A Wilder Life by Celestine Maddy with Abbye Churchill

Artisan, A Division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc.


Every book, no matter what the genre, is always a unique representation of its author and A Wilder Life seems to delve into all the interests of author, Celestine Maddy and reveals a wide and varied landscape of ideas reaching from Growing to Cooking to Self-Reliance and more. The book can seem a bit scattered at times, jumping from one topic to another, but within there are useful nuggets of information and advice that can help you like A Wilder Life no matter where you might live.

A Wilder Life is subdivided into four large sections based upon the seasons of year. Maddy then further divides each section into areas dedicated to Growing, Cooking, Home and Self-Reliance, Beauty and Healing and Wilderness. Each season contains a quick seasonal growing checklist so you can get things growing right away as the seasons change and address yearly issues like mulching, garden repairs and feeding.

You’ll also find information on the propagation of plants, taking cuttings, growing from seed and learn some important vocabulary. The Cooking section cover topics ranging from making your own cheese in the Spring to canning the bounty of your garden in Summer and how to make you own kimchi in Winter.


The photographs and illustration throughout the book are excellent and evocative. They made me want to get outside right away and put some of my new found knowledge — or at least motivation — to use.

I could see myself keeping this book next to my comfy reading chair and revisiting it time and time again as one season moves to another, just as a reminder of what can and should be done as the garden — and the world — move through the calendar year.

The book is focused on those areas of the world that have a clear representation of all four seasons, something sadly lacking here in Southern California. I often joke the both Spring and Fall are only about 2 weeks long. We have the seasons, but they pass in the blink of an eye. Of course, this means that, like most general garden books, I have to pick and choose from the advice and projects given or modify them to be more in line with my Mediterranean climate.

The Beauty and Healing sections touch on a similarly wide variety of topics, including creating your own Seasonal Apothecary using plants from your garden and surrounding wild-lands, the usefulness of meditation, making balms and tincture and more.


Finally, the Wilderness sections teach you some basics about the night sky, hot springs, why leaves change color and a short field guide to butterflies.

A Wilder Life tends to read more like a magazine than a book, which isn’t a complaint, but rather this format provides the ability to dip in and out of the book, consuming bite-sized articles or immediately locating specific information and lends itself more to casual browsing than cover-to-cover reading.

Reading A Wilder Life can bring you a little closer to nature, help you be a little more mindful of the natural world around you and bring home some concrete benefits of living wild — whether you live surrounded by woods or farm land or in the middle of a large urban area, like I do.


I can easily see myself putting this book to use in a variety of ways — improving my seed and cutting propagation skills and knowledge, learning to identify more birds and plants (and help them thrive in my garden), adding some new foods to my kitchen repertoire and simply immersing myself in the wilderness that exists here in my own little plot in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The wilderness is right there, outside of your door, if you only go looking for it. Once found, A Wilder Life can help you to bring it inside your home, too.

Celestine Maddy is the founder and publisher of Wilder Quarterly. She was named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business for 2012 and is also a Cannes Lion winner. Before founding Wilder Quarterly, Maddy was the director of emerging media at the global agency StrawberryFrog. She lives in San Francisco, where she is currently VP of marketing at Reddit.