Random stack of books that grew spontaneously during bibliographic editing of "Beyond Walden: The Hidden History in America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds."

My Writing Life


For twenty years I was a typical science professor at a research university with a grant-funded lab, graduate students, post-docs, scientific meetings, and peer-reviewed journal articles. In this career epoch, my writing audience was an “in-group” cloister of scientists with similar expertise.

Beginning with the 1999-2000 academic year Fulbright in coastal Chile,, the language side of my brain lit up as a consequence of neuro-plasticity, having become bilingual (albeit with poor grammar and pronunciation) in Castillian Spanish to the point of dreaming that that language. Simultaneously, upon my return to UConn, my research program was challenged by closure of the geology department.  So, I made a career left-turn to become an essayist and regular opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s flagship daily, writing nearly 400 articles.  I also committed myself to publish books for general readers and humanities scholars.  My seven books range from a Smithsonian award-winning illustrated children’s book to a critically acclaimed 421-page book of  literary criticism by Harvard University Press (2014).

My most recent book is  The Guide to Walden Pond was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March 2018 to honor the bicentennial birthday of Henry David Thoreau. It’s the first guide to a place visited by over half a million people per year, 160,000 of which are estimated to be internationals. I’m currently working on a third book for Harvard Press.

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Photo:  Random stack of books that grew spontaneously during bibliographic editing of  “Beyond Walden: The Hidden History in America’s Kettle Lakes and Ponds (Bloomsbury).