Signal Books International

Coming Out of the Woods: The Solitary Life of a Maverick Naturalist

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Which is true: Thoreau's declaration "In wildness is the preservation of the world," or "In civilization is the preservation of the wild,"? The author built his home in the forest and lived there 10 times as long as Thoreau lived at Walden Pond. This book is his answer. 

"An absorbing, unflinching, and surprisingly comic account of how one man—a devoted father-withdrew from the world and gradually returned. It's as wise and instructive as it is compelling." Novelist Reynolds Price on Coming Out of the Woods.

“Unlike most environmental books being written today, Coming Out Of The Woods doesn’t try to scare the hell out of anybody, or smother with weighty facts, figures and insights.  Instead, Kaufman entertains by telling a tale full of self-deprecating humor and common-sense insight.” Matt Bennet in Hardwood Matters.

“We did not come from Eden, but we can go there, wrote Kaufman. With humility, optimism and restraint, we can devise a world in which humans and the wild achieve some sort of accommodation. Science and technology will be part of the equation. Thoreau had it backwards: In civilization is the preservation of the wild.” Chet Raymo, Physicist and author.


Here is writer who conveys the complexity and beauty of nature without putting on rose colored glasses.  Coming Out of the Woods inspires, entertains, informs and tells a page-turner story that reveals how all human interaction with nature demands tradeoffs.  Think of it as an update of Thoreau's Walden, but with a strong story line and conclusions appropriate for our time.  I recommend it highly for introductory environmental studies courses, American literature courses, or courses on literature and the environment.

Orrin H. Pilkey, geologist, professor Emeritus, Duke University