The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places
words by Stephen Trimble and Gary Paul Nabhan
photographs by Stephen Trimble
introduction by Robert Coles
(Beacon Press, 1994)

Awards: School Library Journal "Top Ten Non-Fiction Books of 1994"

Purchase: IndieBound, Powell's, Amazon

In this unique collaboration, two naturalists ask what may happen now that more children are denied exposure to wildness than at any other time in human history. The authors remember pivotal events in their own childhoods that led each to a lifelong relationship with the land. They tell stories of children learning about wild places and creatures in settings ranging from cities and suburbs to isolated Nevada sheep ranches to Native American communities in the Southwest and Mexico.

Combining their flair for natural history essays with research from fields as diverse as environmental psychology, gender studies, and ethnobotany, Trimble and Nabhan give parents looking for inspiration a guide for their next adventure, whether it's family camping in the wilderness or at the beach, or an hour in their backyard garden.

Excerpt: The Scripture of Maps
Interview for NPR's Living on Earth (Note that quotes from Gary Nabhan and Steve Trimble are reversed!)
Gary Nabhan website


"I believe The Geography of Childhood could become as important a book as Leopold's A Sand County Almanac or Carson's Silent Spring."
Charles Yaple, director, Coalition for Education in the Outdoors

"...two wise, knowing naturalists give us a glimpse of what children are and what they urgently need. The "geography" boys and girls ultimately want to explore and comprehend is that of life itself...and it is such a "geography" that the reader of this compelling, suggestive book will soon enough encounter.
Robert Coles, from the introduction

"This is a passionate book, filled with the love of two fathers who know how to listen to children—their own and others—and to the earth. Every parent, every person shoud read it."
Teresa Jordan, author of Riding the White Horse Home

"As a scholar and writer, I admire the way Nabhan and Trimble blend the personal and the scholarly, combining childhood stories with information gathered from their research in such fields as educational and environmental psychology, anthropology, and biology. …What they do is a wonderful example of "narrative scholarship."
Ian Marshall, American Nature Writing Newsletter

"Less a reasoned argument than a collection of ideas, anecdotes, and meditations on our relationship with the land, this book raises fundamental questions about the ways in which we teach our children to become responsible citizens."
Christopher Merrill, El Palacio

"This unusual, eclectic work is highly rewarding. The core concern is environmental education as a way of life that hinges on the moral trajectory of world culture. In the finest tradition of the environmentalist literary genre, Nabhan and Trimble tell us that while facts are fine, we must feel what goes on and that, conversely, when all meditation is done we must take a hard look at the whole child-nature situation. Then, increasing and synthesizing our knowledge, we can do something. Their book is a loving contribution to that urgent task."
Sanford Gaster, Children's Environments

"In their seminal book… Nabhan and Trimble successfully present an engaging poetics of childhood…and a cohesive theory and practice for integrating children and nature."
Mark Francis, Community Greening Review

"…provocative and compelling."
Francesca Lyman, Los Angeles Times Book Review

The Sagebrush Ocean: A Natural History of the Great Basin
words and photographs by Stephen Trimble
foreword by Barry Lopez
illustrations by Jennifer Owings Dewey
(University of Nevada Press, 10th anniversary edition, 1999)

Awards: 1991 Sierra Club Ansel Adams Award for Photography and Conservation
1990 High Desert Museum's Earle A. Chiles Award

Purchase: IndieBound, Powell's, Amazon

The Sagebrush Ocean summarizes a vast amount of information in a text of synthesis and celebration. Trimble mixes eloquent accounts of personal experiences with clear explication of natural history, and his photographs capture some of the most spectacular but least-known scenery in the western states.

The Great Basin Desert—an ocean of sagebrush—sweeps from the Sierra to the Rockies, from the Snake River Plain to the Mojave Desert. "Biogeography" best sums up Trimble's focus on this land: what lives where, and why. He introduces concepts of desert ecology and discusses living communities of animals and plants that band Great Basin mountains—from the exhilarating emptiness of dry lake-beds to alpine regions at the summits of the 13,000-foot Basin ranges.

Trimble's territory is the Nevada desert, Utah's West Desert, southeastern Idaho, southeastern Oregon, and California east of the Sierra. This is the best general introduction to the ecology and spirit of the Great Basin.


"The Sagebrush Ocean will be a revelation to those who have habitually steeled themselves to drive across the desert at seventy miles an hour, generally at night. They have been missing something fabulous. . . It ought to be in the pack of every desert camper and every off-road recreationist, just to teach them respect for what they use so freely. It ought to be on the seat of every car that starts across from Salt Lake to Reno, or vice versa, to give even seventy-mile-an-hour travelers some notion of what that apparently monotonous sagebrush ocean contains of the diversity and mystery of life."
Wallace Stegner

" beauty of a book, a triumph of regional literature of the kind we need, to relate more closely to this land of ours."
Harold Gilliam, The San Francisco Chronicle

"The Great Basin is one of the least novelized, least painted, least eulogized of American landscapes. Stephen Trimble has opened it up with the perception of a frontier scout, but for a different set of people this time: people more eager to know than to possess, more eager to understand than utilize."
Barry Lopez, from the foreword

"Stephen Trimble combines the scientific reason and clarity of a Voltaire with the poetic sensitivity of Rousseau."

"Trimble's natural history of the Great Basin sets a high standard for a genre of books that I would call regional natural histories. Not pocket guides to identifying a region's flora and fauna, but a searching treatment of how the interconnected ecosystems work. So far his is nearly a prototype of books yet to come, since few other regions of our continent have been treated in the format that Trimble has pioneered. For the Great Basin, it's all there under one cover, lavishly and lovingly served up in text and picture."
Arthur Kruckeberg, Douglasia

"The strength of The Sagebrush Ocean is its overall grasp and its remarkable clarity. ...if his photographs, both poetic and scientifically apt, don't arouse reverence for the Great Basin, one wonders what could."
Thomas Lyon, Sierra Magazine

" 'The desert,' wrote John Steinbeck in Travels With Charley, ''has mothered magic things.' The Sagebrush Ocean is one of those magic things. Stephen Trimble's love of the Great Basin brings out the hidden beauty of this region. His prose is clear and informative while not forsaking a poetic tone. Trimble's images convey the characteristic high desert blend of gentle subtlety with stark intensity. The Sagebrush Ocean is a beautifully designed book, and it covers not only the details of Great Basin ecological life zones and biogeography, but also captures the spirit of the place."
The Mono Lake Newsletter

"From salt flats to alpine tundra, writer-naturalist Trimble has camped there, has endured the harshest of seasonal changes, searched out the ancient bristlecone pines and photographed the tumbling tumbleweed. His introduction to the ecology and biogeography of a strange ocean and its archipelago of mountains benefits from an unusual breadth of approach...the wider view of a celebrant."
Scientific American

"The Sagebrush Ocean, a handsome, lucidly written, and amply illustrated book, does the place justice with authority and style, outlining its human and natural history with equal facility and sometimes with prose that gives nothing away to John McPhee or anyone else."
Wilderness Magazine

"This is a truly useful book, one that I'm going to take with me to the Great Basin, but it's a great deal more than a reference work. Providing an imaginative view of environment embracing geography, biology, and culture, The Sagebrush Ocean is an excellent contribution to the modern reconciliation with the natural world that beckons us all."
Clyde McConnell, Eugene Register-Guard

"I love the Great Basin and I hate books like The Sagebrush Ocean. Accounts such as Stephen Trimble's or John McPhee's Basin and Range should be banned. Why? Just basic selfishness. Trimble has come close to capturing the majestic diversity of the Basin in an exquisite language of written and photographic imagery, and I am terribly afraid he will attract the casual visitor to places that I find it impossible to be casual about."
David Madsen, Utah Historical Quarterly

"This 10th anniversary edition of an award-winning book remains the standard by which similar efforts are judged. ...A genuine classic on the region."
Mike Nobles, Tulsa World


Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness
compiled by Stephen Trimble and Terry Tempest Williams
(Milkweed Editions, 1996)

Purchase: AbeBooks, Powell's, Amazon

Stephen Trimble and Terry Tempest Williams originally created Testimony as a limited edition presented to Congress. Senators Russ Feingold and Bill Bradley later read into the Congressional Record essays from this historic statement on behalf of the land in their fight to defeat an exploitative Utah wilderness bill. The book laid the groundwork for Milkweed Edition’s “The World As Home” program and became a model of environmental advocacy writing. Since Testimony, other activist writers have gathered "testimonies" about endangered wild places from the Tongass National Forest to New Mexico's Petroglyph National Monument. Each was presented to Congress, and each may have moved a staffer or senator reading late one night. Each may have made a difference.

These passionate and eloquent essays ask us to decide how we value wilderness and what actions we must take to preserve it.

Stephen Trimble, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass, Olive Ghiselin, Brewster Ghiselin, William Kittredge, Barry Lopez, Thomas Lyon, John McPhee, Ellen Meloy, N. Scott Momaday, Margaret E. Murie, Gary Paul Nabhan, Richard Shelton, Karen Shepherd, Donald Snow, Mark Strand, T. H. Watkins, Ann Weiler Walka, Charles Wilkinson, and Ann Zwinger.

Excerpt: Our Gardens, Our Canyons


Terry Tempest Williams website


"A landmark document for the U.S. environmental movement. "
The Amicus Journal

"Good writing can make a place come alive. Testimony gives voice to the magnificence and quiet majesty of southern Utah’s wilderness lands. If writing itself can be an act of public service, then this collection is it."
Senator Bill Bradley

"In Testimony, we finally have an authentic definition of wilderness.... Anyone who is concerned about the values of love, respect, and genuine care—for land, for other species, for children, for the arts—has to consider how to bring these values to bear on the policies that so affect our present and future worlds. Testimony is one model for how we can do that."
ORION Magazine

"Moving through the pieces of Testimony feels something like splashing your face with cold water. A spirit of devotion to community jumps off the pages."
Eugene Weekly

"It all feels fresh, as if twenty voices had struck an undiscovered and irresistibly powerful chord…It will, inevitably, move thousands of readers and become part of the canon of the best American writing about landscape, outer and inner."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Words From the Land: Encounters With Natural History Writing
edited by Stephen Trimble
(University of Nevada Press, revised edition, 1995)

Awards: "Noted With Pleasure," New York Times Book Review

Purchase: AbeBooks, Powell's, Amazon

This expanded edition is a first-rate anthology of nature writings from 20 well-known masters and vital new writers who focus on our relationship with the Earth. Originally published in 1988, this edition contains five new landscape essays by younger writers.

In his fascinating introduction, and in biographical sketches of each contributor, Trimble illuminates the practice and spirit of natural history writing, the fruit of "the naturalist's trance." He explores how the writers learn their profession, how they meet day-by-day challenges, and how they feel about their craft. The interaction between the essays and the introduction provides an unusual perspective on these writers who connect the worlds of story and landscape. A new preface brings his critical commentary up to date.

Edward Abbey , Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich. Robert Finch, Linda Hasselstrom, John Hay, Edward Hoagland, Sue Hubbell, Barry Lopez, John Madson, Peter Matthiessen, John McPhee, Gary Paul Nabhan, Richard Nelson, Robert Michael Pyle, David Quammen, Stephen Trimble, Terry Tempest Williams, and Ann Zwinger.


"If it was not already fair to speak of contemporary American natural history writing as a distinct and expanding literary genre, with the publication of Stephen Trimble's introductory essay and annotated anthology, Words From the Land, it now seems fitting to do so."
Earth First! Journal

"...the real gift in this volume is Trimble's generous introduction, full of interviews, quotes, and insights into these writers and their craft."
The Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer

"In his introduction, Trimble skillfully weaves the authors' observations about their own writing techniques and philosophies into a discussion about the key elements of nature writing. The result is a fascinating disclosure of how sensory impressions and raw field notes become coherent, eloquent, and passionate essays about the natural world."

"Reading Words From the Land is like indulging in a literary smorgasbord...This is the's a taste of the best. These essays open you to topics, thoughts and feelings that might not have otherwise crossed your path."

"Words From the Land reminds us that we're in a Golden Age of nature writing. Can you think of a better reason to buy a book?"
Borealis: Canadian Parks and Wilderness

"What this book is about is not nature, but conscience: about the relationship of humankind (a piece of nature) to the rest of nature; indirectly about destruction, over-development and greed. Trimble, himself a superb writer, provides an introduction that has food for years' thought."
Books of the Southwest

"For a first-rate anthology providing an exemplary range of the kind of land-and-nature essayists writing today, it would be hard to improve on Stephen Trimble's Words From the Land."
Wilderness Magazine


Magen Duferrena, Denio, Nevada, from "The Geography of Childhood"  

maple seeds, from "The Geography of Childhood"  

Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, from "The Geography of Childhood"  

winterfat, Spring Valley, Nevada, from "The Sagebrush Ocean"  

Geyser Hot Springs, Gerlach, Nevada, from "The Sagebrush Ocean"  

Black Rock Desert, Nevada, from "The Sagebrush Ocean"  

view into Oregon from Pine Forest Range, Nevada, from "The Sagebrush Ocean"