The Prophet of Dry Hill

Advance Praise for David Gessner’s THE PROPHET OF DRY HILL

"I love the quicksilver intuitions, the summoning of wind and light, the variations John Hay plays in his fine responses to the natural world. It is a world of fleeting miracles--the spawning of the small anadromous spring herrings and the deft swift flight of the roseate tern. John Hay’s intent observations bear witness, hoping to awaken others to the wonder and beauty of existence—that testimony is a duty and a calling."

—Peter Matthiessen


"This book is an enormous gift, an act of preservation as important as any chunk of land purchased by The Nature Conservancy. John Hay's stature cannot be overestimated, and David Gessner has done him great justice."

—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home: A Long Walk Through America’s Most Hopeful Landscape


“Reading The Prophet of Dry Hill is like taking a long, soul-satisfying walk with two remarkable naturalists, John Hay and David Gessner. Through Hay’s wise words and Gessner’s keen observations, we witness a gentle unfolding of a friendship seeded in a shared passion for the natural world, and nurtured in the unpredictability of human connectedness. A literary paean to the important work of naturalist and writer John Hay, The Prophet of Dry Hill is a lyrical tribute to compassion, wildness, and wonder.”

—Kate Whouley, author of Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved

"If Thoreau had wanted a disciple, he couldn’t have had a better one than David Gessner. Following the great nature-writer John Hay around his bird-and-fish-watching Cape Cod haunts, witnessing Hay’s increasing dismay at the development crushing his beloved Cape, Gessner has made Hay’s cri de coeur his own. This beautiful book should inspire the reader to 'get down in nature, down in the water and the dirt,' as Hay urges. It could even give readers what Gessner tells us the Native Americans had, 'a recognition of the sacredness of place, an openness to the worlds of plants and animals.' You don’t have to be a bird-watcher to be fascinated by Gessner’s descriptions of gannets and terns in action. I am sending my copy of this book to the wildlife-destroyer in the White House.”
—Alice Furlaud, NPR commentator


" The Prophet of Dry Hill is a surprising book in many ways, tender, elegant, intelligent, always frank and sometimes very funny. It would take a kindred spirit to tell John Hay's story properly, and in David Gessner, the spirit has arrived. Gessner has an inviting voice, fond but never fawning, and he knows when to let the great man speak for himself: often. This is a work of generous love, the story of a prickly friendship, but also and preeminently a short and fiery course on how to live in an increasingly crowded and confusing world. The answer is nature, of course, and The Prophet of Dry Hill is a love story."

—Bill Roorbach, author of TEMPLE STREAM


"With The Prophet of Dry Hill, David Gessner has created something entirely new: a book that blends lyrical descriptions of New England, philosophical rantings, and humorous self-examination with an intimate portrait of naturalist icon, John Hay. Gessner, a younger writer, sets out deliberately to meet his literary mentor, and the book continues from there like a long walk, a friendly year-long conversation set against the backdrop of the decreasingly wild Cape Cod. What struck me most about the book, however, was not its unusual form, beautiful writing, or fast-paced plot but its sneaky and somewhat radical message. The Prophet of Dry Hill will not only turn readers to the visionary work of John Hay, it will make them open their eyes, look around and never take anything --bird wing, twig, arrangement of clouds--for granted. It will remind them of the rapture of the world. In today's political climate, I can't think of anything more important or relevant."

—Sarah Messer, author of RED HOUSE

My Books

“Gessner writes with a vividness that brings the serious ecological issues and the beauty of the land into to sharp relief. This urgent and engrossing work of journalism is sure to raise ecological awareness and steer readers to books by the authors whom it references.”—Publishers’ Weekly. Starred Review
My Descent into the Oily Gulf.
Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism
My story of following the osprey migration from Cape Cod to Cuba and Venezuela and back
"This book is an enormous gift, an act of preservation as important as any chunk of land purchased by The Nature Conservancy. John Hay's stature cannot be overestimated, and David Gessner has done him great justice."—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home: A Long Walk Through America’s Most Hopeful Landscape
“A classic of American nature writing.”
--The Boston Globe
"Not since the diatribes from Edward Abbey has anyone in this field come out and made such a sacrilege of our holy texts."
--John Hanson Mitchell
“A highly readable, disarmingly self-conscious meditation on nature, ancestry, and mortality."
The Boston Globe
"Gessner's essays are on fire. He shows us that we can have delightful, imaginative and creative lives by becoming more rooted and connected to the place where we are...Wise and enlivening, provoking us into a higher understanding of both nature and ourselves."
--Rocky Mountain News

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