Trinity University Press

Home Ground

A Guide to the American Landscape

Debra Gwartney (editor), Barry Lopez (editor)

A landmark work hailed as an homage to landscape and language, now in a redesigned, field guide edition

Hailed by book reviewers as a "masterpiece," "gorgeous and fascinating," and "sheer pleasure," Home Ground was published in fall 2006 in hardcover to outstanding reviews. A language lover's dream, this visionary reference is now in its third edition and has revitalized a descriptive language for the American landscape by combining geography, literature, and folklore in one volume. 

Have you ever wondered how it came to be called Las Vegas?  Or why it was the Natchez Trace, not the Natchez Trail?  Or what the difference is between ripples and riffles in a stream? Home Ground brings together, for the first time, the distinctly American vocabulary that people use to characterize the country’s landscape. 

Forty-five writers, with backgrounds and imaginations as different as journalist Bill McKibben’s and novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s, have crafted more than 850 definitions for words like vega and trace. And flatiron, bayou, milk gap, and looking glass prairie. What emerges from their work, however, is more than accurate definitions and their individual approaches to each of these words. It’s more than learning that lake is also a color, and that those islands of lush growth in the midst of an old lava flow are called kipukas. It’s more than learning that Peekskill, New York, probably took its name from the farm the Peek family established on a kill in that area. It’s discovering, in the process, the way this unique landscape has shaped American character. When we speak of things like canyons, waterfalls, and prairies, we are talking about our history. When we use a word like gulch or monadnock, or an expression like Carolina bay or desire path, we are evoking something distinctive in our culture.

Home Ground is an invitation to learn American geography, to read American history, and to celebrate a deeply engaging dimension of American character.


  • Jeffery Renard Allen
  • Kim Barnes
  • Conger Beasley Jr.
  • Franklin Burroughs
  • Lan Samantha Chang
  • Michael Collier
  • Elizabeth Cox
  • John Daniel
  • Jan DeBlieu
  • William deBuys
  • Gretel Ehrlich
  • Charles Frazier
  • Pamela Frierson
  • Patricia Hampl
  • Robert Hass
  • Emily Hiestand
  • Linda Hogan
  • Stephen Graham Jones
  • John Keeble
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • William Kittredge
  • Jon Krakauer
  • Gretchen Legler
  • Arturo Longoria
  • Bill McKibben
  • Ellen Meloy
  • Robert Morgan
  • Susan Brind Morrow
  • Antonya Nelson
  • Robert Michael Pyle
  • Pattiann Rogers
  • Scott Russell Sanders
  • Eva Saulitis
  • Donna Seaman
  • Carolyn Servid
  • Kim Stafford
  • Mary Swander
  • Arthur Sze
  • Mike Tidwell
  • Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Luis Verano
  • D. J. Waldie
  • Joy Williams
  • Terry Tempest Williams
  • Larry Woiwode


  • Designated as San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
  • Designated as Denver Post Bestseller
  • Designated as Memphis Commercial Appeal 10 Books No Family Can Do Without
  • Designated as Charleston Gazette 100 Most Notable Books
  • Designated as Portland Oregonian Bestseller
  • Designated as Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
  • Designated as Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • Winner of Foreword Magazine Best Book Bronze Award (nature)
  • Designated as Amazon Best Book (travel)
  • Designated as Kansas City Star 100 Noteworthy Books


Home Ground is a treasure house of a book, chocked with gems of the American vernacular. To learn these terms for features of the landscape is like putting on a new pair of glasses—the land comes more vividly into focus. But to call this a reference work is to shortchange it—the entries are written by some of our best writers, and the result is an unexpected page turner.”

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Home Ground . . . is a civilized pleasure, in the way great reference books can be.”

San Francisco Chronicle

More reviews »
Home Ground cover
  • Price: $18.95 buy »
  • Pages: 608
  • Size: 4 1/2 x 8
  • Published: Aug 2013
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595341754
  • Price: $18.95
  • Published: Apr 2011
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595340887


Nature, Anthology, Landscape, Ecology