Diane Cook

Critically Acclaimed Novelist
Booker Prize Finalist
Travels from: New York, NY

“THE NEW WILDERNESS is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure.” – Emily St. John Mandel, NYT Bestselling author

Diane Cook is the author of the novel, The New Wilderness, and the story collection, Man V. Nature, which was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Harper’sTin HouseGranta, and other publications, and her stories have been included in the anthologies Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She is a former producer for the radio program This American Life, and was the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, daughter and son.

After studying and writing fiction in college, she pivoted to radio, attending the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine as a member of their first Radio cohort in 2000. She began her radio career as an intern, then producer at This American Life. After years as a nonfiction writer and producer, she felt hemmed in by all that truth-telling, and decided to return to fiction. She attended Columbia University for her MFA and published her first book, Man V. Nature, a few years later. She has taught writing and literature at Columbia University and at the University of Michigan’s New England Literature Program, in which students and teachers live and study together in a rustic camp, foregoing all technology and traditional classroom methods. It’s awesome. Students from any college or university are welcome to apply.

She has spent a lot of time in remote places, even though her belongings and life were always rooted in cities. The push-pull of civilization and wilderness has always been at the heart of her work. She spent a lot of time in the high desert of Oregon while writing The New Wilderness, nervously trekking on pathless BLM land, getting lost and almost stuck in springtime snowy mountain roads, sharing a parcel of land with a resident mountain lion, startling large herds of elk outside her door on moonless nights. And while she prefers to live remotely and quietly, she’s easily spooked by being alone in wild places, though she keeps returning to them. Whatever balm such places offer her has always been greater than the amorphous fear they also invite.

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The New Wilderness

Harper |
Novel

A Washington Post, NPR, and Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year • Shortlisted for the Booker Prize

“More than timely, the novel feels timeless, solid, like a forgotten classic recently resurfaced — a brutal, beguiling fairy tale about humanity. But at its core, The New Wilderness is really about motherhood, and about the world we make (or unmake) for our children.” — Washington Post

“5 of 5 stars. Gripping, fierce, terrifying examination of what people are capable of when they want to survive in both the best and worst ways. Loved this.”— Roxane Gay via Twitter

Margaret Atwood meets Miranda July in this wildly imaginative debut novel of a mother’s battle to save her daughter in a world ravaged by climate change; A prescient and suspenseful book from the author of the acclaimed story collection, Man V. Nature.

Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, consumed by the smog and pollution of the overdeveloped metropolis that most of the population now calls home. If they stay in the city, Agnes will die. There is only one alternative: the Wilderness State, the last swath of untouched, protected land, where people have always been forbidden. Until now.

Bea, Agnes, and eighteen others volunteer to live in the Wilderness State, guinea pigs in an experiment to see if humans can exist in nature without destroying it. Living as nomadic hunter-gatherers, they slowly and painfully learn to survive in an unpredictable, dangerous land, bickering and battling for power and control as they betray and save one another. But as Agnes embraces the wild freedom of this new existence, Bea realizes that saving her daughter’s life means losing her in a different way. The farther they get from civilization, the more their bond is tested in astonishing and heartbreaking ways.

At once a blazing lament of our contempt for nature and a deeply humane portrayal of motherhood and what it means to be human, The New Wilderness is an extraordinary novel from a one-of-a-kind literary force.

Man V. Nature

Harper Perrennial |
Short Story Collection

“Astonishing. . . . The stories are surreal, with the sharpest edge and in one way or another, each story reveals something raw and powerful about being human in a world where so little is in our control.” — Roxane Gay 

A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world.

Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In “Girl on Girl,” a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can’t have in “Meteorologist Dave Santana.” And in the title story, a long fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. In Diane Cook’s perilous worlds, the quotidian surface conceals an unexpected surreality that illuminates different facets of our curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.

Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against each other for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched by a man who stalks them from their suburban yards. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?

As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.

Nature Writing and the Novel: a Conversation

Short Stories verses the Novel: a Conversation

Dystopias and Apocalypses and Fiction: a Conversation

Motherhood in Fiction: a Conversation

The Environment in Fiction: a Conversation

Shelfie with Diane Cook

RJ Julia presents Diane Cook in conversation with Margot Livesey

At Home with Literati: Diane Cook & Karolina Waclawiak

Diane’s Recent Writing

Diane’s Upcoming Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Finalist for the Booker Prize
Indie Next Bestseller
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

Media Kit

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