The Outermost House

By Henry Beston,

Book cover of The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Book description

The seventy-fifth anniversary edition of the classic book about Cape Cod, "written with simplicity, sympathy, and beauty" (New York Herald Tribune)

A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Outermost House as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

In the 1920s, young Henry Beston built himself a tiny cottage on the coastal dunes and ended up staying for a year.

It sounds like Thoreau, and indeed Beston produced some of the finest nature writing I have read, comparable to the best parts of Walden (and better than Thoreau’s own Cape Cod book), evoking the rhythm of the seasons through the water and wind, the birds and crustaceans, and, not least, the people of the outer Cape, then few in number (hard to imagine), as they scratched a living from the harsh landscape—not least by scavenging the detritus of…

I love Cape Cod and I was fortunate to live on the edge of the sea between 1997-2003. Skillfully written by one of America’s greatest writers of the natural habitat, it transports you to a place. It reminds me of what it felt like to live far out in Cape Cod on the North Atlantic at its furthest reach on the east coast of the United States. Living there for several years and spending time in nature with the sea, beach, dunes, and my bicycle, I learned to love its moods, wildlife, and great sense of mystery. I totally identified…

The Outermost House was one of Rachel Carson’s favorite books about the sea, and it is little wonder why. Beston’s best-known work was inspired by a year he spent on a duney Cape Cod headland with the seasonal elements and the indigenous creatures of land, sea, and air. He had originally intended to stay a fortnight before the “beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held” him. Having had his spirit shaken on the frontlines during the First World War, he was the better for the longer stay. So are we. The Outermost House is…

From Jack's list on placed-based nature writing.

Fair warning: The Outermost House has no plot. Long hailed a classic of American nature writing (along the lines of Henry David Thoreau’s “Waldon), the book is essentially a meditation comprised of detailed observations made by the author over the year he spent alone in a remote Cape Cod beach house. Rachel Carson claimed it as the sole book of influence on her writing.

From Adrienne's list on Cape Cod and the islands.

In 1925, Henry Beston had a 20 x 16 beach cottage built for him on a Cape Cod dune overlooking the Atlantic. He went there for what was to be a two-week stay and left some two years later, with his chronicle condensed into “a year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod”—what Rachel Carson said was the only book that influenced her writing. His poetic ruminations on wheeling shorebirds and schooling fish, on sea and sky, surf and sand and roaring storm, of nights walking barefoot on the beach, leave you smelling the salt spray and breathing…

From William's list on nature by naturalists.

A quote from this lyrical, moving, and closely-observed book about a naturalist’s solitary year on Cape Cod helped me define what I set out to do in chronicling the natural world:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals…for the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with…

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