Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year – all decade? . It’s been in publication for 9 years and remains at numbers 1 and 2 on the New York Times and Washington Post Paperback Best Seller Lists. But it didn’t start there. I think this must be the Christmas sales from people who have read it giving it to people who should.

Braiding Sweetgrass
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

2013 / 385 pages
read by author 16h 42m
Rating – 9.8/ Native American – botony

It took me a couple hundred pages to really get oriented in this series of essays, but I had found them and Kimmerer’s voice intriguing and quite compelling anyway. I didn’t “get” everything and with a book this promising that means I will really try to read it again. In fact, surprisingly, I got the Audio book from the library (but after 9 years yes, it would be available by now).

But although I got the audio from the library I now wanted to reread it so I actually bought it and the audio too. Yes! It’s that good. If I did this sort of thing, I’d get this book for some family members – I’d get it for lots and lots of people.

It was first published in 2013 by Milkweed Editions (a small but excellent and successful non-profit company). Very slowly, mostly by word of mouth and occasional review it surprisingly climbed into and up The NY Times Best Seller list starting at #14 in February of 2020.  By November, it’s 30th week, it was #9 on those same lists.  This past week it was #2 on the NY Times nonfiction paperback list and #1 on the WaPo list of the same.

I’d seen it but only wondered – not bought. Then more recently I read a review and it was also on sale at Audible. Okay fine. And reading it I realized what a wonderment of a book it really is. So by the time I got 2/3rds of the way through I’d realized I need to read this whole thing again but right now I want to finish.

“Kimmerer is an American Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology; and Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) … (also) an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation,[1] and combines her heritage with her scientific and environmental passions.”

This is kind of like Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life or so many, many great non-fictions I read this year.

What is Braiding Sweetgrass about? – From Milkweed website:

“Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.”

I’m taking notes next time. I understand that to best take care of the earth we have to be grateful and feed it as it feeds us. But there is so much more.

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