Stone by Stone

SWI2-Scan StoneByStone
Cover photo of Block Island Wall by Jan Glinski.

It’s hard to believe that Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls was published by Walker & Company of New York sixteen years ago in September 2002. Following its launch in September, 2002, it quickly became a bestseller, ass monitored by NEBA (New England Booksellers Association).  After selling out in hardcover during several printings, a paperback edition came out in 2004 and is still being reprinted by the successor publisher, Bloomsbury.

Listen to the opening paragraphs of Stone by Stone



In 2003, Stone by Stone won the Connecticut Book Award for Nonfiction. This was a Library of Congress program, for which a jury of academics, booksellers, librarians, and artists selects one book either about the state or by a writer living in the state. One year earlier, the winner was Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire (2002). One year later, it was Gustav Spethe’s Red Sky at Morning (2004). I remain proud to be bracketed by such company.

Color version of frontispiece of Stone by Stone. I used it to represent the archetype fieldstone wall in New England.


100 BOOKS ACROSS AMERICA: Fiction and Nonfiction for Every State in the Union

In 20016, Stone by Stone was selected for to represent Connecticut in a nationwide list of books conveying a sense of place for each state. The organization, Literary Hub, describes itself as “the best of the Literary Internet.”



The Boston Globe “An open invitation to head into the country oneself and explore a stone wall.”

The Providence Sunday Journal “Rarely has a book on so mundane a topic delivered so much information in so enjoyable a manner. Thorson is a fine writer, a scientist with the sensibility of a poet.”

Dallas Morning News “A fascinating study of New England’s landmarks that are as much about art as geology.”

Tom Wessels “If I were to own just one book on the stonewalls of New England, it would be Robert Thorson’s.”

Booklist ” An enlightening excursion that goes well beyond the romantic notions surrounding the walls.”

Washington Post “If the preservation effort needs a manifesto, Thorson has one.”

Beautiful brown dolomite wall, Hope, Ontario.

Orion “[Few geologists] dare to make plain their passion for rocks, as Thorson does, much less linger on the sensual details of their mediumÑits color, texture, sound, and odor. And most geological writing doesn’t venture very far or boldly into the realm of human culture, an area to which Thorson’s scientific expertise makes the most startling contribution.”

Bill McKibben “Now I know why all the stone walls I’ve ever stumbled across in the northeast woods are thigh-high–along with about a thousand other interesting details that shed illuminating light on the human history of this sweet region.”

Chet Raymo “Robert Thorson teases from New England’s ubiquitous stone walls a natural and cultural history of the region, from the grinding glaciers that shaped the stones to the spreading asphalt deserts that are displacing them. A nature lover’s ‘must read.'”

Kevin Gardner “Robert Thorson offers the most complete natural history ever written about New England’s fabled stone walls. …Stone by Stone should be an instant necessity for anyone who wonders why our landscape looks the way it does.”



For the story of Stone by Stone, link to Draft by Draft.

Rural scene in Voluntown, CT.