Cover image for Still waters : the secret world of lakes / Curt Stager.
Still waters : the secret world of lakes / Curt Stager.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., [2018]
Physical Description:
x viii, 241 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Walden -- Waters of life, waters of death -- Lakes through the looking glass -- The Great Rift -- Galilee -- Sky water -- Heritage lakes.
An exploration of the world's most remarkable lakes examines the significance of humanity's impact on iconic inland waters, sharing their stories and how they represent history, culture, and the importance of conservation.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
551.482 STA Book Adult General Collection

On Order



More than a century and a half have passed since Walden was first published, and the world is now a very different place. Lakes are changing rapidly, not because we are separate from nature but because we are so much a part of it. While many of our effects on the natural world today are new, from climate change to nuclear fallout, our connections to it are ancient, as core samples from lake beds reveal. In Still Waters, Curt Stager introduces us to the secret worlds hidden beneath the surfaces of our most remarkable lakes, leading us on a journey from the pristine waters of the Adirondack Mountains to the wilds of Siberia, from Thoreau's cherished pond to the Sea of Galilee.Through decades of firsthand investigations, Stager examines the significance of our impacts on some of the world's most iconic inland waters. Along the way he discovers the stories these lakes contain about us, including our loftiest philosophical ambitions and our deepest myths. For him, lakes are not only mirrors reflecting our place in the natural world but also windows into our history, culture, and the primal connections we share with all life.Beautifully observed and eloquently written, Stager's narrative is filled with strange and enchanting details about these submerged worlds--diving insects chirping underwater like crickets, African crater lakes that explode, and the growing threats to some of our most precious bodies of water. Modern science has demonstrated that humanity is an integral part of nature on this planet, so intertwined with it that we have also become an increasingly powerful force of nature in our own right. Still Waters reminds us how beautiful, complex, and vulnerable our lakes are, and how, more than ever, it is essential to protect them.

Author Notes

Curt Stager is a professor of natural sciences at Paul Smith's College in New York. New York State's Carnegie-Case Science Professor of the Year in 2013, he cohosts Natural Selections on North Country Public Radio and has published in periodicals such as Science, National Geographic, and The New York Times.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Science professor Stager (Your Atomic Self) declares, "There's nothing like a lake to reflect and reveal the world," and he sets out to do the same in this philosophical meditation on lakes, their inhabitants, and the threats they face from human effects on the environment, reaching back thousands of years. He begins this literary tour of lakes he's studied with Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau, which provides a jumping-off point for discussions of diatoms, algae, Thoreau's importance to readers, debates about the starting date of the Anthropocene, the difference in approaches between environmentalists and scientists, and mortality. Later sections examine and pay tribute to the flora, fauna, and natural laws governing lakes Stager has studied all over the world, from his hometown pond, where he "caught frogs on its banks in summer and skated on it in winter," to Lake Victoria on the Tanzania-Uganda border, whose drying out (in the climate shifts during the end of the Ice Age) he recounts, drawing on data from sediment cores collected by researchers. All of this leads back to the connectedness between humans and other parts of nature. This contemplative volume, both informative and poetic, makes good on Stager's intent to "upgrade" Walden "for our own century." Illus. (May.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Stager (Deep Future; Your Atomic Self; Field Notes from the Northern Forest) builds on decades of research and observation in the Adirondacks, Tanzania, Siberia, Israel, and beyond in this deep dive into lakes, ponds, and inland seas around the world. Stager is a natural and lucid storyteller, and every chapter of this book is filled with vivid details on the fish, insects, microscopic organisms, and other creatures that make up a particular lake's ecosystem. Stager has previously written on global climate change-work that easily joins the ranks of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction. He takes a similarly long view of lake ecology here, yet this book has more in common with Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Stager sets out to update Walden's unique blend of genuine scientific information, aesthetic prose, and philosophical insights for the 21st century and more than ably succeeds. The chapter about Walden Pond not only sets the tone for the rest of the volume but also helps make a strong case for the beauty and vulnerability of our lakes. VERDICT An outstanding work of nature and science writing that lingers long after the book is closed. Highly recommended.- Meredith Powers, York Coll., Brooklyn © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xiii
1 Waldenp. 1
2 Waters of Life, Waters of Deathp. 31
3 Lakes Through the Looking Glassp. 61
4 The Great Riftp. 89
5 Galileep. 115
6 Sky Waterp. 143
7 Heritage Lakesp. 171
Glossaryp. 203
Acknowledgmentsp. 209
References Citedp. 213
Indexp. 231