cover image Restless Fires: 
Young John Muir’s Thousand-Mile Walk in 1867–1868

Restless Fires: Young John Muir’s Thousand-Mile Walk in 1867–1868

James B. Hunt. Mercer Univ., $35 (240p) ISBN 978-0-88146-392-7

Hunt effectively makes the case that Muir, “environmentalist and leader of the American conservation movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” was profoundly affected by his travels through the Southern United States at the age of 29 in ways that significantly shaped the future direction of his life. Recovered from having been partially blinded in an accident in 1867, Muir abandoned his work as a machinist to walk through the post–Civil War South, journeying from Kentucky to Florida. His experiences “solidified an emerging bio-centric worldview informed by both his religious heritage, and his new, ecological convictions.” For readers with only a vague notion of who Muir was, this volume, even if focused on just a small period in the naturalist’s life, provides a solid overview of his achievements. Hunt also deserves credit for noting that as observant as Muir was of the natural world, many aspects of human society evaded his gaze. For example, he gave cursory attention to human plights to which he bore passing witness and showed little understanding of slavery and race relations in the post–Civil War South. Evocative prose (“Malaria hung on John Muir like a wet, hot, wool coat”) make this book highly readable. (Nov.)