writer working today.”
Doug Peacock, author of In the Shadow of the Sabertooth
New and previously published essays from the well-known conservationist alternately rage and despair over national policies of land and wildlife conservation.
The election of Donald Trump spelled a dark moment for environmentalists like Williams (Writer-in-Residence/Harvard Divinity School; The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks, 2015, etc.), who increasingly sees a "world torn to pieces." The erosion of the protection of public lands, most recently that of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, has compelled the author to become increasingly political, sometimes to the detriment of her personal life. When her longtime husband, Brooke, said that she "was too immersed in politics—‘obsessed' was the word he used—and that it wasn't healthy," her response was telling: "We have to keep fighting….It's not just about our species." Owls, for which Williams has a particular affinity, would agree, as would countless other species, such as prairie dogs, wolves, and sage grouse, all of which suffer from the erosion of the Endangered Species Act (1973). A "totemic act," it has "never been more relevant and never more at risk." These essays—written between 2016 and 2018 and mostly high quality—take readers to extraordinary places, including the Great Salt Lake and surrounding areas; Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she saw "one constant: pronghorns"; the Alaskan Brooks Range ("in the Arctic, global warming is not an abstraction"); the Galápagos Islands, where the author discovered countless wonders on land and at sea; the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, where she observed gorillas amid a war-torn country bleeding itself for charcoal production. Elsewhere, she writes about how she confronted the religious politics of the Latter-day Saint patriarchy in Utah, where she lived, forcing her to leave her professorship for the unknown. She also confronts the traumatic, untimely death of her brother by suicide in 2018. Though the book contains mostly prose, there is also poetry and a long Q-and-A with fellow environmentalist Tim DeChristopher.
Not every piece is a winner, but this anthology of grief, anger, and even hope capably reflects Williams' wise voice.
Naturalist, educator, and prolific writer Williams (e,g., Finding Beauty in a Broken World) delivers essays and poems originally published between 2012 and 2019. Here, erosion is a metaphor for the loss of various values. A subtheme is the disputed value of rural public lands, with high-stakes clashes between people who appreciate wilderness and those determined to exploit its resources. Williams is particularly concerned with the struggle around the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument, in the high desert of southeast Utah. Republicans and some federal agencies want to reduce the protected areas to extend access for mining, and petroleum and water extraction. The author recounts some of her environmental activities, including guerrilla-style purchase of petroleum leases on tracts of public property, to actually preserve them from drilling. The leases were denied, but that decision is being appealed in court. Other essays contain lyrical descriptions of nature in various locations around the world, decrying human hubris and the damage being caused by climate change. VERDICT These essays are wide ranging and heartfelt and will attract dedicated environmentalists.—David R. Conn, formerly with Surrey Libs., BC