Audio Book Review: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Release Date: December 27, 2015
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 16 hours 44 minutes
Narrator: Robin Wall Kimmerer
Genre: Native American/Botany/Nature
Buy: Audible | Kindle  | Paperback


As a botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi, as well as a majority of other cultures indigenous to this land, consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers.

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowing together to reveal what it means to see humans as "the younger brothers of creation". As she explores these themes, she circles toward a central argument: The awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the world. Once we begin to listen for the languages of other beings, we can begin to understand the innumerable life-giving gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks, our care, and our own gifts in return.


Beautifully written, I can't say enough about this book.  Its a gift to read. The author is a botanist and professor but is also an Indigenous woman who has learned about plants through her family and traditions. She uses these teachings in conjunction with her western knowledge of plant science to help nurture a new generation of botanists.  She challenges them to look beyond science to listen to ancient wisdom and explore the earth and plants thanking them for everything they give to us.

This book is a reminder to be grateful for all life. For the paper that was once a tree, the food we eat, the clothing we wear was all once something else and we should be grateful that those plants, trees and animals gave their lives for us to have shoes, or shirts, food to eat. If everyone started remembering how we are all connected to the earth and give thanks for it maybe we wouldn't be facing the ecological disasters we do. Maybe if we started remembering that plants, trees and animals have life just like we do and we are all connected in a delicate balance then maybe we wouldn't keep seeing an us vs. them.  Maybe by listening we will relearn what has been lost.

Indigenous teachings about harvesting and growing and creating may just seem like rituals but when really explored in a scientific way many of the traditions helped to keep the ecology growing and flourishing around them. Without harvesting sweetgrass the sweetgrass wouldn't thrive, without taking certain trees for baskets new ones couldn't grow, life is a balance and we as humans have to remember to respect that. We need to listen more and try to exert our will less.

I recommend this book to everyone for its teachings, its beautiful words and its insights - I actually began this book with trepidation not thinking I was going to like it at all, instead I've fallen in love.