The Paradise Notebooks
90 Miles across the Sierra
Richard J. Nevle & Steven Nightingale (2022)
The Sierra Nevada: a source of spiritual inspiration for some, a site of scientific revelation for others. In The Paradise Notebooks, Richard Nevle and Steven Nightingale take us across this beloved mountain range on a journey guided by incandescent poetry and compelling fact.
Over the course of twenty-one pairs of short essays, Nevle and Nightingale contemplate the natural phenomena found in the Sierra Nevada. From granite, to aspen, to fire, to a rare, endemic species of butterfly, these essay pairs dwell lyrically in turn on the natural history and mystical wonder of each wild element. As they weave in vignettes from their ninety-mile backpacking trip across the range, Nevle and Nightingale powerfully reconceive the Sierra Nevada as both earthly matter and transcendental offering.
In a time of rapid environmental degradation, The Paradise Notebooks offers a way forward—
a whole-minded, learned, loving attention to place that rekindles our joyful relationship with the living world.
“The Paradise Notebooks is a gift to the heart and mind, integrating poetry with geology, philosophy with hydrology, spirituality with geography. A beautiful book to help us understand, respect, and deepen our relationship with the natural world.”
—JOHN MUIR LAWS
The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada
“We need a literary antidote to darkness. Not to read this book is damnable folly.”
“Full of stunning writing, The Paradise Notebooks takes the reader on a journey through the Sierras, weaving together the scientist as poet and the poet as scientist. Nature lovers are sure to enjoy this brilliant book.”
Praise & Reviews
The Paradise Notebooks
Its erudition is winged; its wisdom is granite. The combination is transcendent. If the Sierra Nevada could speak, this is what it might say."
“Science and poetry elevate one another in this collaboration, carrying us deep into curiosity and wonder. A work full of astute observation and beautifully worded description, showing us that close, loving attention and story-telling can be both devotional and enlightening.”
—DAVID GEORGE HASKELL
“Nevle and Nightingale give us everything we’d desire as our literary companions on a “skylark” across the Sierra Nevada. Delivering on their pledge to write with “fearless generosity” and a “fierce hunger for truth,” they admirably honor the spirit of these sublime mountains.”
“A call and response between a poetic scientist and a grounded poet, both of whom are enamored with, and awestruck by, the overpowering presence of the Sierra Nevada. Eloquent and sincere, this book resonates, like a bell, in both head and heart.”
—THOMAS LOWE FLEISCHNER
“With extraordinary versatility, Nevle and Nightingale weave natural history, poetry, and meditations on High Sierra hiking into a compelling tapestry filled with jewels of insight and delight. Even the seasoned hiker will find new viewpoints on their favorite creatures and flowers.”
co-author and illustrator of
“Nevle and Nightingale integrate the seemingly “strange bedfellows” of science and spirituality to offer new insights about this remarkable landscape. Their juxtaposition of poems with scientific explanations creates a unique way of knowing, clear as the crystal waters of these mountains.”
—NALINI M. NADKARNI
"Through a collaborative hike navigating memories and dreams, The Paradise Notebooks illuminates natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada. This book invites journeying among friends while reflecting upon landscapes within."
—GRETCHEN ERNSTER HENDERSON
“The Paradise Notebooks is a masterful symphony—its pages tingle with a magical blend of prose and poetry. Weaving together reflections on nature’s material and ethereal dimensions, this luminous read will lift you from your armchair out into beauty and mystery.”
—GRETCHEN C. DAILY
“This joyous, lyrical collection transports us to the Sierra Nevada no matter where we are. Nevle and Nightingale exquisitely capture those profound moments when we realize our interconnectedness with the natural world. A book I’ll have in my backpack, wherever I am.”
Supervisory Park Ranger
Yosemite National Park
“Beautifully blending science and poetic artistry, Nevle and Nightingale offer readers an enchanting portrait of one of Earth’s most enthralling, but threatened, ecological theaters—California’s Sierra Nevada. This captivating, multifaceted book will undeniably heighten your love of nature.”
Professor of Biology
“This writing is so good it makes me want to do somersaults across the sky.”
“Nevle and Nightingale unveil the Sierra Nevada in words luminous as alpenglow. A book as spiritual and uplifting as the landscape they hiked.”
“a thoughtful, intimate, and poignant book"
—San Francisco Chronicle
“On an extended pilgrimage deep in California’s Sierra Nevada, Nevle and Nightingale discover one big music of intertwined rivers and trees, wildlife and rocks . . . a stunningly perceptive work by two explorers of the wild and the beautiful.”
—ROBERT LEONARD REID
Richard J. Nevle is a Texas-born father, husband, teacher, naturalist, and scientist with roots on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. He serves as the Deputy Director of the Earth Systems Program at Stanford University, where he is devoted to the intellectual formation of the next generation of interdisciplinary social-environmental changemakers. Nevle has authored numerous scientific articles, and he received Stanford’s highest teaching honor in 2018. He is a graduate of Amherst College and received his Ph.D. at Stanford University. He lives in San José, California, with his wife, singer-songwriter Deborah Levoy, next to a garden full of wild things.
Photo by Chloe Peterson-Nafziger.
events & Media
UPCOMING READINGS & WORKSHOPS
PRESS MENTIONS & EXCERPTS
A Writer's World with Shaun Griffin, KWNK
4.22.23 A Company of Authors, Stanford University, 1-5 P.M.
Video recording here.
9.11.22: Reading and Conversation with John Muir Laws, The Foster, Palo Alto, CA, 7-8:30 P.M. Video recording here.
9.1.22 Reading, Friends of Nevada Wilderness (online event), Wild Speaker Series, 7-8 P.M. Video coming soon.
7.30.22 Reading, Books on the Garden with special guest Deborah Levoy. San Francisco Botanical Garden, 1:00 P.M, San Francisco, CA. Info & RSVP here. Download flyer here.
7.28.22 Reading, Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, Berkeley, CA, 7:00 PM. Event is in-person, but pre-registration is required. Proof up-to-date vaccination and boosting will be required at the door, as will masking for attendees during the event.
7.23.22 Gifts of Granite, Wisdom from Rivers: Natural History and Poetry of the Sierra Nevada, Parsons Memorial Lodge Summer Series, 2:00 PM, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA. Download flyer here.
6.17.22 Reading and Conversation with Shaaron Netherton, Executive Director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Sundance Books and Music, Reno, NV, 6:00 PM PDT. Info here.
6.3.22 The Sierra Nevada: Natural History, Poetry, and Ecological Imagination
Reading and Conversation with Rodolfo Dirzo. Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, 4:00 PM, Stanford University. Download flyer here.
5.20.22 The Sierra Nevada: Science and Revelation, Reading and Conversation with Nicole Ardoin. The Bill Lane Center for the American West, 12:00 PM PDT (online event). Link to video
5.20.22 Reading, Point Reyes Books, 7:00 PM PDT (online event).
5.6.22 The Paradise Notebooks--Book Launch and Reading with special guest Deborah Levoy. O'Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm, Stanford University, 5:30 PM PDT. Download flyer here.
4.22.22 Earth Day Reading with Steven Nightingale, University of Nevada Reno
with special guest Deborah Levoy. Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, 6:30 PM PDT. Link to video
4.24.22 Writing Wild with the Senses Writing Workshop, Wingfield Park Reno, NV.
4.14.22 Science and Poetry of the Sierra Nevada, Stories of Nature and
Culture Webinar Series, Reading and Conversation with Tom Fleischner, Natural History Institute, 5:30 PM PDT. Link to video
3.7.22 Writing Wild with the Senses Writing Workshop with Emily Polk.
8.15.21 The Page Podcast (Interview and conversation). Link to audio
7.16.21 The Sierra through Sonnets, Science and Song (Reading and performance). University of Nevada Reno, 7 PM. Link to video
8.4.20 Story and the Ecological Imagination, The Natural History Institute. Link to video
8.1.20 Natural History is a Compass that Points to Love: Lessons from a Falcon, a Warbler, and a Yosemite Ranger (talk), Parsons Lodge, Yosemite National Park (virtual). Link to video