UNDER A WILD SKY

John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America

William Souder

Pulitzer Prize Finalist

John James Audubon is renowned for his masterpiece of natural history and art, The Birds of America, the first nearly comprehensive survey of birdlife focused on this continent. And yet few people understand, and many assume incorrectly, what sort of man he was. How did the illegitimate son of a French sea captain living in Haiti, who lied both about his parentage and his training, rise to become one of the greatest natural historians ever and the greatest name in ornithology?

In Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America—a Pulitzer Prize finalist—William Souder (The Plague of Frogs and On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson,

more …

Pulitzer Prize Finalist

John James Audubon is renowned for his masterpiece of natural history and art, The Birds of America, the first nearly comprehensive survey of birdlife focused on this continent. And yet few people understand, and many assume incorrectly, what sort of man he was. How did the illegitimate son of a French sea captain living in Haiti, who lied both about his parentage and his training, rise to become one of the greatest natural historians ever and the greatest name in ornithology?

In Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America—a Pulitzer Prize finalist—William Souder (The Plague of Frogs and On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, Author of Silent Spring) reveals that Audubon not only composed the most famous depictions of birds the world has ever seen, he also composed a brilliant mythology of self, for he discovered that selling subscriptions to his bird paintings, an essential step to underwrite his work, required he sell his own story first. In this brilliant work of biography, Souder charts the life of a driven man who, despite frequent failure, no clear path to success, and rigorous physical and artistic work, became the historical figure we know today.

less …
  • Milkweed Editions
  • Paperback
  • August 2014
  • 384 Pages
  • 9781571313553

Buy the Book

$18.00

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About William Souder

An award winning journalist, William Souder is the author of three books. A Plague of Frogs (Hyperion 2000) followed the investigation of outbreaks of deformed frogs across North America. Under a Wild Sky (North Point Press, 2004) a biography of John James Audubon, won numerous awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest book, On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, (Crown, 2012) was published in September 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Carson's Silent Spring and earned numerous accolades, including a listing as a New York Times Notable Book of 2012, a Slate Staff Pick for 2012, and inclusion in Kirkus Reviews’ Top 25 Nonfiction Books of 2012. Mr. Souder lives in Grant, Minnesota.

Praise

Truly wonderful…excellent work.“—Tim Flannery, author of An Explorer's Notebook and The Eternal Frontier

Souder renders a fascinating portrait not only of Audubon but of the America he knew, a place so lush and fertile it seems almost mythical. But those drawings—foundational American documents—prove it was so, and this book makes new and compelling sense of them and their creator.”

—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, and Hope, Human and Wild

In Under a Wild Sky, William Souder superbly captures John James Audubon in all his infuriating, contradictory, admirable richness–publicly vainglorious while consumed by self-doubt, a chronic liar and buckskin-clad charmer, an artistic visionary and peerless naturalist a generation ahead of his time. Souder splendidly evokes the colorful characters that surrounded him, the wild, rough-edged, game-rich American frontier where he found his life's calling, the gritty streets of Europe and the scientific politics of Philadelphia and London—but at the core of Under a Wild Sky stands Audubon, brought to fascinating, enigmatic life, the man who forever changed how we see the natural world.”—Scott Weidensaul, author of Return to Wild America and Living on the Wind