Coast Range

A Collection from the Pacific Edge

From Counterpoint Press. Named a finalist for the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing and CLMP’s Firecracker Award for Creative Nonfiction. Available by way of IndieboundAmazon, or your local bookstore.

Listen to an interview with Nick about the book on Jefferson Public Radio, Southern Oregon’s NPR affiliate.

Read a short sample essay from the book by way of the Harvard Review.

Reviews are available online from KirkusIdaho Mountain Express, Missoula Indy, and Diagram.

“The literary landscape in our country is in need of a good love story — prose that awakens in its readers a sense of astonishment and reminds us what it feels like to be curious and alive. Nick Neely’s first essay collection, Coast Range: A Collection from the Pacific Edge, is a well-timed debut …” — Mary Heather Noble, Orion

“Welcome a strong new voice for the silver beaches, pine forests, and shining rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Like the agates in his pockets, Nick Neely’s essays are highly polished—translucent, but shot through with hard veins of natural science. Imagine Wallace Stegner in conversation with Ed Ricketts, when they are both young and still astonished. Then you can begin to understand the creativity, the power, the beauty, and the fun of Coast Range.” — Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Piano Tide

“Finely tuned essays that vary intriguingly in form and tone …. Neely capably explores the complexity of his subjects with polish and finesse, looking carefully and thinking deeply.” —Kirkus starred review

From the publisher’s listing:

Coast: the edge of land, or conversely the edge of sea. Range: a measure between limits, or the scope or territory of a thing. Coast Range, the debut collection of essays from writer Nick Neely, meticulously and thoughtfully dwells on these intersections and much more. The book’s title refers to the region in which these essays are set: the California and Oregon coastal ranges. In deeply moving prose equal parts exhilarating and pensive, each essay explores an iconic organism (a few geologic), so that, on the whole, the collection becomes a curiosity cabinet that freshly embodies this Pacific Northwest landscape.

But the book also employs a playful range of forms. Just as forest gives way to bluff and ocean, here narrative journalism adjoins memoir and lyric essay. These associative and sensuous pieces are further entwined by the theme of “collecting” itself—beginning with a meditation on the impulse to gather beach agates, a semiprecious stone. Another essay follows the journey of salmon from their “collection” at a hatchery through a casino kitchen to a tribal coming-of-age ceremony; a third is a flitting exploration of hummingbirds. Neely also describes, in vivid detail, his six-month stretch living off the grid along the Rogue River, which ignited his healthy obsession with Oregon. In Coast Range, Neely fashions a kaleidoscope of essays, of which the overarching curiosity is the transient but finally transcendent nature of the world we live in.

“I hate nature essays, but I like Nick Neely’s nature essays. That’s because while there’s nature here, he doesn’t default to reverence in the face of the sublime; he doesn’t crow about conservation or bore us with rhapsodies of trees. Instead he’s drawn to people, weirdos and obsessives like himself: homesteaders, trappers, buffet captains, game wardens, biologists, and duchesses. This book’s an obsessive and glorious cataloging of the natural world and its effects: how it changes us and is changed by us. Coast Range suggests that to look is to collect, the most noble of pursuits, and by so doing, ‘to hold, and possibly hoard, the world.’ Look hard enough and long enough at anything, he seems to tell us, and we lose ourselves, which is a kind of love.” — Ander Monson, author of Letter to a Future Lover. 

“I don’t know if ‘God is in the detail,’ as the saying goes, but I think much of nature is. Nick Neely’s Coast Range is an erudite, eloquent demonstration of that, from the vividly evoked details of ancient mollusks scraping their way into rocks to those of even more ancient fungi lacing themselves into tree roots. … Neely’s vigilant, wry commentaries on his native patch of the West Coast are not only in the tradition of Thoreau’s Walden but in an older and wider one that he shares with Thoreau: what Thoreau calls “the great dragon-tree” of mythic vision that is associated with Homer and Sophocles but also lives in Aristotle, Herodotus, Pliny, and other classical naturalists.” — David Rains Wallace, author of The Klamath Knot and Marshes and Mountains

“Nick Neely is a searcher and, lucky for us, a collector as well. Coast Range is his collection, his ‘open-air curiosity cabinet,’ full of newts, agates, madrones, mushrooms, coyote, salmon, paw prints, bones and beautiful sentences. He is a precise writer and his essays are brilliant in the shining sense. But as well as being an accurate observer of the natural world, he is an exuberant participant, and we are both pulled in and lifted up by his generous, buoyant and ever-curious spirit. An important book, and one full of life and joy.” — David Gessner, Author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West