'' I think of beauty as a kind of fittedness : the way a thing integrates ...... with everything else in its environment,'' says the eminent nature writer, whose 30th book is the essay collection '' With Every Great Breath.''

.-  What books are on your night stand?

''AEdnan '' by Linnea Axelsson; '' Father and Son '' and '' Passage to Juneau '' by Jonathan Raban; '' All the Pretty Horses'' [ re-re-read]; '' Cold Mountain'' [re-re-re-read]; '' Mink River '' by Brian Doyle.

.-  Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally or intellectually?


.-  What's the last great book you read?

It's been a while now, but I loved ''Miracles and Wonder'' : Conversations With Paul Simon.'' Great can be a kind of limiting word these days. At this stage of my life, I'm a friend for rereading. I will return to Cormac McCarthy's '' The Passenger,'' as I do much of his work.

.-  What's the most terrifying book you've ever read?

'' The End of Nature '' by Bill McKibben;  '' The Dyeing of the Trees '' by Charles E. Little; '' The Most Important Fish in the Sea '' by H. Bruce Franklin ; 

'' Enough '' by Bill McKibben. He is an amazement - I know of few writers who so powerfully emerge intellect with deep morality and the dignity of manners, yet while retaining sacred rage. Terry Tempest Williams can terrify for the same reason.

.-  What's your favorite book no one else has heard of?

'' Goodbye to a River '' John Graves comes to mind - I'm writing a book celebrating his work, with a bit of biography. It's pretty much a perfect book, with beautiful descriptions, intelligent, with a fair-minded voice, authoritative without seeming so -leavened by intense curiosity about the natural world and people, too.

There is just enough of curmudgeon in the narrator, balancing with sweetness, and again curiosity, to make it an irresistible read, and an unforgettable journey of a young man paddling down a wild river about to be erased, turned into a flatwater lake by a dam.

.-  What kind of reader were you as a child?  Which childhood books stick with you most?

Prolific. Anything about animals, the Hardy Boys. Then Annie Dillard in high school.

.-  How have your reading tastes changed over time?

I'm less patient and can barely any longer abide even one misstep in a sentence, no matter how ''good'' the story. I crave protein and carbohydrates and have no longer much interest in sugar.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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