Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Many of you know of Jack Nisbet, the naturalist and writer who’s penned numerous books about the Pacific Northwest and its history. I'm relatively new to the Northwest (less than a decade—that still counts as new, doesn’t it?), and newer to Nisbet’s work. But I am quickly becoming familiar, and learning much.

Nisbet’s most recent book, Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest, is a collection of 10 essays, each focused on different locations which, to Northwesterners, will ring familiar. Among his subjects are ice caves north of Spokane, Latah clay beds, and the huckleberry patches and Dolomite mines of Colville Valley. These are places that, were I to see them beforereading this book, might have looked ageless and unchanging. Not now. Nisbet cracks open that misconception, revealing the dynamic nature of our environment, whole worlds of scour, erosion, formation--change!--below the surface, along with the shifting human use and interaction with those landscapes over time. With a deft touch Jack Nisbet weaves present-day personal experience, interviews with scientists, miners, tribal elders and historians, and material from the historical record (journals, diaries, accounts), with fascinating and stunningly described details about the natural forces that literally shape our landscape. 

It’s the start of summer, and as I plan my hiking and camping trips—I have much yet to explore—I’m glad to have this book in hand. Jess Walters put it best when he said, “I can think of no better guide to this corner of the West than the lyrical naturalist Jack Nisbet…”  Read it and see your surroundings with new insight.

— Jamaica


These are the genesis stories of a region. In Ancient Places, Jack Nisbet uncovers touchstones across the Pacific Northwest that reveal the symbiotic relationship of people and place in this corner of the world. From rural Oregon, where a controversy brewed over the provenance and ownership of a meteor, to the great floods 15,000 years ago that shaped what is now Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, this is a compelling collection of stories about the natural and human history of our region.

About the Author

Jack Nisbet is a historian, teacher, and author who focuses on the intersection of human history and natural history in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the highly regarded Sources of the River for which he was awarded the Murray Morgan Prize by the Washington State Historical Society.

Praise For…

I can think of no better guide to this corner of the west than the lyrical naturalist Jack Nisbet, whose latest, Ancient Places, is a fascinating read.
—Jess Walter, author of We Live in Water

Jack Nisbet peels back the landscapes of the Northwest to uncover layers of meaning in unexpected places. He encourages us to look with a new, but also eons-old, light on mountains and rivers, traditional cultures and more recent settlers. With Ancient Places, Nisbet shows again that he is a leading chronicler of the region.
—Peter Stark, author of Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire

Master historian Nisbet has communed with Indians, astronauts, miners, and scientists to reveal a wonderfully personal, engaging, and authoritative picture of the cultural and natural history of the Inland Northwest. Ancient Places takes the reader from the earliest geological events that defined the region to the human and environmental forces at work today.
—John Marzluff, author of Welcome to Subirdia and Gifts of the Crow

In Ancient Places, author Jack Nisbet masterfully illuminates the lively chemistry that exists between people, their history, and the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Through his copious research of the region’s geology, natural ecosystems, cultural events, and people, Nisbit weaves compelling tales that give insight to this remarkable land.  He explores the forces and events that shaped it and how we in turn are shaped by the places where we live.
—Marcy Houle, author of The Prairie Keepers

Through a half-dozen or more books, Jack Nisbet has shown himself to be an astute interpreter of Pacific Northwest history, an insightful naturalist and an excellent storyteller . . . [Nisbet has] a scientist’s curiosity, an artist’s eye for detail and a writer’s sense of what shapes a good story. These essays offer a generous sampling of the range of Nisbet’s talents.
—The Seattle Times

Through Nisbet's eyes, there's wonder all around us . . . Nature is central in each of the 10 chapters, for sure, but it's the people he profiles who add depth and color to the big picture . . . Nisbet wants us to look so we don't miss those many-splendored things — to see, as he shows in Chapter One, a wonder like the Northern Lights. Aristotle nailed it: All those tiny motes do add up to something truly marvelous. 

Spokane-based writer Jack Nisbet is a treasure for anyone interested in the ways natural history, landscape and human cultures intersect in the Pacific Northwest . . . From the Colville Valley to Lake Pend Oreille, Okanagan Highlands to Grand Coulee, Nisbet deftly connects past to present, human to nature.
—Cascadia Weekly

In his books about David Thompson and David Douglas, the author did extensive research into the written records left by these early settlers. Now he goes one step further to seek modern information about the Ice Age Floods, the Willamette Meteorite, the 1872 Earthquake, the aurora borealis, and rich deposits of terra cotta clay---the genesis stories of the region . . . Throughout the essays in Ancient Places, Nisbet correlates modern science with the journals of early fur traders, terra-cotta brick makers, collectors, and native peoples. The reader gains knowledge of museums, plants, ants, huckleberries and lucky kicks that unravel mysteries and secrets held in the landscape.
—Mountain West News

These essays are a literary cabinet of curiosities, undisciplined in focus, but interesting to peruse.
—The Bookmonger

Nisbet, a teacher, shares the rich history of the Pacific Northwest through stories on the area’s geography, topography and biology, not to mention its people and their relationship with the land. Don’t miss the chapter in which his students come face-to-face with a giant mound of thatching ants. 
—Stanford Magazine

. . . this is a compelling collection of stories about the natural and human history of our region.
—Idaho Statesman

Nisbet shares riveting accounts of the floods 15,000 years ago to the controversy over the ownership of the Oregon meteor — events which shaped the Pacific Northwest as we know it today. 
Seattle magazine 

Ancient Places shows Nisbet at his finest, revealing his unique abilities to see and observe, to write and articulate, and most of all to convey the essence of place.”
Rain Taxi Reviews

"The Pacific Northwest's leading historian picks through his cabinet of literary curiosities to tell great tales about its nature and ancient peoples."
Longitude News

Product Details
ISBN: 9781570619809
ISBN-10: 1570619808
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Publication Date: May 19th, 2015
Pages: 256
Language: English