Books we recommend reading before visiting Big Sur.

Buying from us supports our mission to educate and inform about Henry Miller, Emil White and Big Sur and its cultural and natural history.

Reading about Big Sur prior to coming here will probably make your visit a lot more interesting  and meaningful.

Sit down at a turnout with a view of the Pacific ocean, read a section of Miller’s Big Sur book or a poem by Robinson Jeffers: You may create a memory for life (-:  

The books you buy from us will be stamped and embossed with our beautiful stamp (see above) and embosser (see to the right).

The list below include eleven of our sincere recommendations! We made them in the hope and belief that by reading all, or some, of them you will have a better experience when you come for a visit. Just click on the title and you’ll end up in the shopping cart! Easy! 

Click on the book title to order!

Big Sur: The Making of a Prized California Landscape. 
by Shelley Alden Brooks, UC Press
The cover prize is $29.95 
We sell it to you for $25.00

For anyone who cares about Big Sur and about where they live this book has a lot to give!

Why aren’t there more houses, turn-lanes, billboards, hotels, lights on at night, walkways down to the beaches, parking lots, interpretive signs, traffic lights, bathrooms, etc. in Big Sur? How likely are these developments in the future? And how does Big Sur’s experience compare to that of other prime California destinations?

Read this excellent book and find the answer to some of these questions.

This is the best book on the history of Big Sur as it relates to its land use and conservation/preservation challenges. HIGHLY recommended!

The Natural History of Big Sur

Paul Henson and Don Usner
UC Press $36.95
Each year millions of people come down coast for a visit to Big Sur. Here is a book that is both a natural history of this amazing region and an excellent guide to its extensive public lands. The first section introduces the area’s geology, climate, flora, fauna, and human history. The second section describes selected sites, trails, and features that are mentioned in Part One.

Although Big Sur is world famous for awe-inspiring scenery, it is less known for its great ecological diversity and its significance as a haven for many species of terrestrial and marine wildlife. In no other part of the world do fog-loving coastal redwoods thrive on one slope of a canyon while arid-climate yuccas grow on the other. Similarly, sea otters and cormorants live near dry-climate creatures like canyon wrens and whiptail lizards. The area’s staggering beauty and forbidding wilderness have inspired artists, poets, naturalists, and hikers—and also real estate developers.

As increasing tourism, development pressure, and land-use decisions continue to affect Big Sur, this book will do much to heighten awareness of the region’s biotic richness and fragility. Written in nontechnical language, with generous color photographs, drawings, maps, species lists, and a bibliography, it will attract both the casual and the serious naturalist, as well as anyone concerned about preserving California’s natural heritage.

These Are My Flowers

by Nancy Hopkins, edited by Heidi Hopkins.
Recently issued in a beautiful paperback edition. $19.95

Nancy Hopkins’ letters are honest, funny, insightful and informative: One gets a wonderful sense of life on the Big Sur coast in the forties and fifties. Most of what Nancy talks of in her letters is her beloved family but also the neighbors on Partington, including Henry Miller.

This is a gorgeous production filled with notes and one of a kind observations by the editor, and Nancy’s daughter, Heidi Hopkins. Hard to imagine a better book to curl up with by the fireplace at for example Deetjen’s one windy winter night!

The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

New Directions Publishers $18.95
For us this is one of the most enjoyable of Henry Miller’s books; first published in 1957, it tells the story of Miller’s life here in Big Sur.
A portrait of the place and of 
some of the extraordinary people Miller knew here: writers (and writers who didn’t write), mystics seeking truth in meditation (and the not-so-saintly looking for sex-cults or celebrity), sophisticated children and adult innocents; geniuses, cranks and the unclassifiable. Like the folks nowadays!

Miller writes brimming with an energy that is infectious. He has a fine touch for comedy. But this is also a serious book and a testament of a free spirit who has broken through the restraints and cliches of modern life to find within himself his own kind of paradise. As it turns out however not a Paradise without some Trouble!

My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur 

by Romney Steele. 
Andrews McMeel Publishing $ 25.00

This might very well be the book to read before coming to Big Sur. We have the classics like The Oranges, The Natural History, These Are My Flowers…but…

My Nepenthe is a most beautiful book and A ‘must read’ about Big Sur’s history and culture.

It is beyond doubt that if you read this before coming to Big Sur you will have a much better experience. You will say “Oh Yes.”

You may even take some of the recipes for food, and for how to live (!), with you for the rest of your life. 

The Unknown Henry Miller

Arcade Publishing, $17.99
Recounts Miller’s career from its beginnings in Paris in the 1930s but focuses on his years living here in Big Sur, from 1944 to 1962, during which he wrote many of his most important books, including The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, married and divorced twice, raised two children, painted watercolors, and tried to live out an aesthetic and personal credo of self-realization.

Written with the cooperation of the Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and other estates, The Unknown Henry Miller quotes extensively from Miller’s correspondence in order to offer the reader direct experience of the author and man. It also draws on material not available to previous biographers, including interviews with Lepska Warren, Miller’s third wife, and revelations from unpublished portions of Anais Nin’s diaries. Behind the “bad boy” image, the author finds a man with devoted friendships, whose challenge of literary sexual taboos was part of a broader assault on the dehumanization of man and commercialization during the postwar years. He puts Miller’s alleged misogyny in the context of his satire of sexual mores in general, and makes the case for restoring this groundbreaking writer to his rightful place in the American literary canon.

Recipes for Living in Big Sur.

In the winter of 1980-81, six Big Sur women were inspired to create a fund that would sustain the fledgling Big Sur Historical Society in its work of preserving local history. Come January, the call went out to the Big Sur community asking for favorite recipes as well as for diaries, memoirs, photographs, legends and stories of life in Big Sur. The recipes came pouring in as folks searched through photograph albums and old recipe files. By April there was enough material for several books. A pattern finally emerged from the diary excerpts and reminiscences: six overlapping categories evolved into chapter headings: 
Living Off the Land, Food from the Sea, Self-Sufficiency, The Simple Life, Starting from Scratch and Big Sur Hospitality. The material was selected to express the diversity of life styles that found room to exist in Big Sur. The reader will discover that this is not an ordinary cookbook. Some of the recipes are vague about amounts or ingredients, reflecting the awareness that creative cooks use what they’ve got on hand. A few of the recipes are artifacts, included to offer a flavor of life as it used to be in Big Sur. Most of the recipes have been taste tested, and the result is a unique blend of history and recipes, expressive of the art of living as practiced in Big Sur. Soft cover, 156 pages, published in 1981. Lovingly compiled by the women of the Big Sur Historical Society: Pat Addelman, Judith Goodman, Mary Harrington, Clair Chappellet, Ruth Harlan, and Beverly Newell.   $ 20.00


Selected Poems by Robinson Jeffers    
Vintage $12.00

In this volume, essential poems selected from Jeffers major works provide an excellent overview of his style and the themes present throughout his work. Drawn from volumes published throughout his career, among them Be Angry at the SunHungerfieldThe Double AxeRoan StallionTamar and Other Poems; as well as The Beginning and the End, which contains his last poems, these poems will introduce new readers to his inimitable voice, while also gathering in one place some of his best work for his confirmed fans. Robinson Jeffers was a controversial poet.

NB. If you visit Jeffers home, The Tor House, in Carmel you may be lucky and get former President of The Henry Miller Library Board, Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts as your docent! (see his book White Fire below!)


White Fire 

A collection of poems by Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts published by the Henry Miller Memorial Library. 

Elliot Ruchowitz-Roberts is a good friend and neighbor and well known in our communities. He serves as First Vice President of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation where he coordinates the Foundation’s annual Prize for Poetry and its annual reading series. He is former President of the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Read the article about Elliot HERE.