Beacon Press: The Paradise of All These Parts
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The Paradise of All These Parts

A Natural History of Boston

Author: John Hanson Mitchell

Through observations of modern-day Boston, a veteran nature writer recounts the city’s natural past, from volcanic eruptions to reclaimed parks

In 1614, explorer John Smith sailed into what was to become Boston Harbor and referred to the wild lands and waters around him as “the Paradise of all these parts.” Within fifteen years, the Puritans were developing the tadpole-shaped Shawmut Peninsula, as members of the Massachusett tribe fled. Now, nearly four hundred years later, one must wonder what remains of John Smith’s “Paradise.”

Equipped with wit, intellect, and an innate curiosity about people and places, John Hanson Mitchell strolls through Boston’s streets, chronicling the nonhuman inhabitants and surprisingly diverse plant life, as well as the eccentric characters he meets at various turns. Using his modern observations as a starting point, he tells the fascinating stories of the tribal leaders, naturalists, community activists, and organizations who worked to preserve nature in the city over generations, from the Victory Gardens of the Fenway to the expansive woods of Franklin Park.

But much of the history is in the land itself. As he battles traffic on notorious Route 128, Mitchell considers the ancient origins of the rocks that line the highway and those that form the city’s foundation. A walk across Boston Common calls to mind the Tremount Hills, flattened by seventeenth-century newcomers; only Beacon Hill remains. A stroll through the Back Bay allows Mitchell to imagine the Charles River, so polluted by sewage that it became a public nuisance and was partially covered over with a massive nineteenth-century landfill. With this natural history in mind, Mitchell explores both ancient and new green space from Chelsea to South Boston, including the greenway formed by the Big Dig.

Endlessly readable and full of personality, The Paradise of All These Parts offers Boston visitors and residents alike a whole new perspective on one of America’s oldest cities.
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“A surprising and gracefully written exploration of Boston’s true nature. If you love this city, you will love this book.” —Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

“Hands-on and eloquent - a lover’s rhapsody.” —Edward Hoagland

“Like Vladimir Nabokov, John Hanson Mitchell is a writer with an eye for nature’s curious details, rather than a naturalist who practices writing. His new natural history of Boston is actually more a history of naturalists, explorers, conservationists and others at play on nature’s grand stage with lots of juicy subplots and a large cast of engaging eccentrics. Irresistible.” —Christopher W. Leahy, chair of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and author of The Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife

“John Hanson Mitchell tells the story of how geology, nature, natives and new arrivals have continually made and remade the place we call Boston. His amiable tale rambles easily from rocks to rivers to red light districts, interweaving natural and human history in a way that’s quietly but deeply meaningful.” —Ginger Strand, author of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies

“Like Thoreau, Mitchell has a genius for sauntering, and I can’t imagine a better rambling companion. “
—David Gessner, author of Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond

“A wonderful piece of work: lively, thought-provoking and totally absorbing. The city of Boston has been chopped to pieces, riddled with tunnels, and surrounded by fill, but as Mitchell reveals in The Paradise of All These Parts, it is still a place of wonder.” —Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War


Review: History Magazine - January 1, 2009
"In a lively, engaging style, Mitchell shows how the changing urban landscape and local legends have shaped this historic city."
Review: Boston Globe - December 7, 2008
"John Hanson Mitchell's The Paradise of All These Parts sees the 'city upon a hill,' Boston, as a place of constant discovery, even today . . . a worthy guide to the city's natural spaces, but he is at his best in making his readers think anew about a place they think they already know."
Review: Yankee Magazine - November 1, 2008
"One of my favorite New England writers is John Hanson Mitchell . . . [h]is new book . . . [is] an intriguing blend of geology, biology, political science, and personal anecdotes."
Review: Natural History - November 1, 2008
“[A]n uncommon and exemplary book, a guide of sorts to the natural history of one great city, Boston, Massachusetts…. You don’t have to know Boston to appreciate the stories Mitchell is relating, for despite his local slant, his approach has global implications.”

Review: Lowell Sun - October 14, 2008
"Littleton author John Hanson Mitchell explores Boston's natural history and explores a variety of habitats in his 10th work of nonfiction, The Paradise of All These Parts. He ranges outward from the core, the peninsula where the Pilgrims first settled to the ancient rim of the Boston Basin, where the modern city now lies. Mitchell will speak in Lowell at Pollard Memorial Library on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., and festival organizer Rob Mitchell says he'll delve into all the natural parts that remain in urban landscapes and Lowell's in particular. 'He has a nice sense of humor and will tie the book into Lowell's natural history in an interesting way,' said Rob Mitchell."
Review by: Michael Kenney, Boston Globe - September 21, 2008
“…this may well be the finest book about the town as a place, highly personal and at the same time keenly descriptive.”
Review by: Alex Beam, Boston Globe - September 9, 2008
"[H]e is a smart guy, walking around, paying attention. I'd name his genre nostalgic realism; Mitchell certainly knows where this city and its many peculiar institutions come from, and he understands modernity as well. [T]his book will take its place next to Walter Muir Whitehill's 'Boston,' with engravings by Rudolph Ruzicka, as one of the treasured Hub tomes of our time."
Listen here to John Hanson Mitchell's December 28th interview Mark Lynch on WICN's Inquiry

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The Paradise of All These Parts

ISBN: 978-080707148-9
Publication Date: 8/1/2008
Pages: 272
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $24.95
Format: Cloth
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