Rebecca Renner at Literary Hub:
“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.” This is the surprising first sentence of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the 1962 book that arguably sparked the modern environmental movement as we know it. Rachel Carson was a naturalist and science writer whose early work focused on oceanographic conservation. Her most famous book, however, details the harm wreaked on nature and humans by the rampant use of chemical pesticides. One of Silent Spring’s lasting legacies is the grassroots environmental campaign that it stirred up, leading to, among other achievements, the phasing out of DDT in the United States in 1972.
While most people have heard of Silent Spring, even if they don’t consider themselves readers or environmentalists, many fewer have actually read it. Though it was a Book-of-the-Month pick in 1962 and serialized in The New Yorker that same year, the popular furor for the book has since died down, and it is now largely relegated to textbooks or other educational contexts.
That is why its first sentence is so surprising: Silent Spring does not read like a textbook. It begins with a fable and is filled with lyricism and passion throughout.