Robert Root

Recovering Ruth: A Biographer's Tale

“Here is essaying at its very best--search and salvage, test and measure--mining the language for what’s precious and rare. In Recovering Ruth, Robert Root works rich intersecting veins of history and humanity, biography and self-discovery, people, places, lives and times. The reader is the richer for it.”
--Thomas Lynch

“Recovering Ruth beautifully illustrates how one life can inform another, even across the boundaries of time and place. Written with consummate skill and grace, Root’s story speaks to the human quest for meaning and connection through narrative.”
--Kim Barnes

Robert Root found a journal from 1848 in an historical library and decided to publish it. The task of editing and annotating a nineteen-century diary seemed straightforward at first, but as he assembled scattered fragments of lost history and immersed himself in background research, Root became enmeshed in unexpected ways. When doubts arose about who really wrote the journal, he found himself plunged into a mystery of lost identity, drawn ever deeper into the drama and complexity of forgotten lives and engaged in a quest at time both compulsive and quixotic. Part memoir, part meditation about biography, Recovering Ruth is the absorbing story of recovering a hidden past--and of learning firsthand the complications of intimacy that develop between a biographer and his subject.

“Root's meticulous attention to detail and dogged determination to follow every lead make him an excellent biographer.”
--Susan Friedman, Biography (Summer 2004)


Edited by Robert Root

The complete edited and annotated manuscript of the journal that inspired Recovering Ruth, with an extensive historical and biographical introduction

Edited by Robert Root and Jill Burkland

A beautiful collection of poems, essays, photographs, paintings, and music contributed by artists-in-residence at Isle Royale National Park, the remote island park in Lake Superior. Winner of the 2002 National Parks Service Cooperating Associations Interpretative Media Award.

Edited by Robert Root and Jill Burkland

Elling Seglem spent his summers fishing on Isle Royale and writing handwritten “newspapers” to send home to his family in his absence. This book captures not only his quirky prose and poetry but also the illustrations and visual jokes he included in his account of a fisherman’s life in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Selected Works

“As Robert Root walks through the Wisconsin landscape, he reads the windblown hay field, the dripping green wood, and the crooked blue river with as much care and precision as the three writers he’s following: Muir, Leopold, and Derleth.”—Tom Montgomery Fate. “Root's celebration of pristine places is a valentine to a small region that inspired giants of conservation.” – Foreword Reviews
"With its multiple modes (vignette, meditation, photograph, ekphrasis), it subverts and redefines memoir, always asking how a person might seek to know himself within the larger context of nation and history. Robert Root's prose is a refreshing joy to read.”—Patrick Madden
Creative Nonfiction
The best of the "Thinking Out Loud" series of essays written 1980-1987 for broadcast on Central Michigan University's "Morning Edition" program
This quiet, contemplative and profound book is a celebration of love of places from one of our best thinkers about love of place. --David Gessner
A contemporary writer explores the landscape of his new home in the footsteps of earlier writers.
An anthology of essays and narratives of place, with commentary by the authors about the role of place in their writing
“Root’s story speaks to the human quest for meaning and connection through narrative”
--Kim Barnes
This anthology is the comprehensive, indispensable introduction to the way creative nonfiction is written today.
Nonfiction, Writing
A "poetics" of nonfiction that is "insightful, informative, and immensely practical."-- Kristen Iversen
“a fascinating journey into the mind of the master”
--Kathleen Wildman