Michelle Nijhuis: Beloved Beasts—Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

Beloved Beasts

Beloved Beasts


Michelle Nijhuis
W.W. Norton; March 9, 2021; $27.95
ISBN-10: 1324001682; ISBN-13: 9781324001683

Nijhuis reports:

My book Beloved Beasts is a history of the modern conservation movement, told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it. Many people are familiar with individual names from conservation history—Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, John Muir—but my aim was to put these and other famous figures in context, showing how they worked with others to build a movement.

Michelle Nijhuis

Michelle Nijhuis

I’ve been interested in the history of conservation for many years, ever since I was just out of college and working as a field assistant on wildlife research projects in the desert Southwest. I didn’t conceive of a book on the subject until about 2015, when I read some studies that attempted to quantify the benefits of conservation for other species. I realized that conservationists rarely look back at their accomplishments—or their failures, for that matter—and I thought it would be worthwhile to do so in a way that was accessible to a broad audience.

I spent a long time writing and rewriting my proposal, trying to find a path through the very complex history of conservation. Finally I settled on an approach that I came to think of as a relay race—each of my nine roughly chronological chapters centers on one or two major figures in conservation, but the chapters are tied together by recurring characters and concepts.

Mollie Glick at CAA agreed to represent me in late 2017, and we sold the book to Matt Weiland at W.W. Norton. I received grant support for travel and fact-checking through the Sloan Foundation’s Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics program. Matt is a wonderfully supportive editor, and his advice on the differences between feature writing and book writing was invaluable. I also had terrific help from freelance fact-checker extraordinaire Emily Krieger.

Contact info:

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Mar. 17, 2021

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

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