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Literary Editorial Reviews

The latest reviews by professional book editors and critics can be found here and where the reviewers posted them on websites like Amazon, Goodreads, B&N and other places.

5 out of 5 Stars, Reviewed By: Romuald Dzemo, for The Book Commentary  "...nothing short of exceptional. Harding's writing is crisp, evocative, and filled with vivid imagery."

"In Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places, Joel Everett Harding takes readers on an extraordinary journey through the fascinating, at times untamed corners of nature. Blending his unique relationship with the natural world, engaging storytelling, and a deep sense of wonder, Harding delivers a book that is both delightful and insightful. One of the highlights of this book is the author's deep love and connection with nature. With every page, it becomes clear that Harding is not just an ecologist, but a true naturalist. His intimate encounters with the diverse landscapes are conveyed with such authenticity that readers can't help but feel an immediate connection to the magic and mystery of the wild. Whether he's exploring a dark marsh at midnight or navigating through a prehistoric swamp, Harding's passion for the natural world shines through, inspiring readers to reevaluate their own relationship with nature.

The storytelling in Loose on the Landscape is nothing short of exceptional. Harding's writing is crisp, evocative, and filled with vivid imagery. He has the ability to establish connections between things, objects, and emotions. In the opening pages, he talks about his curiosity about exploring the landscapes, which started when he was a child. Now, he looks at his retired boots with “rips and flapping soles” which he has kept for nostalgia. These boots tell stories of adventure. Through his meticulous descriptions, readers are transported directly into the heart of each wild place he explores. From the roiling geyser fields to the Amazon rainforest, every setting comes alive, immersing the reader in a sensory experience that is both thrilling and enchanting. Harding masterfully brings together the techniques of fiction storytelling in a nonfiction context, creating a narrative that is both informative and captivating.

A sense of wonder permeates every page of this book. As readers accompany Harding on his adventures, they cannot help but share in his awe and astonishment. The book not only provides valuable insights into ecological wonders but also invites contemplation on larger perspectives about life and our place within the natural world. The author's ability to intertwine personal experiences with broader themes of human emotions, behavior, history, and art enhances the book's depth, making it a thought-provoking read. Its crisp writing, strong imagery, and terrific descriptions make it an engaging and immersive read. Joel Everett Harding's passion for nature shines through, leaving readers with a renewed sense of appreciation and wonder for the world around them. Whether you're a dedicated naturalist or simply someone who enjoys a captivating adventure, this book is a must-read."


5/5 Stars, Mary Rosenthal for Chick Lit Café …every sensory image is engaged and evoked

"Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning is reminiscent of Henry Thoreau’s work—it’s beautifully moving, poignant in its descriptions, and makes a soul ache for a walk through the woods.  

Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning opens with a beautifully depicted series of drawings that create an immediate sense of nostalgia and awe for the diversity of each ecosystem in the United States.  Whether the drawing rendered is of a fishing vest, a pair of hiking boots, or a trailer, each is depicted with such love and attention to detail that the reader will feel they’re about to engage in a hike with the author. As the reader moves deeper into the text, they’ll soon realize this is part of the author’s magically woven web he’s created—each chapter begins with a beautifully crafted piece to lure the reader in.  His words then contribute to this lullaby with his vivid descriptions of the mystical places he’s traveled.  While some people may say, “I went for a hike in the woods,” Joel’s deep understanding of the flora and fauna combined with his natural curiosity and deep appreciation of the world around him paints such an artful depiction of each location throughout this book that every sensory image is engaged and evoked.  

Joel’s many journeys—whether it be staying in a summer home along the Susquehanna River with his newborn son and wife or using native stones in a process called eco-engineering, teach the reader how to look at the world through Joel’s eyes.  He artfully describes the science behind each topic at hand and gives readers insight into the world he sees as a scientist.  I learned so much throughout this book even about topics I thought I already understood. For example, in Chapter 3. I learned that goldfinches’ coats change color from vibrant yellow to a tawny brown for the winter. Joel’s descriptions show the reader how to see nature differently, and thus, perhaps appreciate it more as well.  Joel’s given us one of many gifts with this book—his experiences are so varied that there is something in this book for everyone.  He covers such a wide array of topics that readers will walk away feeling as if they’ve traveled the world.  

Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places by Joel Everett Harding is a work of art and of heart.  Joel’s travels are a gift to us all as are his beautiful words and artwork.  Readers of any kind will find themselves picking this book up again and again.  It’s a soul book I think –it’ll bypass your mind, give your heart a hug and snuggle up with your soul for a very long time.  I can’t recommend it highly enough."


5/5 Stars, SPR Literary Reviews ...the sort of book that could inspire even a hardened city-dweller to intentionally get lost in the woods.

"A beautiful reflection on humanity’s responsibility and relationship to the diverse ecosystems of our natural world, Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places by Joel Everett Harding is an ecological manifesto and a travelogue that would make both Darwin and Steinbeck proud. From the Susquehanna River Valley and Chesapeake Bay to Florida swamplands and the Andes Mountains, readers bear witness through the eyes of a true guardian of the earth. Transcending mere observation of ecosystems, the prose unearths an astonishing story of geologic history and the nuanced inner workings of our dynamic natural world. Anthropological, philosophical, spiritual, and above all passionate, this is the sort of book that could inspire even a hardened city-dweller to intentionally get lost in the woods.”

5/5 Stars, K.C. Finn, Reader’s Favorite Book Reviews. ...a highly enriching and thought-provoking read.
"Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, nature, and introspective writing subgenres and is suitable for the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Joel Everett Harding in a creative nonfiction style, this book draws readers into the world of an ecologist and naturalist, offering a unique perspective on the wild places of our planet. Each chapter is an exploration of not just the natural world but also the human experience, making us question our place in the grand scheme of things. The book combines danger, humor, and insight, providing larger perspectives on life and living whilst also exploring what we as people can gain from nature without taking from or exploiting it in return.

Author Joel Everett Harding's storytelling is both engaging and reflective, taking readers on adventures that span from the depths of vast marshes to the roiling geyser fields in the dark. One feature that especially gripped me was the author's ability to connect the dots between the natural world, human emotions, history, art, and
our innate attraction to nature. Yet the narrative feels friendly, accessible, and personable, like that of a knowledgeable friend telling you about all the places they visit, fostering long-term, meaningful connections with the natural world. Overall, Loose on the Landscape serves as a reminder of the wonders of nature and our place within it, making it a highly enriching and tho
ught-provoking read for anyone with a love for the wild, and I would not hesitate to recommend it."

5.0 out of 5 stars Reviewed by Demetria Head for A Look Inside Book Review Blog & Podcast on October 14, 2023 ...A finely-woven tapestry of adventure, reflection, and nature
"Loose on the Landscape by Joel Everett Harding is a breathtaking journey into the heart of nature, a mesmerizing blend of personal experiences and ecological insights. This creatively written memoir weaves a tapestry of adventure, reflection, and a profound appreciation for the natural world. Readers are treated to a series of captivating escapades, from navigating vast marshes at midnight to encountering the mysteries of geyser fields in the dark. The narrative takes daring twists, like being swept away in a flooded river without an exit, or venturing into a prehistoric swamp inhabited by remnants of the Cretaceous era.

Joel Everett Harding's storytelling is a testament to the diverse facets of his life, capturing moments that are both perilous and whimsical, often leaving readers with insightful takeaways. Each chapter serves as a gateway to broader perspectives on existence, connecting readers with the natural world, human emotions, history, art, and our innate affinity for the environment. Moreover, his guidance on becoming "eco-collectors" of landscapes and natural settings enriches the reading experience by encouraging us to create lasting, meaningful memories. Loose on the Landscape is an exquisite exploration of the interplay between humans and nature. It inspires readers to forge a deeper connection with the world around them and to appreciate the beauty and wonder that can be found in unexpected places. Harding's literary prowess shines in this evocative narrative, making it a must-read for anyone who is a fan of this genre and seeking to embark on an extraordinary journey through the pages of a book."

5/5 Stars, Jamie Michele for Readers’ Favorite Books  ...engrossing and wonderful...very highly recommended.

"Loose on the Landscape by Joel Everett Harding is a comprehensive exploration of the author's lifelong connection to nature and his diverse experiences in various ecosystems. Harding's narrative is structured as a series of interconnected stories where he reflects on his outdoor adventures, ecological observations, and conservation efforts. He emphasizes the therapeutic and transformative impact of nature on physical and mental well-being and advocates for a rational and compassionate approach to understanding ecosystems. Throughout the book, Harding delves into topics such as wetland delineations, water quality monitoring, wildlife conservation, dam construction's ecological consequences, and his family's experiences in the wilderness. He also discusses global work in countries like Colombia, and his advocacy for land preservation and environmental concerns in the Piedmont region, highlighting the inevitability of change in landscapes and the need for responsible land stewardship."


4/5 Stars, Rosie Amber. " assertive, confident voice, and the injection of his personality and passion is on every page"

"In Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places, Joel Everett Harding takes us along as he recounts slices of his life and a deep dive into his work, as well as a little bit of play. In getting to know Harding through this book, it does not take long to realize that for him, work and play are one and the same. He writes in an accessible academic style that has an assertive, confident voice, and the injection of his personality and passion is on every page. For me, I most liked it when he connected natural environments to human history and culture. For example, he speaks of the impact of human activities such as turpentining, lumbering, and dam construction on the Okefenokee swamp. Most of the time, I truly felt like I was wherever he was. He is able to paint a clear picture, describing a landscape as a "moonscape with geysers and spewing grottoes" and providing sensory experiences that are immersive. Overall, this is an engrossing and wonderful look at the life and work of an enthusiastic ecologist, and it was a pleasure to be taken out into the field. Very highly recommended."

Loose On The Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places is a non-fiction look at the natural world. Set in The Americas and mainly in North America, author and ecologist Joel provides 26 chapters set in differing ecoregions. Each chapter is headed by an illustration drawn by the author which adds a personal touch to the writing. The book is also a reflection of the author’s life, beginning with his days as a student and running to his current semi-retired state.

There is a lot of focus on rivers and their functions and changes. I was particularly interested in the author’s work with river restoration. Also of interest were the plans for and effects of dams along riverways and how they dramatically change environments and the damages that can occur.

Some of the chapters featured adventures with Joel’s family and although these held some interest, I felt they were perhaps more suited to a personal memoir and they shifted away from the main regional ecology theme of the book. They still involved environmental factors, but were of less interest to me as a reader.As a non-American this book was fairly easy to read, but many of the places and regions were unknown to me. The scientific elements were relatively easy to understand and Joel has tried not to use too much technical jargon to make this book suitable for a wider reading audience."

Customer Reviews

4/5 Stars Reviewed in the United States on October 16, 2023 by Kristine. "Vibrant! Beautifully written, the narrative crackles with pithy prose and incisive observations"
"Told in vibrant prose by a professional field ecologist with a fine eye for detail, Loose on the Landscape takes readers into a wide variety of outdoor settings and situations as they join the author in everything from a chilly November pre-dawn in a flooded corn field in Michigan to mapping radiation vectors in Missouri and a “reconnaissance-level ecological investigation” in the Pacific Northwest. There’s also water cycles and crop cycles. Food webs. Chinook salmon. The law of unintended consequences. Tracking bighorn sheep in Yellowstone. Much more.

Beautifully written, the narrative crackles with pithy prose and incisive observations. Most chapters begin with a “keep you guessing” flavor. The author describes a time and place coupled with an event without telling you exactly where or when said event takes place. Then he tosses out a trail of "breadcrumb" clues. Just enough to reel you in and keep you guessing without giving too much away too soon before the Great Reveal. It’s quite effective.

Speaking of chapters, who can resist chapter headings like Umatilla Reconnaissance, River Morphing, Guardians of the Enchanted Isle and Into the Kootznoowoo? Personal favorites include Bootleggers of Cranberry Lake and Final Call from Wild-Base One.
A favorite line: “A sense of peace surrounded me. I turned around and hiked back with the sunshine on my shoulder. Rocky Mountain high.” How clever is that?

Equal parts inspiration, perspiration, information, and education, the style is as effervescent as champagne on New Year’s. The voice is intelligent, approachable, and neighborly. So Loose is a little Walden. A bit A River Runs Through It (Bonus points). With a splash of Travels With Charley. It also reminded Mom of Floyd Schmoe’s A Year in Paradise. Another personal fave.

The prose is lyrical, rich, and often deeply evocative. It’s an eclectic blend of memoir, history, geography and geology, botany, nature, ecology and travel guide. There’s also plenty of action and adventure. And some laughed-so-hard-I-snorted-lemonade-out-my-nose moments. (Don’t ask.) A whole lot more. In fact, Loose on the Landscape is hard to peg in the “genre” department. It’s pretty much in a class by itself.

As indicated above, the first part of this book is detailed and thorough. It recounts a plethora of fascinating facts regarding various eco-systems and habitats and such throughout the United States. I found this slow-going. There may be more detail here than the casual reader wants or needs. But it picks up steam about mid-way through as the author begins to recount Family Camping Adventures and Disasters (?) Du Jour.
The tone is warm and personal – even if you’re facing the prospect of spending the night on an island during a raging storm after your boat’s engine conked out in the middle of a lake. Later chapters chronicling adventures in the Colombian rainforests are also noteworthy as the tome winds down to its final elegiac chapter. And a deep sigh.

Clocking in at 430 pages including an Appendix, Loose on the Landscape is a prodigious read. Hence, it’s not the kind of book you skip through merrily, one eye on the page and the other on an incoming text message. Nope. Loose on the Landscape requires your full attention.

I especially appreciated the themes of conservation and preservation that are skillfully interwoven throughout the narrative. Also awe and respect for nature. Thus, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers will enjoy this rich and finely crafted Ode to the Great Outdoors. So will anyone who’s vertical and breathing.

I'd grab a copy now 'fize you. This one's a winner!
I received a free copy of this book and am leaving a review voluntarily.

5.0 out of 5 stars. So Knowledgeable
Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2023
"This author, Joel Smith, knows his stuff. It’s clear while reading that he’s highly educated, but he’s not pretentious about it. He conveyed complicated science-y things in ways that I understood easily (and I don’t have a science background at all). It felt approachable but it also had a nice balance of information with interesting storyline. I really enjoyed learning about the different places Joel traveled and getting to see what his day-to-day is like. I’d highly recommend."

5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Walking Meditation
Reviewed in the United States on October 18, 2023
"I felt like I was doing a walking meditation while reading this book. The author will take you with him on his many travels –either for work or for pleasure and then teach you all about what he knows. It felt a bit like walking with a friend. Its relaxed tone is soothing while giving you so many interesting tidbits of information. I’ve never read a book like it! I have some friends who I think will enjoy this also

5.0 out of 5 stars R.F. Whong. "...blended the beauty of nature and the richness of words"
"Well-researched and well-written. I learned a lot from reading this book. This professional field ecologist blended the beauty of nature and the richness of words to capture various outdoor settings and situations. Each page read like a captivating memoir, immersing me in a world that intertwined history, geography, geology, and botany. Through the power of descriptive language, these painted pictures transported me to awe-inspired landscapes and inspired me with a deeper appreciation for our environment." Someone gifted me a copy of this book. I am leaving a review voluntarily.

F. Bouchard:
“…adventures in the life of an intrepid field ecologist collecting landscapes…enjoyed the episodic nature of the chapters, each covering an entirely different experience…It follows a similar anthology format as the writings of many great naturalists. [It] should be a mostly enjoyable read for anyone that has a fondness for the outdoors and nature and is accessible for those without a deep background in the subject.”

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