The wilderness warrior : Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America

by Douglas Brinkley

Hardcover, 2009




New York : HarperCollins, c2009.


Evaluates Theodore Roosevelt's role in launching modern conservationsim, identifying the contributions of such influences as James Audubon and John Muir while describing how Roosevelt's exposure to natural wonders in his early life shaped his environmental values.

Media reviews

Brinkley... has absorbed a huge amount of research, but encyclopedic inclusiveness and repetition occasionally mar narrative movement... But this book has Rooseveltian energy. It is largehearted, full of the vitality of its subject and a palpable love for the landscapes it describes.
1 more
Mr. Brinkley’s fervent enthusiasm for his material eventually prevails over the book’s sprawling data and slow pace.

User reviews

LibraryThing member amandajoy30
Although this book was massive, it is a great read for anyone who likes Theodore Roosevelt. Most books look at his entire life and actions, while this one focuses specifically on his conservationist and naturalist efforts. It was amazing to see how much T.R. influenced the current national park and wildlife systems and how modern his views on conservation were.… (more)
LibraryThing member untraveller
I wonder about the people who gave this a good rating. Brinkley cannot write in any way that resembles interesting, he plays with facts to the point that you cannot trust much of anything he writes, and he is completely unable to draw any substantive conclusions from his ramblings. I would never go to hear him speak, but I've also heard that he will put you to sleep when at the lectern. A one star is generous.… (more)
LibraryThing member LCB48
This a huge book focusing on T.R.'s accomplishments in the area of conservation. It took a chunk of time to read it, but I loved every minute of it. I knew he was active in setting up wildlife refuges and national parks, but did not know he was such an avid birder. I drove my family nuts with quotes and sharing what I learned.
LibraryThing member iluvvideo
An intense,encompassing and extremely enlightening book on Theodore Roosevelt a man of multiple talents and accomplishments.

Weighing in at over 900 pages this dense volume keeps the reader intrigued through Roosevelt's boyhood fascination with ornithology and the Roosevelt Museum; his Harvard years and his relationship with his uncle Robert B. Roosevelt; his marriages and children's lives; his 'strenuous life' philosophy and western travels and explorations; his entry into politics and it's formation of his policies of conservationism and land management and sustainability. Through cabinet posts, Governorship of New York state and ultimately the White House.

Theodore (don't call him Teddy!...) proved years ahead of his time in developing the system of National Parks, Forests, Monuments, Bird Reserves that has American citizenry forever in his debt. Saving almost 225 million acres of wilderness and natural treasures to be enjoyed by generations of people into eternity.

A deft politician, he brought into federal service many types of experts on birds, fish, forestry, land use and conservation and other sciences of nature, giving them power to enact governmental policies and help guide America to a place at the forefront of the world's nations in wilderness preservation and governmental ecological planning for the future.

One drawback of the book is it's sheer size. The material described is densely packed on the page and demands to be savored and not skimmed lightly through. This require an amount of commitment as a reader and believe me it's worth it.

You'll come away with a new found sense of respect and admiration for our twenty -sixth president, a true wilderness warrior.
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LibraryThing member bohannon
Excellent piece chronicling the role of TR as a political conservationist and academic naturalist in both private and public life. It was very interesting to read about the early appearance of the tensions between conservationism and preservationism. My impression has long been that the rise of "modern ecology" didn't occur until the 60s and "silent spring." That said, reading this book strongly challenged that view. Silent Spring may have brought a renewed focus, and depth of detailed appreciation for the complex issues involved--however, after reading the accounts of the wars over mid-west deforestation, and southern "birding" its hard to think of an issue that hadn't been grasped in at least its most rudimentary form 50 years earlier in the progressive era. All in all, a good reminder that the world was not created anew with the baby-boom and the the threads of progress are longer than any one generation can take credit for.

(2014 Week 1 Review)
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LibraryThing member ALincolnNut
Theodore Roosevelt defies easy description or characterization. Forceful to the point of being bull-headed, energetic and capable of work beyond the capacity of most people, he dominated the first decade of the 1900s in the United States, setting the tone for the American Century. His public service was guided by his progressive worldview, even as it was limited by certain blindspots in that worldview.

Tackling the gamut of Roosevelt's passions and experiences is daunting, so perhaps historian Douglas Brinkley was wise to narrow his focus to Roosevelt's lifelong interest in the natural world and his well-known push for conservation in his political career. Even so, Brinkley's book, The Wilderness Warrior, is an 800-page narrative. Through this depth of research, some of which seems to be newly rediscovered, he paints a compelling overall portrait of the 26th President.

Roosevelt's passion for nature began early in his life. Even before he was a teenager, he was identifying birds and collecting (and preserving) specimens for his personal collection. His youthful passion and precocious knowledge brought him into conversation with some leading collectors and naturalists of the period (helped, no doubt, by his father's influence and connections).

Roosevelt's interest in nature yielded a number of things in his life. It led to a lifetime of hunting trips around the world – though when he was president, some of these trips were partially stage-managed to give him every opportunity to make the big kill. As part of these trips, though, Roosevelt not only brought back game to stuff but cataloged his observations of bird and animal life. This led to his authoring several books and articles on the animals and birds of North America.

Fully half of the book details Roosevelt's actions as a conservationist president, establishing bird sanctuaries, forests, parks and monuments across the country, but especially in the American West. Often, Roosevelt faced significant opposition to establishing and policing these new federal lands – indeed, some of the rangers were killed by poachers and loggers.

Overall, Brinkley offers a deep appreciation for Roosevelt's legacy in land management (which is why he offers such compelling accounts of the obstacles faced in establishing the conservation system). He has a good eye for some of the contradictions in Roosevelt's character – the naturalistic components of the “Rough Riders” expedition are both amusing and mind-boggling – but is at his best in showing how Roosevelt's lifelong passion for the natural world significantly impacted his influential life. It was not a hobby (though one wonders if Roosevelt could have any aspect of his life that was “only” a hobby), but a motivating purpose from his earliest years.
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LibraryThing member jetangen4571
Bought it because of national parks and TR.
Felt like an overlong Publish or Perish, over 40 hours, or nearly 1000 pages, and drily academic in tone. Not well done, I was extremely disappointed.
The narrator was adequate.
LibraryThing member stevesmits
I can't decide whether to criticze this book for its length - 817 pp plus appendices, notes, etc. Well, I did read it entirely so such complaint would lack credibility. It was interesting to learn in great depth TR's passionate interest in nature, conservation and preservation. We are fortunate that he was so passionate about this and determined to act on this, as in his era the country was on the way to being irretrievably despoiled by corporate rapaciousness. To a large degree great damage had been done, particularly to wildlife, e.g.s bison, birds decimated for their plummage, etc. The deep feelings TR had for nature, grounded by his belief in Darwin's science, were put into action by bold decisions, most notably the Antiquities Act of 1906 that authorized the president to designate national monuments without congressional approval.

Despite his genuine reverence for nature TR was a vigorous hunter throughout his life. The author notes that TR's hunts always included a scientific aspects as he wrote on his observations for the naturalist community and collected specimens for museums.

You get a good sense of the driving force of TR's personality and his energy and exuberance in his dealings with friends and foes. There is little mention of the other political and diplomatic endeavors during his presidency, only enough to keep the story line moving along.

I picked up this book in the visitors' center of the Muir Woods during a recent vacation. The woods visually and spiritually affirm how valuable to all generations was TR's commitment to nature preservation.
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LibraryThing member AliceAnna
Holy crap, this was long! It was interesting, but it was very tedious at times. I had no idea that Roosevelt basically set up the National Park system, wildlife reserves, national forests and saved the Grand Canyon from developers ... almost all of it through sheer force of will. He somehow managed to reconcile his ardor for hunting with wildlife conservation without being completely hypocritical (although he did have his moments). I did not realize that he was a sickly child and would likely have been diagnosed as manic-depressive in this day and age. He hated the name Teddy and the actual story behind the Teddy bear was misleading and somewhat shameful. Today's Republicans would hate Teddy. He could never function in today's environment. He issued executive orders willy-nilly and was still pretty much loved by all except those who were busy trying to destroy the environment and/or wipe out whole species. Overall, it was interesting, but I will not be in a hurry to read Brinkley again. Too long-winded and too dry.… (more)



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