Michael Branch, Ph.D.

Foundation Professor
Michael Branch

Contact Information

Degrees

  • Ph.D., English, University of Virginia, 1993
  • M.A., English, University of Virginia, 1987
  • B.A., English, College of William and Mary, 1985

Biography

Mike Branch, whose doctorate is from the University of Virginia (1993), is Professor of Literature and Environment and University Foundation Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he teaches American literature, creative nonfiction, environmental studies, humor studies, and film studies. He was co-founder of the UNR Graduate Program in Literature and Environment and co-founder and past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). He served for sixteen years as the Book Review editor of the peer-reviewed, Oxford University Press journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, during which time he edited more than 850 reviews. He is co-founder and series co-editor of the University of Virginia Press book series Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism, with 36 titles to date. He has published nine books and more than 200 articles, essays, and reviews, and has given more than 300 invited readings, lectures, and conference papers.

His creative nonfiction includes pieces that have received Honorable Mention for the Pushcart Prize (twice) and been recognized as Notable Essays in The Best American Essays (three times), The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading (a humor anthology). His creative work has appeared in numerous book-length collections, and in many magazines and journals, including Utne Reader, Orion, Slate, Outside, Ecotone, Pacific Standard, National Parks, High Country News, Reader's Digest, Places Journal, Whole Terrain, Red Rock Review, About Place, and Hawk and Handsaw. He is co-editor of The Height of Our Mountains: Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), Reading the Earth: New Directions in the Study of Literature and Environment (University of Idaho Press, 1998), and The ISLE Reader: Ecocriticism, 1993-2003 (University of Georgia Press, 2003). He is also the editor of Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden (University of Georgia Press, 2004) and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa (Island Press, 2001), which has been released as an audiobook. Mike's most recent scholarly book is ‘The Best Read Naturalist': Nature Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (co-editor with Clinton Mohs). This career-spanning collection of Emerson's natural history writing was published by the University of Virginia Press in February, 2017.

Mike's three recent books of place-based creative nonfiction comprise a trilogy concerned with high desert landscapes, humor, and family life. Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness, was published in August, 2016. June of 2017 saw the release of Rants from the Hill: On Packrats, Bobcats, Wildfires, Curmudgeons, a Drunken Mary Kay Lady, and Other Encounters with the Wild in the High Desert. The third, published in August, 2018, is How to Cuss in Western: And Other Missives from the High Desert. All three books are published by Shambhala/Roost Books and distributed by Penguin Random House.

Mike has received the Western Literature Association awards both for creative writing and for humor writing, and he was named Writer in Residence at the Long-Term Ecological Reflections Project at the Penn State Environmental Center. His book Raising Wild was a finalist for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment Creative Book Award, and the Mountain West Center Evans-Handcart Award. Rants from the Hill was a finalist for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment Creative Book Award, and it was named a notable book for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. ‘The Best Read Naturalist': Nature Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson was listed by the Chicago Review of Books as being among the Best Nature Writing of 2017, and was also nominated for the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize. In 2017 Mike received the Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, and he was the recipient of the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, an international writing prize which he received in support of his current book project, which is called Hunting for Jackalope.

At UNR, Mike has received the College of Liberal Arts Dean's Research Award, as well as teaching and advising awards including the Tibbitts Distinguished Teacher Award, the Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award, the Golden Key National Honor Society Distinguished Teacher Award, the Vada Trimble Outstanding Mentor Award (twice), and the Senior Scholar Mentor Award (three times). Named University Foundation Professor in 2018, he has also served appointments as the Fitzgerald Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at UNR, and the Thomson Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies at Davidson College in North Carolina. 

Mike lives with his wife Eryn and daughters Hannah Virginia and Caroline Emerson in the high desert of northern Nevada, in the ecotone where the Great Basin Desert and Sierra Nevada Mountains meet. There he writes, plays blues harmonica, drinks IPA and sour mash, curses at baseball on the radio, and walks more than 1,000 miles each year in the surrounding ridges, hills, canyons, arroyos, and playas. He is also a devoted environmental activist whose service initiatives include the Tahoe Forest Stewardship Program, which he co-founded in 1998 and which is still ongoing.