The Island Within by Richard Nelson

This title is part of BHA's Jim Posewitz Digital Library: Required Reading for Conservationists


I first read Richard Nelson’s The Island Within 20 years ago. The book is an intimate testament to a person’s sense of place, revealing the spiritual awareness imbued in all things. His paean to the island also blurs the genres of non-fiction and poetry that inspire awe and reverence for all life. The place is never named, but his words take you there nevertheless. This book immediately rewired my consciousness about how I was taught by our culture to relate to the landscape. Nature was no longer out there, the boundaries of my consciousness and skin were fluid with the rest of life and no longer separate. Now after reading it I carry myself differently. Nelson is a cultural anthropologist who has dedicated his life to studying the ways of being and seeing that the Koyukon First Nations in Alaska entrusted him with. His writing seamlessly blends Traditional Ecological Knowledge with western science before the former was even a label. Every few years, I return to this book thirsting for the intimacy and a sense of place he garnered through deep listening and his participation in the natural rhythms he found on this island. Nelson’s poetic prose won him the John Burroughs Medal for best nature writing in 1991. To me, this book sets the bar for nature writing.


-BENJAMIN POLLEY, BHA member, Montana



Purchase The Island Within on Amazon Smile, and register Backcountry Hunters & Anglers as your preferred nonprofit to give back to your wild public lands, waters and wildlife. 

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Backcountry Journal editor

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