Thomas McNamee was born in Memphis and grew up there and in New York
City. At Yale he was a Scholar of the House in Poetry under the tutelage of Robert Penn Warren. In his early career he produced the double LP Music to Eat by the Hampton Grease Band, said to be the lowest-selling album in Columbia Records history but now considered a classic. He then wrote the book and lyrics of a musical play, Sirens, under the guidance of Leonard Bernstein, but it never made it to the stage. His poems, essays, and book reviews have been published widely.
McNamee is the author of The Grizzly Bear; Nature First: Keeping Our Wild Places and Wild Creatures Wild; a novel, A Story of Deep Delight; The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone (said by Amazon to be among the dozen best nature books ever written); Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution; The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance; and The Killing of the Wolf Number Ten. He wrote the PBS documentary Alexander Calder, which won a Peabody Award and an Emmy. In 2016, in support of The Inner Life of Cats, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
He served as a board member and as chairman of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He has also served as a board member of Rare Conservation and the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. After two decades in New York, he lived on a cattle ranch in Montana for eight years. He now lives in San Francisco.
Praise for Thomas McNamee's Writing
"As vivid as a visit to the theater."
—New York Times Book Review
"An elegant yet vigorously colloquial prose style...passionate but unblinkered."
—Chicago Sun-Times Book Week
"Lyrical and at times profoundly poetic."
"A poet’s linguistic grace, a naturalist’s approach to living things, and a scientist’s eye for detail and method."
"McNamee’s surpassing ability is under-writing, letting the story carry the magical flow rather than inserting himself as the genius storyteller. You don’t realize how good he is until you are finished and realize what has happened to you."
"[A] straightforward and often sparely poetic voice...[a] stringent sense of fairness... a plain-spoken storyteller....a wry observer... deep-feeling and thoughtful... informed by ecology, politics, and basic human nature."
"Eloquently beautiful...spry, focused, and impressively researched...sensitive and carefully correct without being stodgy and technical...compassionate, readable and fascinating...profoundly literate."
—Memphis Commercial Appeal
"A Byronically fluent stylist."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"McNamee’s writing is economical and unforced, usually witty, and often insightful. He allows himself the occasional lyrical passage—given the setting, Yellowstone, what writer could resist 'beauty that our bones remember'?—but does not allow flashy technique to intrude on his narrative."
"McNamee is comfortable with ambiguity and compromise, invaluable traits that shape his fiction and nonfiction."