Monday, December 4, 2023

Review: Loose on the Landscape by Joel Everett Harding

 Genre: Non-Fiction/Autobiography/Science/Travel


“Ever wonder what it’s like alone at midnight in the depths of a vast marsh, or thought of stumbling into a roiling geyser field in the dark? What happens when you get swept along for miles in a flooded river without an exit—or explore a prehistoric swamp with predators left over from the Cretaceous? How can you sense an Amazon rainforest breathing. Have you watched a great ancient waterfall cease forever in less than a day? Does the Jersey Devil still inhabit the pine barrens?

Let the author take you on these and many other outdoor adventures and ecological investigations. Written in a creative nonfiction style (reads like a novel) a professional ecologist, looks for meaning in the wildest places, and shows us a range of perspectives for appreciating the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of immersing ourselves in wild landscapes. He brings needed context by examining the causes-and-effects of ever changing environments, and brings us along as he restores damaged streams, rivers and wetlands. His poetic descriptions and insights show us how landscapes inspire perceptions of beauty, art, and increased personal well-being that underlie our innate connections with nature. Along the way, the author immerses the reader into his landscapes with keen-eyed observations that underlie our innate personal connections with nature. He shows how we gain insights and increased well-being when we go afield to explore. As he says, ‘Sometimes nothing is more important than going off into the woods and contemplating the frog chorus of a vernal pool.’”


“Joel Everett Harding is the pen name of a professional field ecologist who has spent decades exploring the wild places nature offers us. The author has professional credentials in a variety of scientific fields, including ecosystem ecology, wildlife biology, animal behavior, and habitat restorations. He has been a scientist to private industry, federal, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. His personal adventures and scientific investigations have taken him to landscapes throughout North America and elsewhere.

He has enjoyed ‘collecting’ ecosystems and wildscape experiences of all sizes, from puddles to rainforests and everything in-between. His books have focused on a creative nonfiction style using techniques found in works of adventurous fiction where character, plot and action prevail. Thus, his compelling stories read like novels that captivate readers with their themes of realistic mysteries, exploration, and dilemma resolutions. Joel lives in the rural mid-Atlantic Piedmont region, and when not visiting the wild places, he exchanges his pen for brushes to visually paint scenes and landscapes that have inspired him.”


This book is unique in that it has aspects of multiple non-fiction genres that you don’t typically see together.

First, it is partly an autobiography or memoir in that it relates true stories of things that have happened to the author over his lifetime, many of them related to his work as a “professional field ecologist” with others happening as part of his personal life, on family vacations for one example. What ties them all together is they relate things that happened in the outdoors in a wide variety of places and environments. He discusses the specific “ecoregion” where each takes place and how the environment impacted the experience. (Ecoregions are a method of defining different areas of the US and elsewhere, categorizing the unique elements of the environment in each area.)

In many ways this felt like a travel memoir with the author describing his experience as well as lots of detail about the area it was happening in. Like would happen with a travel book I found myself comparing his experience (what he saw, thought of the area, etc.) with my own experience with the area, if I’d been there before. For areas I hadn’t visited, I enjoyed visiting vicariously via the author’s description.

Last, this was a bit of a science book covering multiple areas of science at different points including ecology, biology, and geography, discussing not just the current situation in that area, but how things had changed on planet Earth over thousands of years causing changes in the geology and climate resulting in the current condition in the area in question.

Some sections were intense adventures while others were enjoyable romps and interesting learning experiences. If any of the subjects covered interest you, this book is one worth giving a read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing misses.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 120-125,000 words

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