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Robert Aquinas McNally is a nonfiction writer and poet who seeks out stories about the connection — sometimes mythic, sometimes scientific, and sometimes both — between the human and the wild.

Nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times for poems in literary journals and anthologies, McNally is the author of four chapbooks — Enter the Earth Sweetly (Small Poetry Press, 1992), Pilgrim to Ahjumawi: A Poem Cycle (Mustard Seed Press, 2002), Bloodlines (Pudding House, 2002), and Songs of the Two Names (Grayson Books, 2012), which won the Grayson Books Poetry Chapbook Award and was selected by former New Hampshire poet laureate Patricia Fargnoli. His full-length collection, Simply to Know Its Name (Grayson Books, 2015), was chosen by Connecticut poet laureate Dick Allen as the winner of the Grayson Books Poetry Prize.

Nonfiction: Science, Medicine, and History
McNally’s first book was Biology: An Uncommon Introduction (Canfield Press/Harper & Row, 1972), an integrated look at life science aimed at college students in non-major introductory biology. He followed this with So Remorseless a Havoc: Of Dolphins, Whales and Men (Little, Brown, 1981), which examined the connections between cetaceans and humankind in science, industry, and literature.

Next McNally teamed with Bonnie Bergin, founder of Canine Companions for Independence, to write Bonnie Bergin’s Guide to Bringing out the Best in Your Dog (Little, Brown, 1981; Understanding Dog Mind in paperback). This book offers readers insight into how the canine mind works and how it affects the animal-human relationship.

Later McNally worked with psychiatrist Roger Granet, MD, to write two books on emotional aspects of disease: If You Think You Have Panic Disorder (Dell, 1998) and Surviving Cancer Emotionally: A Guide to Understanding and Healing (John Wiley & Sons, 2001). This work led to a role as a writer for the American Medical Association on the AMA Complete Medical Encyclopedia (Random House, 2003).

Using his background as a natural science writer, McNally collaborated with geologist Robert M. Schoch, PhD, on three books that focus scientific reasoning on questions in ancient history: Voices of the Rocks (Harmony Books/Crown, 1999; also published in the UK, Japan, Italy, and Spain), Voyages of the Pyramid Builders (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2003; also published in Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Poland, and Bulgaria), and Pyramid Quest (Tarcher, 2005; also published in Russia).

McNally has written essays, features, and news about the wild, particularly in the American West, for periodicals that range from the literary (Flyway and Snowy Egret) to the local (Pacific Sun and California Wild) and national (Oceans, Sierra, and Indian Country).

The Modoc War: A Story of Genocide at the Dawn of America's Gilded Age (Bison Books/Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2017) illuminates a dark corner of the American psyche. The conflict, which took place in 1872–73 and was California’s only full-blown Indian war, climaxed a decades-long campaign of extermination and removal that symbolizes all too much of European America's treatment of Native America. The book was a general-nonfiction finalist in the Northern California Book Awards, and it won a gold medal and a $5,000 prize from the Commonwealth Club of California as the year's best book on California.


Cast out of Eden: The Untold Story of John Muir, Indigenous Peoples, and the American Wilderness (Bison Books/Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2024) offers a new perspective on the nature mystic lauded as the father of the national parks. Muir's vision came at a price: the dispossession of the tribal peoples whose homelands the national parks once were. McNally explores this long-neglected part of Muir's story, his take on the tribal nations he encountered, and his embrace of an Indigenous-free wilderness ethos that forced tribes from homes and ranges. Fortunately, this longstanding injustice is beginning to be undone, as tribal nations and the federal government work together to ensure that public lands from Bears Ears to Yosemite serve all Americans equally.