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About The Book

* “We see through this book the immense power of language…to change the minds of lawmakers and tourists alike.” —The New York Times Book Review * “A poignant portrait of an era when mere words could change the world.” —San Francisco Chronicle *

The dramatic and uplifting story of legendary outdoorsman and conservationist John Muir’s journey to save Yosemite is “a rich, enjoyable excursion into a seminal period in environmental history” (The Wall Street Journal).

In June of 1889 in San Francisco, John Muir—iconic environmentalist, writer, and philosopher—meets face-to-face for the first time with his longtime editor Robert Underwood Johnson, an elegant and influential figure at The Century magazine. Before long, the pair, opposites in many ways, decide to venture to Yosemite Valley, the magnificent site where twenty years earlier, Muir experienced a personal and spiritual awakening that would set the course of the rest of his life.

Upon their arrival the men are confronted with a shocking vision, as predatory mining, tourism, and logging industries have plundered and defaced “the grandest of all the special temples of Nature.” While Muir is devastated, Johnson, an arbiter of the era’s pressing issues in the pages of the nation’s most prestigious magazine, decides that he and Muir must fight back. The pact they form marks a watershed moment, leading to the creation of Yosemite National Park, and launching an environmental battle that captivates the nation and ushers in the beginning of the American environmental movement.

“Comprehensively researched and compellingly readable” (Booklist, starred review), Guardians of the Valley is a moving story of friendship, the written word, and the transformative power of nature. It is also a timely and powerful “origin story” as the towering environmental challenges we face today become increasingly urgent.

About The Author

Photograph by Jessica King

Dean King is an award-winning author of ten nonfiction books, including Skeletons on the ZaharaUnboundPatrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed, and The Feud. His writing has appeared in GrantaGarden & GunNational Geographic AdventureOutsideNew York magazine, and The New York Times. He is the chief storyteller in two History Channel documentaries and a producer of its series Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning. An internationally known speaker, King has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, ABC’s World News Tonight, PBS’s American Experience, BBC Radio, Arte TV France/Germany, and at TEDx. For more info, visit

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (March 21, 2023)
  • Runtime: 14 hours and 7 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797152196

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Raves and Reviews

"For fans of naturalist John Muir, this is a must-listen. Desz sets just the right tone as King recounts the friendship between Muir and journalist Robert Underwood Johnson. Plenty has been written about Muir, but this audiobook shares an important aspect of his writing and how it helped with his conservation efforts. Muir and Johnson collaborated and, at times, fought, to get their message of hope and conservation to people from all walks of life. One can hear in Desz’s performance great respect for the scholarship of the author’s work—and for the legacy of Muir. This audiobook will transport listeners to both the splendor of Yosemite and the wonders of the U.S. West."

– AudioFile Magazine

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More books from this reader: Samantha Desz