One Man’s pursuit of happiness

by admin | May 22, 2017 | History & Biography, Meet the Author
Richard Proenneke

It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.

Lucille Ball

Dick Proenneke knew what made him happy and went after it. In May 1968, his life-changing journey began with the “birth of a cabin” in Lake Clark, which is chronicled it in One Man’s Wilderness (written by Sam Keith from the journals of Dick Proenneke.)

Nearly 50 years later, dreamers (including us), survivalists, and nature lovers from all walks of life are still inspired by him. In addition, new fans are made every year when PBS airs the documentary about Dick, Alone in the Wilderness, produced by Bob Swerer, and thousands flock to Dick’s cabin in pilgrimage.

Unexpected fans include Brooklyn’s hip-hop, dancehall, and electronic dance music producer, Dre. Skull from Mixpak records. “His mission is ‘to do a thing to completion’. . . He methodically hand builds a cabin and learns to live off the land in near solitude. I don’t have a yearning to follow that path, but I find his account of following his intentions, and doing so with such patience and care, deeply inspiring,” Dre says.

One Man’s Wilderness went on to win a National Outdoor Book Award and this Library Journal review sums the book’s appeal up nicely: “This book made a big splash when it debuted in 1973. Keith based the text on the journals and photography of Richard Proenneke, who, after racking up years of 50-hour work weeks, did what many of us only fantasize about: he chucked it all and went to live in the woods. Now in his 80s, Proenneke still abides in the log cabin he built with his own hands and has become an icon for naturalists. Though few will follow Proenneke’s lead, his story can be quite inspiring.”

In 2014, we published Sam Keith’s First Wilderness, the prequel to One Man’s Wilderness. Sam’s only daughter Laurel Keith Lies found his manuscript long after her father passed away and in it, Sam meets Dick. They remained good friends, trading hundreds of letters over their lifetimes, and died within a month of each other in 2003.

We’ve sold nearly a half million copies of One Man’s Wilderness and it still generates google alerts daily. Its broad and timeless appeal is rooted in “that thing” that rings true in its pages: Know what makes you happy and live it.

“That brush beyond the big hump has been calling for a long time and maybe I better answer while I’m able.” — Dick Proenneke

Read more:

Coming September 2018: The 50th Anniversary One Man’s Wilderness collector’s edition features a new introduction and complete redesign with 75 color images throughout — many of which haven’t been in print in the book for 20 years — wide flaps, and embossed  matte and gloss on the cover.