Aquatic Biologist Darby Nelson Explores Minnesotans’ Fixation and Relationship with Lakes

Each day leading up to the April 14 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2012 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Finalist:

For Love of Lakes

Darby Nelson

Michigan State University Press

Category Sponsor: Leonard, Street and Deinard


Darby Nelson weaves a tapestry of history, science, emotion, and poetry for all who love lakes or enjoy nature writing. The book is an affectionate account documenting our species’ long relationship with lakes—their glacial origins, Thoreau and his environmental message, and the major perceptual shifts and advances in our understanding of lake ecology.

An excerpt from For Love of Lakes:

My most vivid childhood recollection of lake came the day Mother rented a rowboat the municipal dock in the town where she was born, loaded my sister and me, oars and lunch, bathing suits and towels, and rowed us up a long stretch of shore to a beach at the city’s park. Mother was not an expert with oars, and my sister and I were too young to help with the rowing.

We made slow, zigzagging progress over the placid water – and that made all the difference. I leaned into the side of the wooden boat and peered overboard into sharply clear water, and lake filled the sensory slate of my young mind. I had names for few of the fascinating things I saw. A mysterious forest of skinny green stems with broad wrinkled leaves reached up out of the yellow-brown depths toward the boat. Tiny fish darted to hiding places within the greenery. Spotted leeches, longer than my hand, undulated in purposeful fashion through the green forest. A tiny red globe of an insectlike creature rested on the tip of a submerged leaf. But, above all, I remember the crystal clarity of the water.


Nelson is an aquatic ecologist and Professor Emeritus at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.


“An important book. Every Minnesotan lives so close to lakes – shouldn’t we know a little something about them? And a fun read, to boot, for anyone who enjoys the works of Henry David Thoreau or Aldo Leopold.”
– Minnesota Book Awards judge

For Love of Lakes is an ode to the beauty of lakes and the high stakes of what we have to lose; it’s also an eyes-wide-open cautionary tale of how things are changing for the worse, and what has already been lost.”
Star Tribune

“Nelson’s interplay of emotion and logic stimulates the reader to think – and that is a good thing. For Love of Lakes is poetic to the end – a wonderful read for all who enjoy natural history.”
– John J. Magnuson, Emeritus Professor Zoology and Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


In this short video, author and limnologist Darby Nelson describes how the DNR and other agencies test a lake for clarity and takes about the causes of green water in central Minnesota.



Award winners will be announced at the 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel – Saint Paul Riverfront. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. New this year: a post-awards “Epilogue Celebration.” Tickets are available online or by calling 651-222-3242. Click here for more information.

Have you read For Love of Lakes? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!


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