The Shepherd's Life

The Shepherd's Life

Modern Dispatches From An Ancient Landscape

Book - 2015
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The New York Times bestseller and I nternational Phenomenon

One of the Top Ten Books of 2015, Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times .

"It's bloody marvelous." - Helen Macdonald, New York Times bestselling author of H IS FOR HAWK

"Captivating... A book about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that's increasingly about mobility and self-invention. Hugely compelling." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, his family have lived and worked in the Lake District of Northern England for generations, further back than recorded history. It's a part of the world known mainly for its romantic descriptions by Wordsworth and the much loved illustrated children's books of Beatrix Potter. But James' world is quite different. His way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand. It hasn't changed for hundreds of years: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the grueling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the hills and valleys.

The Shepherd's Life the story of a deep-rooted attachment to place, modern dispatches from an ancient landscape that describe a way of life that is little noticed and yet has profoundly shaped the landscape over time. In evocative and lucid prose, James Rebanks takes us through a shepherd's year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost. It is a story of working lives, the people around him, his childhood, his parents and grandparents, a people who exist and endure even as the culture - of the Lake District, and of farming - changes around them.

Many memoirs are of people working desperately hard to leave a place. This is the story of someone trying desperately hard to stay.

Publisher: New York : Flatiron Books, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781250060242
Characteristics: 293 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

A shepherd in the lake district of northern England, Rebanks comes from a long line of shepherding families that goes back centuries. In many ways, the landscape and way of life remains unchanged. In his book he proceeds season by season in the life of the farm, interwoven with his life story. He... Read More »

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OPL_BreanneS Dec 15, 2018

Rebanks’ book is a rare glimpse inside a traditional shepherding way of life, one that he abandoned for a short time to attend Oxford University. (“Leaving the farm is supposed to make you have another life, but my leaving just made me realize that the farm was the beginning and end of everything for me,” Rebanks writes.) The author mixes nitty-gritty, day-to-day details of his shepherding duties with poetic descriptions of the landscape, warm memories of his legendary grandfather, and blunt observations of how tourism and an influx of new residents have negatively impacted traditional ways of life in the Lake District. Through Rebanks’ eyes, the reader gets the privilege of seeing the Lake District not from the point of view of a tourist or a Romantic poet, but through the eyes of a native son whose Cumbrian family history goes back more than 600 years. And that’s something very special, in this reviewer’s opinion.

Jul 07, 2018


Mar 15, 2018

A WONDERFUL book... so good that I was sad when I came to the end of it!

Feb 20, 2017

Before you grandly say, "Do tourism instead of lumber," read this book to understand on what it feels like to be on the "downside" of cultural imperialism. The first part of the book is the most important.

Oct 14, 2016

I almost quit reading the book somewhere around 100 pages. I was turned off by the defensive attitude which reminded me of the old Rodney Dangerfield shtick. After that the book became delightfully interesting as he described in evocative prose the rhythm of the shepherding life through the four seasons of the year.

Jul 02, 2016

Fascinating insights, wisdom, and details about practical aspects of the sheepherding year.
"... an intimate view inside a seemingly ordinary life; a celebration of the meaning of place, the ties of family to the land around them, and the beauty of the past."

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW May 25, 2016

Since I'll be visiting the Lake District soon, I thought it was worth my while to read a book about the region and the shepherds who work there -- and it was. This book was a joy to read from start to finish, part memoir, part love letter to a place and to a disappearing way of life. This book made me think a lot about the world we live in and the space I inhabit in it. I finished this book with a deep respect for Rebanks and his neighbors, and also, perhaps oddly, with a deeply felt appreciation that, like the author, I get to go to work every day and do a job that I feel truly matters. This is a great book.

May 22, 2016

What a revelation! This was a fascinating look into a life that I had never thought of. Mr. Rebanks clearly loves his work, his land and his animals. I was so pleasantly educated about sheep and the lake district of England. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Feb 04, 2016

Very interesting read and view. I was one of those troublesome tourists trying to drive down the picturesque lanes against tides of sheep. And walk up hills for the lovely views amid the fuzzy crowds...and yes I did not realize the work, struggle and love that goes into shepherding these flocks. Thanks James of such an intriguing and thoughtprovoking book.

Jan 17, 2016

Rebanks writes about the life of a shepherd in an unsentimental way. The book is also about a sense of place and the vulnerability of this way of life, threatened by agribusiness.

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