John Burroughs Medal For Natural History Book Presented at AMNH
The John Burroughs Association announced the 2011 winner of its annual award, created 85 years ago to honor outstanding natural history writing, a genre perfected by John Burroughs. Elisabeth Tova Bailey received the award for her book “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” (Algonquin Books, 2010). Bailey shared an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris — a common woodland snail.
Bailey’s essays and short stories were published in the Missouri Review, Northwest Review, and the Sycamore Review. She received a Notable Essay listing in Best American Essays. In “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating”, Bailey chronicled her astute and amused observations of a wild snail that takes up residence in her room during a year when the author was bedridden with a neurological disorder. Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey showed how this underappreciated small animal illuminated our own human existence and provided an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive. It is a great book that helps inculcate the importance of cultivating sharp eyes and ears. Bailey, who accepted the award by Skype, shared that “print is the great equalizer. I learned how a slow, small creature colonized; how questions lead us to the edge of the unknown; that’s truly learning!”
The award was given out during the annual meeting of the Burroughs Association at a reservations-only luncheon at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in a charming, wood-paneled private room filled with authors, environmentalists, conservationists and philanthropists.
Burroughs had a love and fascination with the natural world seeking the answer to what binds us all together.
At the same luncheon, Jill Sisson Quinn received the John Burroughs Award for Outstanding Published Nature Essay for “Sign Here If You Exist,” which originally appeared in the 2010 fall issue of “Ecotone”. The award recognized an outstanding and famous periodical John Burroughs wrote, stressing the author’s own connection with nature, with his original natural history research or the author’s own life experiences. The John Burroughs Recognition Award for Outstanding Published Nature Essay has been given annually since 1993.
Past recipients include John Daniels, Kenneth Brower, John Mitchell, Michael Pollan, Gary Noel Ross, Gerrat Vermeij, Carl Safina, Freeman House, Edward Kanze, David Gessner, and Christopher Cokinos, Mark A. Smith and Scott Russell Sanders.
The John Burroughs Association, a membership organization of conservation and environmental literary professionals and stewards dedicated to preserving the environment, gives the medal award to encourage writing in the Burroughs tradition. Burroughs’ great-niece Julianne Warren and great-granddaughter Joan Burroughs were present at the luncheon, carrying on the spirit and work of the great naturalist by ensuring that we all share in the life of the universe.#