Hugh Nissenson Books In Order


  1. My Own Ground (1976)
  2. The Tree of Life (1985)
  3. The Song of the Earth (2001)
  4. The Days Of Awe (2005)
  5. The Pilgrim (2011)


  1. In the Reign of Peace (1972)
  2. The Elephant and My Jewish Problem (1988)

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Hugh Nissenson Books Overview

The Tree of Life

Eighteen months of the life of Thomas Keene, a fictitious 19th century congregational minister, is traced in this journal like novel. Having suffered a loss of faith, Keene abandons the East for frontier life in the Ohio wilderness. His account is by turns violent, tender, and erotic. Keene is both a witness to history, describing the many ordinary and horrific details of frontier life including the conflict between white settlers and Indians, and a man searching for personal meaning in a world without God. Like a true frontier journal, the novel includes illustrations attributed to Keene. As a foil to the main character, the historic figure John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is portrayed as a believer who lives with self doubt.

The Song of the Earth

Even before his birth, Johnny Baker’s life is in danger. His mother breaks the law when she has her fertilized egg endowed with genes that will give her son the potential to become a visual artist. Born in 2038, John Firth Baker is the first genetically engineered artist. At the age of nineteen, at the threshold of his career, he is murdered. Now, ten years after his death, Baker has become famous. An art curator has organized a show of his work, and his biography culled from journals, e mails, and interviews with those who knew him best is published. The Song of the Earth is this ‘biography.’ It presents a powerful and haunting portrait of an artist as a young man in the twenty first century. Baker is born into a world transformed by technology: genetic profiles, space travel, and controlled housing communities are commonplace. Global warming has altered the environment. A planetary gender war is raging, familial structures are shattered, and new religions contend with the old. Yet human needs remain the same: the search for love, the desire for approval, the longing for fame, and the quest for knowledge. The Song of the Earth is a hypnotic novel about our desire to control our destinies, our yearning for immortality, and the very human impulse to create art. With prose, poetry, and images, Nissenson tells an original tale that brilliantly captures the experience of another time and place.

The Days Of Awe

Washington Post Best Books of 2005. Philadelphia Inquirer Top 10 Fiction Pick, Fall 2005 Nissenson more than holds his own in the arena of gritty, all too present day realism, brilliantly conveying his characters anxiety and suffering, their conflicting ideas,emotions and beliefs, and the love for one another that makesthem so vulnerable but also lends enduring value to theirmenaced lives. Wall Street Journal Solid character writing and attention to the details of dailylife make the September 11 material well motivated; as characters continue to worry, kibitz, philosophize and complain, one feels that they have a real sense of the stakes. Publishers Weekly A moving, thought provoking exploration of coming to gripswith mortality. Booklist I just finished The Days Of Awe. I am too moved to move. Even this pen. An amazing novel. It is as if we are eavesdropping on life. Cynthia Ozick

The Pilgrim

‘Nissenson, acclaimed for his powerful narratives The Days of Awe; The Tree of Life, here shows the tight grip of religious devotion on one young man’s mind…
History, politics, faith, and daily life all come together in a strong story.’ Library JournalPraise for High Nissenson’s The Days of Awe:’I just finished The Days of Awe. I am too moved to move. Even this pen. An amazing novel. It is as if we are eavesdropping on life.’ Cynthia Ozick’If you believe the best novels should be transformative, should rip the dusty curtains from our everyday vision; if you don’t mind being terrorized by a narrative, then you’ll be looking at a different world when you finish these pages.’ Carolyn See, Washington Post’A deep affirmation of life in all its mystery and agony and joy.’ Frederick M. Dolan, author of Allegories of America’Nissenson’s haunting, deeply moral novel asks the largest questions, and with tough lyric elegance, illuminates the smallest moments. The Days of Awe is a Great Awakening elegy for all our lives even as we live them.’ Johanna Kaplan, author of 0 My America’A Masterpiece!’ Amos Elon, author of The Pity of It All 20110901

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