Best Wendell Berry Books

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Best Wendell Berry Books

Author of more than eighty books, Wendell Berry is popular among readers for his notable Poems full of life, fascinating Fiction, and a couple of engaging Essays. Mostly known by his popular work The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture published in the year 1977, Wendell Berry is loved by readers across the world because he celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often in his works. His farm life, his simplicity, and his ability to seek pleasure amongst the simplest things of everyday life make Berry a praiseworthy author.

Berry has received numerous awards for his outstanding works, including the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award,  the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award for poetry, the John Hay Award of the Orion Society, and the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. If you are an avid reader and are looking for some different books that are installed with positivity, and so many diverse genres, then Wendell Berry is definitely going to win your hearts. Not too much surprise, almost all of Berry’s stories are set in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, and his characters are often closely connected.  If you are pretty confused about where to begin or which books to choose, here are the 10 best Wendell Berry books that you should definitely give a read.

1. Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow is set in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, and features the tale of the titular character, who abandons thoughts of entering the ministry and instead thinks of becoming a town barber. Jayber Crow is not an ordinary character, he has lost his parents at a very young age but has lived several happy years with his Uncle and Aunt, but as soon as he loses them too, Crow begins to view life from a different perspective.

Returning back to Port William, Crow begins to see the effect the post-industrial era has had on Port William and small towns like it, and with this arrives his turning point of life, where he gets to explore the religion the politics and examine people of different classes. Focusing mainly on the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of Crow, the novel is thoroughly engaging and eye-opening, for it deals with many important themes.

2. Hannah Coulter

Wendell Berry’s 7th novel, Hannah Coulter, deals with the tale of the titular character Hannah, an old woman who demonstrates incompatible willpower because she deals with numerous losses and yet remains undefeated. The novel is presented in a way that the readers get to witness the life of Hannah closely, how she had been as a young woman, and what has led her to the present situation.

Weighing her choices and looking back to the times that changed her life forever, Hannah grew up on a farm, married two farmers, and raised three children with the hope that one of them would take up the profession. But as the novel unfolds further, Berry’s skills of presenting an engaging plot in an unconventional way are much evident. Throughout the novel, you will come across events or “flashbacks” that are captivating, depressing, sensuous, romantic, honest, and so much more; whatever Hannah wants to convey to the world, she is surely going to win everyone’s heart.

3. The Memory of Old Jack

A book that is presented much as a recalling and recollecting of memories of Jack, The Memory of Old Jack will take you to the times of Civil War, and then the time when Jack has nothing much left than his precious memories that are both painful and appealing. From recalling his days of childhood, his family being torn apart by the Civil War, his unhappy marriage, to the time when he is old and grey, Jack engages and binds readers with his powerful narration that portrays the different stages and important events of his life in such a way, that you cannot just put down the book.

4. A Place on Earth

A notable novel by Wendell Berry that depicts the beautiful relationship shared between the land and its people, A Place on Earth focuses on the character of Mat Feltner, who is seen to carry his legacy of being a Farmer during the times of the Second World War. As the novel unfolds, you come across a wide range of characters, including the ones one whom Berry has written a novel before or after, such as Hannah Coulter, Jayber Crow, and many others, and it begins to get more interesting.

Since the novel’s major focus is on land and its people, Berry gets many opportunities to explore the beauty and evilness of man and nature in a unique way. A Place on Earth is a brilliant story of life and the factors that affect it every day.

5. Fidelity: Five Stories

Yet another story set in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky; Fidelity is a wonderful collection of short stories that feature the last days of Burley Coulter, a beloved member of the Port William community of Berry’s fiction. Burley is 82 years old and is very aware that death is nearing him. Since everyone who loves Burley hates to see him suffering, they take him to the Doctor to make him feel better. But when Burley’s family can no more watch him lying in the “mechanical room” of a hospital, attached to a life support system, they secretly conspire to kidnap him so that he can die in his beloved woods.

Although the plot might sound childish, Berry has weaved his stories so beautifully that you cannot help but dive in deeper.

6. A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership

A story of the community of Port William, and regarded as one of the great works in American literature, Berry’s A Place in Time takes us to the times of Civil War, World Wars and deeper into the lives of characters who have so much to tell. In between dates of the stories ranging from 1864 to 1991 comes enticing characters like Rebecca Dawe, who finds herself in her reflection at the end of the Civil War, Grover Gibbs’ widow, Beulah, who attends the auction as her home place is offered for sale, and so many others living and surviving in Port William.

Featuring about 20 stories and many heart-warming characters, A Place in Time will provide you with a diverse insight into different times in the same place.

7. Andy Catlett: Early Travels

Another captivating novel by Berry that focuses on the titular character of Andy and his “travels,” the plot revolves around the nine-year-old Andy Catlett, who embarks on a solo trip by bus to visit his grandparents in Port William, Kentucky, during the Christmas of 1943. This daring act of a child is enough to evoke the poetic mind Berry, and thus, he presents readers with nostalgic, admiring details that are truly engaging.

The main interest of the novel lies in the event of Andy exploring the modern world, observing the crowd, meeting people, and learning from his own experiences. You can say that James Joyce’s Arabymakes much sense here in Berry’s well-weaved plot.

8. The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture

The most celebrated work of Berry that brought him all the fame and many prestigious awards, The Unsettling of America, is a mockery of the commercial agriculture of the modern world. Running deep into the issues of erosion to highlighting the failed practices, Berry presents an argument that demonstrates what good and bad farming are.

From exploring the land, the techniques of farming, the devaluation of human work to the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits, you will get to explore it all in this amazing novel.

9. Nathan Coulter

Yet another notable character of the Port William community, Nathan Coulter, is special because it was the first book ever published by Berry. Focusing mainly on life in Port William and portraying its picture through the eyes of Nathan, this novel takes you deep into a story that is about duty, community, and a sweeping love of the land.

Nathan leads a simple life and reflects much of Berry’s own beliefs of life and its ways. From his griefs of adolescence to troubles of manhood, readers would surely love to see glimpses of Berry in Nathan throughout the novel.

10. A World Lost

Another book by Wendell Berry that reflects the character of Andy Catlett, A World Lost, features the sadness and loss of nine-year-old Andy, whose griefs seem to be never-ending. No one tells Andy why his Uncle Andrew was murdered and why his namesake was killed. As Andy reaches his adulthood, this question keeps on haunting him, and gathering details of this tragedy from the fragile memories of the townspeople gives the novel a different turn.

This short novel clearly reflects life during the end of WWII and the tragedy of a simple boy who wants to discover the “truth.”

That’s all for the list of books by Wendell Berry that is truly a must-read. Each of these books listed above shares a link with another, and that’s the specialty of Berry, that his plots are closely knit with another so that readers can connect everything to a single place. You would surely never regret having discovered a brilliant author like Wendell Berry.

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