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Spirit of the North

The Quotable Sigurd F. Olson

2004
Author:

Sigurd F Olson
David Backes, editor

Spirit of the North

An accessible and inspiring collection of Olson’s most enlightening words

Revealing Olson’s understanding and love of wilderness, Spirit of the North gathers together for the first time the most quotable and memorable of his well-loved passages gleaned not only from published works, but also from personal letters, journal entries, and speeches. David Backes contributes an introduction to each chapter, illuminating the historical context and personal significance of Olson’s words.

A moving and poignant testimony, Spirit of The North is an impressively memorable and inspiring compendium of reflections upon the power and beauty of nature.

Midwest Review of Books

Sigurd F. Olson was the most beloved wilderness advocate of his generation. His renowned writings, including the nature classics “The Singing Wilderness” and “Listening Point,” evoke the singular beauty and richness of the northern woods and lakes and reveal a philosophy of preservation that is as eloquent and relevant today as when he first wrote. The wilderness was the spring of happiness in Olson’s life, and he devoted himself to the pursuit of sharing this magic with others and ensuring its future existence.

Revealing Olson’s understanding and love of wilderness, Spirit of the North gathers together for the first time the most quotable and memorable of his well-loved passages gleaned not only from published works, but also from personal letters, journal entries, and speeches. Reflective, anecdotal, and universally poignant, this book is a chronology of thoughts and experiences that ebb and flow in their assuredness and reveal the whole man, a wilderness icon mired in doubt while he doggedly refused to abandon his dreams. David Backes, preeminent Olson biographer and scholar, contributes an introduction to each chapter, illuminating the historical context and personal significance of Olson’s words.

Frequently, during a quiet moment of contemplation on a canoe trip, Olson would read brief passages of poetry and prose scrawled on small scraps of paper for inspiration and peace of mind. Similarly, Spirit of the North is the ideal wilderness companion, passionate, authentic, and deeply reverent of the natural world.

Spirit of the North

Sigurd F. Olson (1899–1982) introduced generations of Americans to the importance of wilderness through his work as a conservation activist and popular writer. He served as president of the Wilderness Society and the National Parks Association and as a consultant to the federal government on wilderness preservation and ecological problems. He earned many honors, including the highest possible from the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Izaak Walton League.


David Backes is the author of A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson (Minnesota, 1997), winner of the 1998 Small Press Book Award for biography, and editor of The Meaning of Wilderness: Essential Articles and Speeches by Sigurd F. Olson (Minnesota, 2001). Backes is also the author of Canoe Country: An Embattled Wilderness (1991) and The Wilderness Companion (1992).

Spirit of the North

A moving and poignant testimony, Spirit of The North is an impressively memorable and inspiring compendium of reflections upon the power and beauty of nature.

Midwest Review of Books

Spirit of the North . . . captures the breadth of Olson’s writing career. . . . This book ensures his ongoing role as an inspiration for those who love the North.

Cook County News-Herald

Spirit of the North: The Quotable Sigurd F. Olson . . . filled with choice cuts from his choicest cuts from Olson’s books, shorter pieces, letters, and journals, makes the perfect literary companion.

Ripsaw