Winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for Nonfiction
Winner of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature
Finalist for the 2013 ForeWord Book of the Year in Ecology and Environment
Finalist for the 2015 ASLE Book Award for Literature and Environment
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The Small Heart of Things intimately examines the myriad ways in which connections to the natural world can be deepened through an equality of perception, whether it’s a caterpillar carrying its house of leaves, transhumant shepherds ranging high mountain pastures, a quail taking cover on an empty steppe, or a Turkmen family emigrating from Afghanistan to Istanbul. The narrative spans the common—and often contested—ground that supports human and natural communities alike, seeking the unsung stories that sustain us.
Guided by the belief of Rainer Maria Rilke that “everything beckons us to perceive it,” the book explores the area around the Prespa Lakes, the first transboundary park in the Balkans, shared by Greece, Albania, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. From there it travels widely to regions rarely written about, exploring the idea that home is wherever we happen to be if we accord that place our close and patient attention.
The Small Heart of Things is a book about looking and listening. It incorporates travel and natural history writing that interweaves human stories with those of wild creatures. Distinguished by a belief that through awareness, curiosity, and openness we have the potential to forge abiding relationships with a range of places, it illuminates how these many connections can teach us to be at home in the world. ~ Publisher’s description
“This writer is a seeker and seer among those who work the land within the cycles of time. He knows how to listen and not simply catalog nature, both human and wild, but create a tapestry of embodied stories born out of the intimate wisdom of sweat and hunger and an earthly intelligence. At a time when we wonder where hope resides, this is a book of faith in the natural histories of community, broken and sustained. Not only does the language honor the encountered beauties along the way, it explores a complexity of ideas that reminds us we are not strangers in the world if we remain open to awe and respectful of the tenacious spirit required to live in place. The Small Heart of Things is a book of patience.”
~ Terry Tempest Williams, author of Finding Beauty in a Broken World
“‘To be at home in the world is to let ourselves be drawn into its embrace,’ writes Julian Hoffman in this sparkling, humane collection of essays. Something similar can be said about reading his exquisite book—we’re drawn into the warmth and intimacy of his meditations. Part travel writing, part environmental witness, part celebration of the human spirit in the more-than-human world, this book guides us to a distant landscape of borders visible and invisible and of enriching change. Throughout, Hoffman is a superb tour guide: observant, knowledgeable, and deftly surprising in the connections he makes among the myriad small things he enables us to see.”
~ Elizabeth Dodd, author of Horizon’s Lens
“The message of finding wonder in our surroundings, as familiar as it may seem, is fresh here. The prose soothes. The pages absorb you. Hoffman’s world is endlessly instructive and inclusive. It’s our world, too, if we wish to see it that way. An environment on its own is uninflected, but it becomes a home when we attach experience to it. Any place—and every place—can be a home. The Small Heart of Things is a celebration of spaces and the hidden, miraculous lives within them, but it’s a quiet celebration, the pause after you open a gift, truly surprised, and inhabit a speechless moment.” ~ The Rumpus
“In writing this remarkable work of environmental and natural-history literature, Hoffman resided in the Prespa Lakes Transboundary Park shared by Greece, Albania, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. These seventeen short essays capture an intensely focused, curious, tireless, supremely gifted writer as he acquaints himself with himself and one of the world’s most unique places.” ~ ForeWord Reviews
“What makes Hoffman’s plea for a deeper engagement with the natural world so arresting is that this engagement doesn’t come at the expense of a relationship with the often-messy political and social environments of a place, but rather strengthens it. Hoffman’s tranquility is not a passive retreat from our tumultuously loud, permanently distracted era; his project is to exert a compassionate mindfulness in the face of apathy—apathy toward the environment, or toward overlooked or forgotten populations.” ~ The Iowa Review
The Small Heart of Things is now available in paperback as well as hardback. If your local bookstore doesn’t have a copy in stock, you can ask them to order it for you or, in the United States, you can visit IndieBound to find an independent bookseller in your area.
Or visit the link to The Small Heart of Things at these online booksellers, most of whom will ship throughout the world:
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