Still Waters: The Secret World of Lakes

Curt Stager

W.W. Norton & Company, 2018

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

A fascinating exploration of lakes around the world, from Walden Pond to the Dead Sea.

Lakes are changing rapidly today, not because we are separate from nature but because we are so connected to it. But while many of our effects on the natural world are new, from climate change to nuclear fallout, our connections to it are ancient, as core samples from lake beds reveal. In Still Waters, Curt Stager introduces us to the secret worlds hidden within lakes as he travels from the Adirondack wilderness to the wilds of Siberia, from Massachusetts to the Middle East. For him, lakes are both mirrors and windows into history, culture, and our primal connections to all life. Stager fills his narrative with strange and enchanting details about these submerged worlds? diving insects chirping underwater like crickets, African crater lakes that explode, the growing threats to Thoreau’s cherished pond? while emphasizing how beautiful and precious our lakes are, and how, more than ever, it is essential to protect them. 


"Mr. Stager’s curiosity and erudition, along with his self-effacement, work in his favor. As does his lyrical imagination, which informs his view of lakes as places of illusion, a crossroads of myth and reason."
Wall Street Journal

"This contemplative volume, both informative and poetic, makes good on Stager's intent to 'upgrade' Walden 'for our own century.'"
Publisher's Weekly

“Authoritative….For a primer on the ‘secret world’ of lakes and for surprising facts and speculations on the microscopic and macroscopic realms—all carefully assembled and presented—the book is an important contribution to understanding how lakes, beyond their singular beauty, are windows to our primal connections to all life.”
Kirkus Reviews

"An outstanding work of nature and science writing that lingers long after the book is closed. Highly recommended."
Library Journal (starred)

“Curt Stager is as fine a teacher as I have ever encountered, both in the classroom and on the page. You will learn something new in every paragraph of this book, and the vivid writing will make it stick in your brain. For those of us who love the planet's lakes, this is like a long, cool drink of the freshest water.”
Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont

“Curt Stager is an eloquent story-teller. He guides us not only into the fascinating ecological worlds that dwell within lakes, but also demonstrates that our own nature, both biological and cultural, cannot be understood apart from our many interconnections with these living waters.” 
David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees and The Forest Unseen

“Lakes reflect us both literally and metaphorically, in ways shallow and deep. We can see our faces as we peer into their surface. But more deeply, lakes also reflect how the world is changing. Curt Stager has written a deep book about lakes. He peers into deep time, letting lakes tell us what has been, as well as foretelling a bit about who we are becoming.”
Carl Safina, author of A Sea In Flames, and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel


“Curt Stager takes his readers into the depths of ponds, lakes and seas around the globe—both polluted and pristine, ancient and nearly new—and brings alive the universe of life contained within each. But this isn't a travelogue, and it's way more than just a book about water. Picking up the torch lit by Thoreau more than 150 years ago, Still Waters plumbs a question that vexes ecologists and philosophers alike—Can waters so shaped by human hands ever again be considered 'natural'? His conclusions will surprise as much as they entertain and educate.”
 —Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes