A Natural State

A Natural State Cover

In this remarkable collection of essays, Stephen Harrigan explores, with an unfailing depth of feeling, the human longing to feel at home in the world of nature. In vivid and convincing prose, he evokes the landscape of his home territory, Texas, and his own reactions, sometimes droll, sometimes haunted, to the extraordinary power of place that Texas projects.



“The personal essay at its best. What Edward Abbey did for the desert Southwest and what E.B. White did for Maine, Harrigan has done for Texas; quite simply, he is just as good.”—The Houston Chronicle

“Harrigan defty weaves fact, historical perspective, and personal experience into a tightly interlaced evocative fabric.. . By the end of the book, he brings the vast Texas landscape within grasp of even the most skeptical reader.” —The Denver Post 

“A very personal view of the vast yet diverse nature of the Texas landscape. Harrigan’s observations are not those of an academically trained naturalist but rather the fresh outlook of a city-bred tourist rejoicing in the exhilaration of discovery.” —Booklist


“Though several of the essays display a strong ecological bent, the author is never shrill. He is an accomplished prose stylist who combines accurate research with an unerring eye for detail. Highly recommended.” —Science 

“With remarkable perceptiveness and genuineness Harrigan’s book gives us a close look at one man’s multi-faceted relationship with his environment. A Natural State is an honest and sensitive work marked by a heartfelt and often lyrical voice.”—Austin American Statesman 

“The quality that puts Harrigan into the league with the best nature writers. . . lies in his 'search for those vibrant moments in which which one can believe that one’s existence belongs authentically to the world of nature.' Always on the prowl for what he terms 'power centers,' Harrigan sometimes uncovers these 'vibrant moments,' sometimes not, but his prose remains steady in either case as he leads the willing reader along the path of his quest.” —New Orleans Times Picayune

“Harrigan tests the validity of [his] love of place in a series of essays about the Texas that does not appear on the television show 'Dallas' or in the pages of the Neiman-Marcus catalogue. And he finds a place of remarkable natural variety and peculiar beauty. A place worth loving. He explores the desert, which is to be expected. And the zoo, which is not. In what is perhaps the best essay in a consistently deft book, he spends a day along the surf line of a Gulf Coast beach. His descriptions of the mix of life there. . . recall the best of Rachel Carson’s forgotten books about the sea. . . If this book is Harrigan’s search for what there is to love about Texas, then he succeeds in convincing not just himself but the skeptical reader as well.”—Outside

“While ‘luminous’ is not a word that you would think of in connection with the Lone Star State, that’s what these pieces are. . . They are filled with poetry, wit, and delightfully offbeat observations.”—San Diego Tribune 

“A Natural State is a welcome addition to the same shelf which contains the works of Texas authors like John Graves and Roy Bedichek.”—San Antonio Light 

“A Natural State refers to Harrigan’s native state of Texas, and to his peculiar feeling for its often inhospitable terrain. . . The dispassionate rhythm of the natural order reverberates in these pieces. It does so with a beguiling modesty. For a literary man, Harrigan writes with an almost scientific precision.” —The Raleigh News & Observer 

“Nothing short of magnificent. . . Harrigan’s clean, crisp prose draws the reader into a crystalline world of detail that is centered in Texas but encompasses the universe.” —Small Press 

“His observations are always striking and thought-provoking, with the same quality of the essays of John Graves or Larry McMurtry’s ‘In a Narrow Grave’--they grip the reader, they practically demand a second reading and they age very well. Whether describing a turkey buzzard or a sunrise, Harrigan is painstaking and thorough, and we learn something new and valuable.”—Judyth Rigler

“A delightful collection of gracefully written essays. Harrigan gives us a compassionate sense of a wild and natural Texas that is not always seen or understood.” —The Houston Post

“Like our best nature writers, he tells us not only what’s out there, but connects it to our everyday lives. . . A Natural State is recommended reading not just for Texans but for all who would explore their connections to the natural world.” —The Washington Post