Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape

A celebrated collection of land and water terms that define North America. Edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney.

Image of book cover with a painting of golden grain fields and a blue sky
“How to define an arroyo, badlands, eddy, a muskeg? What is a desire path, a kiss tank, a nubble? These words, many forgotten today, refer to various aspects of a landscape to which many of us have lost our connection. Drawing on the polyglot richness of American English, National Book Award–winning author Lopez (Arctic Dreams) assembles 45 writers, known for their intimate connection to particular places, to collectively create a unique American dictionary. Barbara Kingsolver, William Kittredge, Arturo Longoria, Jon Krakauer, Bill McKibben, Antonya Nelson, Luis Alberto Urrea and Joy Williams, among others, vividly describe land and water forms. What is a cofferdam? ‘Imagine a decorative wishing well, then imagine that well writ large,’ notes Antonya Nelson. And Patricia Hampl tells us that the Dutch word vly (marshy headwaters of a stream) ‘may have occasioned the name of New York’s rowdy Fly Market’ in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Many entries quote American explorers and writers such as Herman Melville, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, as they uncover layers of etymology and American regional difference. Line drawings enhance geographic understanding; marginal quotations further evoke period and place. This marvelous book enlivens readers to the rich diversity of Americans’ complex relationship to the land.”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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