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Natural Grace: The Charm, Wonder & Lessons of Pacific Northwest Animals and Plants

by admin on March 3, 2011

Natural Grace

Illustrated by Brenda Cunningham

Published February 2003

Read an Excerpt

Buy:  Amazon | B&N | Booksamillion | IndieBound

This collection of twenty-one natural history essays, first published in Pacific Northwest magazine of the Seattle Times, is a celebration of the animal and plant life in the region. Written with an eye for humor, quirky fact, and the everyday connections between we humans and nature, its intent is to “inspire determined optimism, not nostalgic regret.” The result, readers have reported, is fun.

The book consists of four major sections.

“Taken For Granted” explores the jellyfish, alder trees, deer, gulls, sea otters, and urban wildlife such as coyotes, crows, raccoons, and possums.

“Secret & Small” examines parts of the great outdoors that are often overlooked, such as dirt, stream life, mosses and lichens, and spiders.

“The Clockwork World” looks at the larger processes of geology, tides, Pacific Northwest weather in general, and snow.

“Northwest Icons” are revisits to perennially famous regional species: cedar, geoduck clams, crabs, cougars, bald eagles and killer whales.

An introduction (which compares us to animals) and an epilogue (which extends the comparison to viruses!) unifies the essays and puts them in a broader but good-humored context.

This book is designed for the armchair naturalist, the outdoor enthusiast, students in middle and high school, and visitors to the Pacific Northwest who wish to learn more about the region and make the most of their trip. It includes an extensive bibliography of other nature and environment books I have found useful.


“In snappy, thoughtful, sometimes soaring and often funny prose, Bill Dietrich gives a remarkable and memorable tour of our biotic realm. Natural Grace burgeons forth in a happy parade of neat creatures riding the rain, the snow, the tides, and the quakes, leaving us no excuse at all for ignoring their beauty, fascination and plight.”
–Robert Michael Pyle, author of National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies

“William Dietrich approaches the damp woods and shimmering waterways of the Pacific Northwest with a journalist’s curiosity and naturalist’s sense of wonder. Natural Grace celebrates the mystery, complexity and quirkiness of this still-wild corner of the earth. And it prompts us, even more deeply, to care for it.”
–Tim McNulty, author of Olympic National Park: A Natural History

“If you enjoyed Snow Falling on Cedars, perhaps you’d enjoy knowing more about snow, about cedars, and about every other natural phenomenon that makes the Northwest the most fecund and spectacular corner of our continent.”
–Bill McKibben, author of Hope, Human and Wild

“Bill Dietrich makes ‘the little things that run the world’ come gloriously and delightfully to life. If you haven’t loved jellyfish and plain old dirt before, you will now. Dietrich writes with wit and charm and sound knowledge of the natural world. This is classic natural history at its best.”
–Ann Zwinger, author of Shaped by Wind and Water: Reflections of a Naturalist.

“Dietrich’s colorful writing makes each subject come alive, leaving the reader with a newfound appreciation for the most basic elements of life.”
E Magazine

“If you’ve ever had questions about gulls or spiders, if you’re a landlubber who never really understood tides, or if you once visited Pike Place Market in Seattle and caught a glimpse of a geoduck (pronounced ‘gooey-duck,’ a burrowing clam which looks obscene once it’s uprooted and offered for sale) Natural Grace would be a fine traveling companion.”
Great Falls Tribune

“In the pages of Natural Grace, you will meet the Pacific Northwest anew.”
Salem Statesman-Journal

paperback / $16.95 / University of Washington Press / 0295982934 / February 2003

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