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Wandering Home by Bill McKibben

Here is the perfect book to take on a hike or a trip to the beach. Bill McKibben’s Wandering Home is small, only 160 pages: It can be carried in a pocket. It is about the author’s own 16-day, 100-mile backpacking trip, described in his lengthy subtitle: “A Long Walk Across America’s Most Hopeful Landscape: Vermont’s Champlain Valley and New York’s Adirondacks.” Beginning in Ripton, Vermont, McKibben hikes down the western slope of the Green Mountains, across the Champlain lowlands—by rowboat across the lake itself—and then up into the eastern Adirondacks. I spent a week one summer in the Champlain valley and I agree with McKibben’s message: “The world contains no finer blend of soil and rock and water and forest—a few just as fine, perhaps, but none finer. And no place where the essential human skills—cooperation, husbandry, restraint—offer more possibility for competent and graceful inhabitation.” Along the way he meets both old and new friends, local New Englanders and New Yorkers retaining their country traditions and seeking to protect these beautiful lands against encroachment. This is a hopeful book written by one of this country’s finest environmentalists. McKibben identifies the problems but his message is positive: We can manage these beautiful lands—mostly by leaving them alone.