We could all learn from Jim Harrison The man was a legend in the "grit lit" subgenre.

“The world that used to nurse us now keeps shouting inane instructions. That’s why I ran to the woods.” — Jim Harrison

Several years ago, on a mission to connect with more literature set in my home state of Michigan, I came across a Jim Harrison book. I picked it up at the bookstore, flipped through the pages, did a quick Google search on my phone — felt the embarrassment of taking so long to discover his work — and then made the purchase.

Photo by Andy Anderson.

The name of the book was True North. Since that day I’ve read six of Mr. Harrison’s books, and there are still a few — like his final book The Ancient Minstrel — that remain very high on my reading list.

The Michigan connection is what first drew me to his work, but the writing itself and the life he lived are what kept me reading. He wrote gritty yet eloquent prose. There was so much honesty in what he wrote. It was brutal truth, the kind people often don’t like to hear. And his lifestyle was so simple and rare compared to many authors today.

Until the day he died — literally passing away with the pen still in his hand — he wrote with pen and paper. There were no computers involved. It wasn’t about cranking out manuscripts and meeting word count requirements. Writing was an art, and he never ceased treating it that way.

He also lived in the country, whether it was northern Michigan, Montana or Arizona. Life wasn’t about big city lights and Hollywood parties for Harrison — though he did plenty of partying in Hollywood in his younger days. It was the simple things, such as hunting, fishing and taking walks through nature with his dogs that he coveted so dearly.

It’s a damn shame he passed away in March 2016, because in today’s crazy world we need more influencers like Jim Harrison to remind us what’s important in life.

Read the guy’s memoir, Off to the Side, to understand the full picture of his life — in his own words. I highly recommend it.


  1. There’s one thing I hate about reading about other authors. I read about them and go, who is this guy or gal? They sound like they’re saying something worth hearing.

    I liked the quote you started off with. The world has gotten so crazy I think we all find ourselves yearning for a year when things were easier. When things like answering the cellphone or that text message didn’t seem so important.

    Will have to check him out.


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