Sierra Club Books

book publisher

Sierra Club Books was the publishing division of the Sierra Club, founded in 1960 by then Sierra Club President David Brower. Volumes intended for club members had been published prior to 1960. In addition, books under their name had been published before 1960, but done through already established publishers, as was the case with This Is Dinosaur, published by Alfred A. Knopf. Their first in-house book, volume 1 in the Exhibit Format series, was This is the American Earth, published in 1960. In 1962, they introduced color photography to the series with the publication of In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World with photographs by Eliot Porter and Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula with photographs by Philip Hyde. The series won the 1964 Carey–Thomas Award for creative publishing, by Publishers Weekly. Fifty thousand copies were sold in the first four years, and by 1964 sales exceeded $10 million. Soon they were publishing two new titles a year in the Exhibit Format series, but not all did as well as In Wildness. The books were successful in introducing the public to wilderness preservation and the Sierra Club, but lost money for the organization, some $60,000 a year after 1964. Paperback reprints of many of the Exhibit Format books were published by Ballantine Books. After David Brower left the Club, the books program moved to New York City, then back to San Francisco under the leadership of Jon Beckmann. During Beckmann's tenure from the mid-1970s until 1994 the program expanded and diversified considerably, publishing books by established and emerging authors such as Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, Galen Rowell, and David Rains Wallace as well as field guides, fiction, poetry, and books on environmental activism, such as the Sierra Club Battlebooks. Many Sierra Club books were produced by the Yolla Bolly Press run by Jim and Carolyn Robertson in Covelo, California. The program continued for two decades after 1994, first under Peter Beren, the former marketing director, then under Helen Sweetland, the former children's books editor. The press closed in 2014. The Club continues to publish the Sierra Club Wilderness Calendar and the Sierra Club Engagement Calendar annually, which are perennial bestsellers. They are distributed to the book trade by Publishers Group West.
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