Book Talk: Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World

" Wells offers no pat prescriptions for nurturing 'lived relationships with water and plants and soil'―only an ardent hope that humans will persist in 'fighting and reconciling and reaching across the divide of mutual misapprehension' to save their world. An urgent message gently conveyed."


The BookWalker

In search of answers and action, the award-winning poet and essayist Lisa Wells brings us Believers, introducing trailblazers and outliers from across the globe who have found radically new ways to live and reconnect to the Earth in the face of climate change.

About the Book

We find ourselves at the end of the world. How, then, shall we live?

Like most of us, Lisa Wells has spent years overwhelmed by increasingly urgent news of climate change on an apocalyptic scale. She did not need to be convinced of the stakes, but she could not find practical answers. She embarked on a pilgrimage, seeking wisdom and paths to action from outliers and visionaries, pragmatists and iconoclasts. Believers tracks through the lives of these people who are dedicated to repairing the earth and seemingly undaunted by the task ahead.

Wells meets an itinerant gardener and misanthrope leading a group of nomadic activists in rewilding the American desert. She finds a group of environmentalist Christians practicing “watershed discipleship” in New Mexico and another group in Philadelphia turning the tools of violence into tools of farming―guns into ploughshares. She watches the world’s greatest tracker teach others how to read a trail, and visits botanists who are restoring land overrun by invasive species and destructive humans. She talks with survivors of catastrophic wildfires in California as they try to rebuild in ways that acknowledge the fires will come again.

Through empathic, critical portraits, Wells shows that these trailblazers are not so far beyond the rest of us. They have had the same realization, have accepted that we are living through a global catastrophe, but are trying to answer the next question: How do you make a life at the end of the world? Through this miraculous commingling of acceptance and activism, this focus on seeing clearly and moving forward, Wells is able to take the devastating news facing us all, every day, and inject a possibility of real hope.

Believers demands transformation. It will change how you think about your own actions, about how you can still make an impact, and about how we might yet reckon with our inheritance.

Reviews & What Readers Say

" Believers . . . grapples with the question of how to go forward in the shadow of endings ― not only our own, but the endings of species and ecosystems, of cultures and of language . . . The question is not of what we face but how we can face it bravely and creatively."

—Lydia Millet, Los Angeles Times

“ Wells takes heart in the human tendency to tell and make sense of our lives through storytelling… Although she preserves a sense of hope for a better world, this blend of reportage, history, philosophy, and memoir is no rosy prescriptive narrative. Rather, Wells notes, ‘there is a surplus of terror and delusion in the ether, but spare few visions of how you and I, relatively ordinary people, might live otherwise. I believe the future of the world depends on those visions.”

Lauren LeBlanc, Observer

“Wells’s prose, rooted in her poetry, gives her a unique advantage when writing about living through this unstable moment in history.”

Andru Okun, High Country News

Nobody Ever Asked Me about the Girls: Women, Music and Fame

Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World by Lisa Wells

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

352 pages

ISBN 978-0374110253

Note: Now available. Click here

About the Author

Lisa Wells is a nonfiction writer and poet from Portland, Oregon. Her debut collection of poetry, The Fix, won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Her essays and poems have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, Granta, The Believer, n+1, and other publications. She lives in Seattle and is an editor at The Volta and at Letter Machine Editions.

Who We Are
Assemble your Team
Webcam pc screen view during group video
Search By Topics