Larry's Reading Log

Reading, exploring, and learning are part of life. While I was growing up, books and reading were a way to reach out and experience things different from my rural Illinois home, to escape some of the restrictions and tedium of farm life. I carried library books from school, mom had mailed shipments coming from the State Library throughout the summers, and I also latched onto most every book that my two older brothers brought home. I remember lots of sports stories (mainly basketball), books about cars and racing, and juvenile biographies, such as the life of Kit Carson, General Patton, Abraham Lincoln, etc. Many of the authors, Jim Kjelgaard for example, are not as popular with today's young readers.

Junior high and high school years saw me reading through much of our school's small library collection as I discovered authors and genres of interest. I often read in waves - - grabbing onto everything related to a topic or location such as a seafaring phase that included Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick, Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, Nordoff's and Hall's "Bounty Trilogy", and Forester's Hornblower series. Then it was off to anything I could find written by Verne, London, Steinbeck (Cannery Row and East of Eden are my favorites), Faulkner, Cather, Hemingway, Dickens, and many other classic authors. By my sophomore year, I waded through unabridged translations of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers by Dumas, and then Tolstoy's War and Peace. Someday I should reread those to see if I discover whole new understandings. During my college years, I continued recreational reading with authors like Kerouac, Kesey, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Rand, and many others.

Judging by this log, it looks like I still read in waves today.

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Featured Review & Recent Reads

Featured Review
Ellison, George (2008). High Vistas: An Anthology of Nature Writing from Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains, Volume 1, 1674 - 1900. The Natural History Press. ISBN 978-1-59629-355-7.
This regional essay collection focuses on a mountainous area of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina; the Great Smoky Mountains, parts of the southern section of the Appalachian chain. The anthology contains selected historical travel perspectives written before the twentieth century; twenty-one writers provide glimpses of the plant and birdlife, encounters with animals, explorations of a cavern, scaling cliffs and mountain peaks, traversing rivers and forests, and more - - descriptions of wilderness explorations and adventures of a bygone time. Each author is introduced with a brief biography adding greatly to the reader’s understandings.

Having hiked on trails on Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Mitchell, climbed the tower on Clingman’s Dome, biked and driven around Cades Cove several times, visited some of the spectacular waterfalls in the area, walked on parts of the Appalachian Trail, and traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway, I can understand the allure of this beautiful region which remains one of the most popular travel and recreation destinations in our country today. Giving a unique view of what it was like in previous centuries, this volume provides insights into this region at times when European immigrants were first exploring and moving into the area. The air was cleaner, and the land was more open and wild.

This text of excerpts chosen from primary sources provides a nice introduction to nature writing in this region.

Childs, Craig (2002). Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land. Sasquatch Books. ISBN 9781570613067.
In this memoir, naturalist Craig Childs describes a series of hiking trips into remote canyon and desert landscapes of the Southwest U.S. and on into Mexico searching for evidence of ancient puebloan peoples. Childs writes about American landscape and nature, particularly the fierce and forbidding arid terrains, and conveys a vivid sense of their essence. Read an article and listen to an NPR interview at Soul of Nowhere. Also read Author says We’ll ’Match the Scenery’ whether We Like It or Not from High Country News.

Davies, Pete (2003). American Road: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age. Owl Books. ISBN 0805072977.
This is a road story telling the history of a 1919 military caravan that made a historic cross-country journey. Eighty-one vehicles set out to follow the not-fully completed Lincoln Highway; in some locations the highway was little more than a dirt road. This military endeavor was also a promotion to gain local support and funding for completion of the highway. The cast of characters included a young Dwight Eisenhower, the future military commander in WWII and later U.S. president. Not for everyone - - but this book intrigued me with it's descriptions of travel via dusty or muddy traces and numerous mishaps and breakdowns. Ironic that the journey captured the nation's interest and spurred road building across America, but the Lincoln Highway was never fully completed.

Fraser, George C. and Swanson, Frederick H. (Ed.) (2005). Journeys In The Canyon Lands Of Utah And Arizona, 1914-1916. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0816524408.
George Corning Fraser lived in a different era - - the early 1900s when automobile travel was difficult in the West and not yet evident in much of SW Utah or NW Arizona. Fraser, an easterner, was a Wall Street lawyer who for several years vacationed and explored, mainly on horseback or on foot, much of the Colorado Plateau. Fortunately for a few years, Fraser kept detailed journals of his western travels. An amateur geologist, Fraser relied on back country outfitter Dave Rust to guide his journeys to explore Zion Canyon, the Toroweap, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, the Henry Mountains, and much of the Aquarius, Kolob, and Kaibab Plateaus. Fred Swanson relied mainly on selected sections Fraser's journal entries to provide insights into the remarkable man and his historic travels.

2008 Favorites

Brokaw, Tom (2007). Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today. Random House. ISBN 1400064570.
Tom Brokaw's anecdotal commentary is smoothly combined with excerpts from interviews of various politicians, musicians, and persons active in the counterculture movements of the Sixties and early Seventies. This is another worthwhile read for anyone trying to understand the impact and connections today to events that occurred over forty years ago; i.e., assassinations, the1968 democratic convention, the civil rights movement, urban riots, and antiwar demonstrations. Read an excerpt of the book at Tom Brokaw Explores the Turbulent ’60s at MSNBC.

Hart, Elva Treviño (1999). Barefoot Heart, Stories of a Migrant Child. Bilingual Press / Editorial Bilingure. ISBN 0-927534-81-9.
This is an autobiography of the Elva Treviño Hart's growing up in a migrant farm worker family, spending winter months in south Texas and summers working in Minnesota. The author's father dreamed of all six of his children completing high school. This memoir begins with her childhood struggles and strong family relationships. The youngest child of the family, Elva Hart goes on to complete a bachelor's degree in theoretical mathematics and later a master's degree in computer science/engineering from Stanford University. Her vivid personal story explains how she was able to overcome disadvantages and eventually leave the migrant world to develop her own talents. Read a brief excerpt: A Wriggly Secret from Stanford Magazine (May/June 2001).

Lanner, Ronald M. (2007). The Bristlecone Book: A Natural History of the World's Oldest Trees. Mountain Press Publishing Company.SBN 978-087842538-9.
On a windswept lip of a mountain just a few miles from our Teasdale, UT property, we have discovered an isolated area with a few gnarled, twisted and beautiful bristlecone pines. Reading this book made me aware that they are thousands-years-old Great Basin bristlecone pines, the oldest living trees and oldest living organisms on earth. Some specimens live over 4,000 years. Their needles can live for forty years. We recognized that the bristlecone area that we found was a 'special place' to be protected and treasured. The author, a retired research forester and biology professor, provided many fascinating facts about bristlecones and explained how these majestic trees live to such a long age, We will return to our off-the-beaten-path bristlecone area time and again and only share the exact place with a few close and trusted friends. Learn much more at the author's website: Ronald Lanner's Tree World. In his book, he shares many 'public' locations for viewing bristelcones. Also visit the PBS NOVA website: Mehtuselah Tree.

Uchida, Yoshiko (1971). Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese American Evacuation. ISBN 0684124971.
In 1941, eleven-year-old Yuki Sakane and her Japanese American family lived in Berkely, CA. On December 7, their world was changed forever when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Evening of the same day, Mr. Sakane along with thousands of other Japanese males, was arrested by the FBI. By the following May, Yuki and the rest of her family were evacuated to the Tanforan Camp and housed in the horse stables. Eventually they were moved again to the Great Basin deserts of Utah, the camp at Topaz. This young adult novel is a story about coping in times of great stress; a national tragedy when Japanese-Americans were rounded up and forced to moved to isolated internment camps.

Wright, Ken (2003). Why I'm Against It All: Rants and Reflections. Raven's Eye Press, Inc. ISBN 0970004427.
This collection of essays by Ken Wright focus on the politics, culture, and life of the Rocky Mountain West. Wright, a former editor of Inside/Outside magazine, provides commentary on the natural environment and the need for protection of public and rural lands. His entertaining personal stories convey a strong sense of reverence for nature, what he has called 'the West's open spaces, wild places." Read a more recent article: Joining The RV Nation at the New West Network.

2007 Favorites

Babb, Sanora (2004). Whose Names are Unknown. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3712-6.
Ironically this book was almost unknown. In 1939 editor Bennett Cerf was finalizing publication plans for it, when John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath captured national interest. Cerf mistakenly judged that Steinbeck's novel had covered the subject and shelved the manuscript. Unknown for 30 years except for an underground network of scholars, Sanora Babb's work now provides a welcome companion to Steinbeck's classic epic. In certain aspects, Babb's novel is more realistic and insightful. Having worked as a journalist for a few years during the Depression in the Farm Security Administration (FCA) at government migrant camps in California, Babb's writing shows a deeper understanding of the displaced people's lives. She also provides a female viewpoint of that turbulent and challenging era. Steinbeck devoted much of his book to the male view and details of the road trip to California. Similar to Steinbeck, Babb setup her novel's basis with the story of the Dunne family's dust bowl farm experience in the Oklahoma panhandle. When the Dunne's are finally forced to leave, she quickly moves them to California, fieldwork, and their mistreatment as migrant workers. Like Steinbeck, she sympathetically focuses on experiences that led to changed perceptions and lives. She moves the Dunnes from emotions of confusion and despair to glimmers of hope. Babb's masterpiece is a wonderful and equal companion and deserves to be placed alongside The Grapes of Wrath.

Card, Orson Scott (2006). Empire. Tor Book. ISBN 978-0765316110.
Orson Scott Card is a favorite and phenomenal author, whose writings are numerous and varied. Here again, the popular author bridges from his former zones of science fiction and fantasy writing to create an edge-of-your-seat novel about a near-future American civil war - - a war driven by the political extremes of left and right. This is a tale that lingers in your thought long after you have finished and closed it's cover, because it's fictional war carries warnings based in today's strongly polarized political climate. Read a recent interview with Orson Scott Card at Wired Magazine: Orson Scott Card Builds an Empire. Do yourself a literary favor; pick up a book by Orson Scott Card.

Dallas, Sandra (2007). Tallgrass. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-36019-3.
This 'coming of age' novel is set in southeast Colorado during the 1940's war years; in a community that is the site of a Japanese internment camp. Rennie Stroud, a thirteen year old farm girl, lives next to the camp. From her perspective, small-town events unfold that are layered with uncertainty and fear, bullying and brutality, violence and murder - - situations often coupled with prejudice and mistrust. The author does a good job of creating a realistic small town atmosphere and complexities of human strengths and weaknesses. Might have to check out some of the her other novels? A reading guide can be found at Tallgrass.

Egan, Ferol (1997). Frémont: Explorer for a Restless Nation. Doubleday & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-385-01775-8.
Understanding the history of the West involves knowing about explorations that followed the Lewis & Clark trek and the subsequent journeys of mountain men. After leading two expeditions into the West in 1843 to 1844, John C. Frémont became a national hero. His travels led to published reports of the successful journeys into relatively unknown regions; surveying, mapping, and describing the Rockies, the Great Basin, the route to Oregon, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ferol Egan's biography provides an unvarnished view of Frémont, his courtship and marriage to Jesse Benton, his relationship with political powerhouse and father-in-law, Thomas Hart Benton, all of his five expeditions, and his rise and fall from public acclaim. Read excerpts from online reviews at Frémont . . . from University of Nevada Press.

Egan, Timothy (2005). The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-6183-4697-X.
This is another book about the Great Depression years and the dust bowl experience. Author Timothy Egan focuses most on the worst hit regions (portions of 5 states: the Texas panhandle, western Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, E Colorado, and NE New Mexico). These rural areas of the Great Plains experienced repeated years of drought and dust storms. The author explains the human and environmental factors that led up to years of natural disaster and economic collapse. Through heart-breaking stories of the people who stuck it out and held their ground, Egan presents unique and needed views of history in the dust bowl era. This book won the 2006 National Book Award in nonfiction. Listen to the author read an excerpt of the book at NPR: Dust Bowl Stories from 'The Worst Hard Time'. Read an online interview of Timothy Eagan from Smithsonian: Meet the Author: Timothy Egan.

Frazier, Ian (1989). Great Plains. Picador. ISBN 0-312-27850-0.
The author takes readers on a meandering journey; combining interesting stories of his travels to and fro across the plains with chunks of current and past history, bits of folklore and myth, and descriptions of the geography, landscapes, and people of America's grasslands. The narrative drifts you along thousands of miles to visit remote towns, historic sites, and provide unique insights of the regions separating the Rocky Mountains and eastward farmlands. Find an online interview of the author at The Believer: Ian Frazier. Several articles written by Frazier can be read at Outside Online: The Outside Literary All-Stars - Ian Frazier.

Friederici, Peter (Ed.) (2005). Earth Notes: Exploring the Southwest's Canyon Country from the Airwaves. Grand Canyon Association and KNAU. ISBN 0-938216-84-8
This small-sized book contains a collection of program scripts for a radio program called Earth Notes. Produced by KNAU/Arizona Public Radio and broadcast on a number of stations in the Four Corners region, these weekly two-minute programs focus on the landscape, nature, and people of the Colorado Plateau. These are stories of the intricate relationships between environmental issues and inhabitant's daily lives. The drawings of Diane Iverson provide great illustrations for the short essays.

Friedman, Thomas L. (2005). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374292884.
New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman gives a vision of the World's future primarily through observations of global trends currently taking place; i.e., affordable and ubiquitous telecommunications, global entrepreneurs, continuing move of production to China, etc. In his observations and understandings of computer technology, I found Friedman to be relatively naive; however, his journalistic style and abilities created a best-seller. Learn more about Thomas Friedman at Tom Friedman's Journal from Online NewsHour and Wake Up and Face the Flat Earth, an interview at YaleGlobal.

Halberstadt, Alex (2007). Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomas. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81300-9.
"Lonely Avenue" is the biography of New York City, Brooklyn born singer then songwriter, Jerome Felder, known by his professional or stage name as Doc Promos. As a young boy in Brooklyn, Jerome contracted polio and was left partially paralyzed and forever on crutches or in a wheel chair. An early interest in music led to his brief career as a singer. Following that scant success singing blues and jazz, over the next four decades Doc Pomas together with a number of partners crafted more than a thousand songs. Mostly rhythm-and-blues and rock 'n' roll tunes, some became top hits for artists such as Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Fabian, the Drifters, Dion and the Belmonts, and Elvis Presley. Read online reviews of this book at This Magic Moment by Alan Light (Mar. 25, 2007, New York Times) and Viva Doc Pomus! (Feb. 200) by M.E. Ross at PopMatters.

MacKenzie, A.A. (2002). The Harvest Train: When Maritimers Worked in the Canadian West 1890-1928. Breton Books. ISBN 0-306-81300-9.
Between 1890 and 1930, harvest excursions were a major autumn event on the Canadian prairies. The Canadian Pacific Railway offered cheap train fares for easterners, $15 to Winnipeg, to work the harvest. Men largely from the Maritime provinces would be met by agents in Winnipeg and taken to specific locations across western Canada. The workers were essential to bring in the millions of acres of wheat that gave Canada its reputation as "the breadbasket of the world." Two things brought the excursions to an end; (1) the Depression when the wheat market collapsed and (2) the development of efficient combine harvesters that reduced the need for a massive labor force. Mackenzie provides an unvarnished look at these yearly treks from the perspective of harvesters.

McCarthy, Cormac (2006). The Road. Vintage International. ISBN 978-0-307-38789-9
This post-Armageddon survival story contrasts fear and trust, hope and despair, goodness and bad, love and grief, and death and survival. A father and his young son must keep on the move, always heading south through a fire-swept landscape, stopping only to regain strength. They follow a winding road, encounter thugs and cannibalistic bands, and scavenge for shelter, food, and water. It's a bleak and sometimes brutal tale set in a barren, ash covered landscape. It's a heart-wrenching and uplifting read that has been awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It will make a great science fiction movie. You can read online reviews by M. Jones at On the Last Highway from Newsweek and R. Charles' Apocalypse Now at The Washington Post.

Millard, Candice (2005). A River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. Doubleday. ISBN 0385507968.
Recently defeated in his 1912 'Bull Moose' run for re-election, former President Theodore Roosevelt was looking for an adventurous diversion. Unfortunately he relied on Father Zahm of Notre Dame to plan and provision a scientific expedition to the Amazon regions. Candace Millard tells the story of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition (1913-14) led jointly by Theodore Roosevelt and Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon to explore the 1,000-mile 'River of Doubt' (Later renamed Rio Roosevelt) in a remote segment of the Brazilian Amazon basin. Ill-planned and not properly supplied, the trip was unexpectedly difficult; the travelers experienced calamity after calamity. They lost canoes, provisions, and one man's life in attempts to run whitewater rapids and then were forced to make long portages around other dangerous river stretches. This involved hacking roads through the equally treacherous jungle teeming with wild animals, reptiles and natives armed with poison-tipped arrows. Near the end, the party was worn down, even their slow advance was an ordeal. The explorers were emaciated and weakened by malarial fever. One night the naturalist and Amazonian expert, George Cherrie on looking at the sweat-soaked Roosevelt confided in his diary that the President would probably not survive till morning. Learn more about the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition at Wikipedia.

Poole, Robert M. (2004). Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made. Penguin Group. ISBN 9781594200328.
In 2001, Robert M. Poole retired as executive editor of National Geographic after a twenty-one-year career. It's fitting that Poole authored this detailed and critical history of the National Geographic Society and its founding family. In 1888 inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell and blue-blood Bostonian, Gardiner Hubbard, co-founded the National Geographic Society. By Fall of he same year, they launched the first issue of the National Geographic magazine with articles on volcanism and botany. The Society organization grew, but the magazine stalled until Gilbert H. Grosvenor, a young schoolteacher, signed on as editor. The Grosvenor family and the magazine have been linked ever since.

Rusho, W.L. (Ed.)(2002). Everett Ruess, A Vagabond for Beauty & Wilderness Journals. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 1-58685-164-0.
Through this combined volume of letters and personal journal entries, the last few years of Everett Ruess's life is partially revealed. Ruess was a dreamer who reveled in nature, travel, and being outdoors. He was also an artist, writer and adventurer who spent much of his latter teenage years exploring the Sierra Nevada region of California and the desert wilderness of the Southwest. He often traveled alone. In November 1934, the twenty year-old Ruess left Escalante, UT and disappeared into the desert canyon lands to the south leaving behind a campsite, his two burros, and part of his camping gear. He was never seen again. His life echoed his words, "When I go, I leave no trace."

Stegner, Wallace (1990). Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner. Random House. ISBN 0-394-58409-0.
Often called the 'Dean of Western American Writers', Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) writings often parallels his own life experiences and family history. This expansive collection of stories was written over a span of fifty years. They encompass a variety of settings ranging from harsh ranch life in Saskatchewan to Salt Lake City, Vermont, Egypt and the Philippines. These Stegner stories focus on people's strength and frailties as they deal with life's trials. I strongly recommend reading any of Stegner's work.

Topping, Gary (2003). Utah Historians and the Reconstruction of Western History. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3561-1.
History professor, Gary Topping examines the work of the most prominent historians of Utah in the past century: (1) Bernard DeVoto, (2) Dale Morgan, (3) Juanita Brooks, (4) Wallace Stegner, and (5) Fawn McKay Brodie. A few decades ago this would not have been a book that I would have sought to read, but today it held my attention and expanded my understandings of Western history. I am likely interested because I have read several titles by these authors. The unique stories of Utah history also intrigue me. This well-researched volume looks at each subject's life and their writings and does not gloss over any limitations and failings. The historiography combines historical, biographical, and cultural analysis to provide a grounded appraisal that combines criticism and admiration.

Turner, Frederick (2004). Of Chiles, Cacti, and Fighting Cocks: Notes on the American West. Fulcrum Publishing. ISBN 1-55591-486-1.
With attention to unusual details, interesting facts, and witty insights, Frederick Turner takes readers along on an eye-opening journey through the American West. HIs book of travel essays combines personal experiences with historical details and sweeps through rugged landscapes and unique communities scattered west of the 100th meridian to the Great Basin region. The book investigates diverse topics including saguaro cactus, chili con carne, wild horse herds, Billy the Kid, Basque sheepherders, a Czech community in New Mexico, Crazy Horse, Georgia O'Keeffe, buffalo, Will James, and much, much more. This is recommended reading for separating some of the myth and legend from a true understanding of the West.

Steinbeck, John (1954/1996). Sweet Thursday. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-018750-2.
During high school, I read everything that I could get my hands on by Nobel Prize winning author, John Steinbeck. Somehow I missed this one (It was a rural area, no local public library, and limited school library). I didn't even know there was a sequel to Cannery Row (1954) (I moved on to other authors). Cannery Row was hilarious back in the Sixties, and now I discover that this sequel picks up the outrageous characters after WWII. It was more the basis for the movie, Cannery Row starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, than the preceding novel. I enjoyed this even though I usually heard the actors voices in my head as I read. It's another Steinbeck classic and a new favorite. Now I'm ready to re-visit Cannery Row, East of Eden, and The Grapes of Wrath. A reading guide for this book can be found at Sweet Thursday.

Watkins, T.H. (2000). The Redrock Chronicles: Saving Wild Utah. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6238-8.
In this last book written by T.H. Watkins, the environmental writer and historian provides an overview of the physical and cultural geography of southern Utah, reminding readers of the region's unique geology. This sets up the basis for arguing why this beautiful and fragile region needs to be strongly protected. Watkins, selected as the first Wallace Stegner Distinguished Professor of Western American Studies at Montana State University-Bozeman, details the history of the battles for Utah wilderness in this beautiful book with an important message. Read an online article by Watkins: One Man's Recreation Is Another's Desecration (Spring 1999), Wilderness Watcher.

2006 Favorites

Bayles, David (2005). Notes on a Shared Landscape: Making Sense of the American West. Image Continuum Press. ISBN 0-9614547-1.
Author, photographer / artist (studied with Ansel Adams & Brett Weston), former logger, and native Westerner, David Bayles provides an elegant autobiographical examination of the West. In a series of personal essays accompanied by his unique photographs, the author questions our views and our care and treatment of the lands. Within the essays, he distinguishes his literal view of the West from peoples' mythic views.

Eggers, Dave (2006). What Is the What. McSweeney's. ISBN 1-9324-1664-1
Eggers has written a novel that draws upon the autobiography of a real person, a Sudanese man named Valentino Achak Deng. His story begins in a southern Sudan village around 1987, where Deng was the son of a storekeeper from the Dinka tribe. Six or seven-year-old Deng's small, safe world was shattered when government helicopters attacked, soldiers killed 30 villagers, and he was separated from his family. Frightened, starving, and under attack from raiders and animals, Deng joined with thousands of other "lost boys of Sudan" to first walk to Ethiopia and later to a refugee camp in Kenya. You can listen to a radio interview of Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng from WNYC (New York Public Radio): How a Refugee Sees Sudan.

Fleming, Karl (2005). Son of the Rough South: An Uncivil Memoir. Public Affairs. ISBN 1-58648-296-3.
The author was born in Newport News, VA but from age eight to seventeen, he lived at a rather stark church orphanage. Following a few years in the Navy and then a brief stint at Appalachian State Teachers College, Fleming dropped out to begin a career in journalism as a court and police reporter in Wilson, NC. He moved on to the Atlanta Constitution and joined Newsweek in 1960 as a correspondent. For the next five years, Fleming was in the thick of civil rights events covering James Meredith's enrollment at Ole Miss, Bull Connor and the marches and church bombing in Birmingham, Gov. George Wallace's school door stand in Tuscaloosa, AL, and the murders of three volunteer voters' rights workers in Philadelphia, MS. Listen to an interview of the author by Tavis Smiley, then at PBS (Karl Fleming, July 13, 2005). In 1965 Fleming became the LA Bureau chief. While covering the 1966 Watts riot, he was severely beaten. This memoir gives his unique perspectives to a turbulent era. Learn more at the NPR Fresh Air program: Civil Rights Reporter Karl Fleming: 'Son of the Rough South'.

Franke, Mary Ann (2005). To Save the Wild Basin: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone. Image University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3683-9.
Lamenting the fact that wild bison do not garner the attention and support held for wild species such as elk or even wolves, Mary Ann Frank traces the history of the Yellowstone National Park herd, the only wild bison descended from pre-European immigration days. Bison are revered by Indians and viewed by many life scientists as a restorer of biodiversity. However they have also been persecuted as harborers of disease, and today still face an uncertain future - - teetering between life in the wild and confinement to domesticated herds.

Hasselstrom, Linda (1991). Land Circle: Writings Collected from the Land. Fulcrum Publishing. ISBN 1-55591-082-3.
The author connects Indian culture (circle of life), nature (the land), and her unique life experiences in essays, memoirs, and poetry. More information can be found at Land Circle Lessons.

Hasselstrom, Linda, Collier, Gaydell and Nancy Curtis (Eds., 2001). Woven on the Wind: Women Write About Friendship in the Sagebrush West. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-97708-8.
The second book of two edited collections, this volume gathers memoirs and poetry written by western women. The many writers describe life and relationships in small town and rural life. More information at A Readers Guide.

Hillerman, Tony (2002). The Wailing Wind. Harper-Collins Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-06-019444-8.
This book was in my to-be-read stack for months until travel to the Southwest and the right frame of mind, made for a quick 'escape' read. Another of the Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn Navajo mystery series, Tony Hillerman provides enough extension to the story-base to hold my interest. It may help that I (we) often travel near and through the geographical setting of his stories. Read an online review from At Wanderer's Well.

Höglund, Don (2006). Nobody's Horses: The Dramatic Rescue of the Wild Herd of White Sands. Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-9088-7.
Veterinarian Don Höglund provides an autobiographical account of the roundup and removal to safety of ailing and threatened herds of wild horses that once lived on the White Sands Missile Range, NM. The author directed the difficult rescue project, working with a team of cowboys, ranch hands, and soldiers. Learn more from an online review provided by The Sparks Tribune, NV.

Hossein, Khaled (2003). Kite Runner. Riverhead Books. ISBN 1-59448-000-1.
The Afghan-born physician and author has crafted a wonderful poignant story; his first novel about theft, honor, loyalty, betrayal and redemption. The book follows the lives of Amir and Hassan, two Afghanis who are childhood friends in pre-Russian occupation days. The story weaves through turbulent years filled with fear, struggle, brutality, and deception and takes the reader through the fall of Taliban rule. Hassan stays in the war-torn country while Amir escapes to the United States . . . but then is summoned back. Their two lives are forever bound in a variety of ways. A great read; highly recommended! Learn more at NPR's Fresh Air broadcast: An Afghan Story: Khaled Hosseini and 'Kite Runner' (Aug. 11, 2005).

Jance, J.A. (2006). Dead Wrong. William Morrow / Harper-Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-8061-3683-9.
Set in the deserts of southeastern Arizona's Cochise County, this is the 12th title in the Joanna Brady series. Jance intertwines alcoholism, brutality, illegal immigrants, dysfunctional family relationships, and Sherrif Brady's juggling of family, pregnancy, and career within another suspenseful mystery thriller.

Loeffler, Jack (2002). Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abby. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-2388.
Loefller delivers a biography / memoir of environmental anarchist Edward Abbey's life. The author and Abbey were drinking buddies, camping mates, and hiking partners for over 20 years. An ethnomusicologist and radio producer, Loeffler provides intimate details of his famous best-friend's life and does not gloss over Abbey's faults or complexities. In Abbey's words, "follow the truth no matter where it leads" - - this is a must-read for Abbey fans.

Lincoln, Kenneth and Al Logan Slagle (1997). The Good Red Road. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-7974-4.
In 1975, Lincoln and four of his students take a summer road trip from Los Angeles through Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, to the Dakotas - - home of his youth. They search for understanding and meaning in contemporary Indian life; identifying the continuing struggles and tensions between Indians and whites. The book is also a journal of self-discovery for Kenneth Logan and his students; one of them Al Logan Slagle, a Cherokee.

McLean, Stuart (2005). Home from the Vinyl Cafe: A Year of Stories. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-7000-2.
These are stories from fictional character Dave, proud owner of the Vinyl Cafe - - the World's smallest record store whose motto is "We May Not be big, but we're small". These humorous stories are often centered on Dave and his bungles, but also feature his wife (Morley) and the kids (Stephanie and Sam) as well as the cat and some of the neighbors. Note: Some of these stories were previously published in Stories from the Viny Cafe (1995) and Home from the Vinyl Cafe (1998).

McLean, Stuart (2003). Vinyl Cafe Diaries. Penguin Canada. ISBN 0-14-301480-3.
Summer of 2004 while visiting and living on Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, CA, I became a fan of CBC Radio and especially a program called The Vinyl Cafe. This year's Christmas stocking contained a couple of Stuart McLean's books (Thanks Mom-in-law and Annette); tales taken from his hilarious radio broadcasts where often Dave gets himself deeper and deeper into often predictable but still hilarious situations. Because I have listened to several Vinyl Cafe broadcasts, as I read the stories I hear McLean's voice and his uncanny timing and delivery. McLean's books are a fast read . . .

Meloy, Ellen (2006). Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild. Vintage. ISBN 1-400-03177-X
Ellen Meloy monitored a band of desert bighorn sheep that she called the 'Blue Door Band' for a year. Her acclaimed book, the last she wrote before her unexpected death of a heart attack, is more than a tale of the endangered species. Rather it is a revealing story of the connections between animals, humans, and their sometimes fragile environments. Learn more at the Ellen Meloy Fund website.

Nerburn, Kent (2005). Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-051301-2.
Author, sculptor, theologian, and educator, Kent Nerburn's biography begins with Lewis and Clark's encounter with the Nez Perce tribes and then details the experiences of Chief Joseph. This biography follows current historical thought that Joseph was not a war leader, but rather tried to serve as a protector of his people. A great historical read while spending the summer in western Montana, this book details events of the Nez Perce's brief 1877 resistance, their long, torturous journey from Wallowa Valley, OR to almost reach Canada, and covers their tragic experiences following surrender. Read more at Ed Voves's online review from the California Literary Review.

Nerburn, Kent (1994). Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads With an Indian Elder. New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-233-3.
An elderly Lakota known as Dan provides Kent Nerburn with a window of understanding to contemporary Indian life and culture. The author accompanies Dan, his dog 'Fatback', and Dan's friend on a learning journey that exposes rage, confusion, anguish, and sometimes truth. Strongly recommended reading . . . for more information, visit Neither Wolf Nor Dog (Review) from Spirituality Practice.

Obama, Barack (1994). The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-307-23769-9.
Barack Obama; junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, grabbed national attention with his address at the July 2004 Democratic Convention. Today's he's often mentioned as a contender for the 2008 Presidential nomination. His book provides his visions for a different political climate and tackling the problems facing our nation and the World.

Petersen, David (2005). On the Wild Edge: In Search of a Natural Life. Owl Books, Henry Holt and Company LLC. ISBN 0-8050-8003-1
In the 1980s, David Petersen and his wife Caroline fled California and ended up in their hand-built cabin in the mountains above Durango, Colorado. In explaining his passion for their simple life with minimal possessions and a deep caring for nature, the author writes about self-reliance, the ethical hunting of wild game, responsible stewardship, and threats to their lifestyle. A definite recommendation for anyone considering becoming an "edge-dweller."

Proulx, Annie (1999/2003). Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Scribner. ISBN 0-684-85222-5.
This is another outstanding collection of short-stories. Written as only this award-winning writer can, here you find tales filled with unexpected turns and twists. Learn more about the author in an interview article from The Missouri Review: Interview with Annie Proulx (1999) . Oh by the way, the last tale in the book was such an unusual, beautiful, and remarkable love story that I talked about it immediately - - little did I know that it was already well into being a movie production. Recently released, it's one of the best movies of the year.

Proulx, Annie (1993). The Shipping News. Scribner. ISBN 0-671-51005-3.
Fast becoming an Annie Proulx fan, I thought it was time to read the novel that won her a Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award. It was also made into a movie: The Shipping News (2001). I quickly found that this story is set mainly in Newfoundland (not the West or Wyoming), but have since learned that the author lives in both locations. Its a rich story filled like most of her writings with elegant words and metaphors, a surreal atmosphere, and unusual, often dryly humorous characters.

Ray, Janisse (1999). Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. Milkweed Editions. ISBN 1-57131-247-1.
Janisse Ray has authored an award-winning ecology memoir (American Book Award and Southeastern Booksellers Association Book Award for Nonfiction) of her growing up in a bleak junkyard along US Highway 1 in southeastern Georgia. Her unique childhood evolved into an adult passion to save the vanishing longleaf pine ecosystem. Learn more at a book review: Candle Pine: A Review of Janisse Ray (1999) Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by James Brody.

Shields, Charles J. (2006). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-7919-X.
The author has written an intriguing biography of Harper Lee, who penned the 20th century's most widely-read and acclaimed American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Shields explains why Harper Lee never published another novel, provides insights into her reclusive life, and credits her major role in the research and writing for Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Read an Interview with Charles Shields from the Southern Literary Review.

Sutter, Paul S. (2002). Driven Wild: How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-98219-5.
This book details the historical wilderness movement and it's political implications during the interwar period (Between WWI and WWII), the time when the Wilderness Society emerged to counter the rapid development of roads and the commercialization of outdoor recreation.The author provides four brief biographies of the most important founders of the Wilderness Society: Aldo Leopold, Robert Sterling Yard, Benton MacKaye, and Bob Marshall. Read more at The Electronic Green Journal; Review: Driven Wild.

Ward, Chip (2004). Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land. Island Press. ISBN 1-55963-977-6.
The author is the assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System and a
political activist. This book effectively argues that people must end using and sacrificing the environment for constructing, developing, and sustaining our our way of life. Ward speaks of the greater need to balance our civilization with our planet's ecosystems. Also read his article: Left Behind: Bush's Holy War on Nature at The Nation (Sept. 16, 2005).

Zinn, Howard (2001/2005). A People's History of the United States: 1492 - Present. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. ISBN 13:978-0-06-083865-2.
Historian, activist, playwright, thinker; Howard Zinn provides a radical retelling of American history (first published in 1980). This is needed to balance the bland fare found in most history books. Zinn provides a more honest view of our nation's history; history told from the perspective of the common people - - America's women, workers, African Americans, Indians, immigrant laborers, and soldiers. The People's History should be required reading. Learn more at a Conversation with Howard Zinn (Interview, April 2001).

2005 Favorites

Barr, Nevada (2005). Hard Truth. G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-15241-5.
This latest installment of the Anna Pigeon national park mystery series has the investigator move to a district ranger position at Rocky Mountain National Park. This was a fitting leisure read while we were camped several weeks at Elk Mountain RV Resort in Estes Park, Colorado. The story regained some to the fresh, unique elements that seemed to have been ebbing away in the last few Barr books. Connect to the Nevada Barr Resource Page (fan site).

Barr, Nevada (2004). High Country . G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-15144-3.
National Parks investigative officer, Anna Pigeon goes undercover as a waitress in Yosemite's historic Ahwahenn Hotel to find out what has happened to four missing park workers. She uncovers a tangle involving park employees, drug smuggling, and dangerous killers.

Birchard, Bill (2005). Nature's Keepers: The Remarkable Story of How the Nature Conservancy Became the Largest Environmental Organization in the World. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-7158-8.
Bill Birchard, freelance writer and journalist, examines the non-profit organization, The Nature Conservancy. culture and management beginning with its humble beginnings in 1951 to surmount obstacles and crises and evolve into its respected position today as the leading international organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life on Earth - - more than $3.7 billion in assets, annual revenue of $860 million, and about one million members. Read an online interview of Bill Birchard from the Tom Peters! Company.

Blevins, Brooks (2002). Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers & Their Image. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-5342-9.
This book fills a void as the first in-depth history of northern Arkansas. Reviewer Lee Kirk aptly describes this as "a useful explanation of what was going on in the Ozarks while Vance Randolph and others were scouring the hills for the old stories and songs, a movement that led to the Dogpatch image that the rest of the world has come to know" (Ozarks Monthly). Dr. Blevins describes the geography and chronicles the settlement, lives of the people, and economic development of the region. He includes details of in-and-outward migration, agriculture, mining and lumber industries, and the rise of the tourist industry.

D'Este, Carlo (2002). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. Henry Holt and Company Ltd. ISBN 0-8050-5687-4.
Retired Army officer and military historian, D'Este has written a comprehensive biography of Ike's military career. He begins with a brief family history and Dwight David's (Ike) humble birth in Denison, Texas. D'Este takes a balanced, critical view of Eisenhower, detailing the strength and weaknesses of his military leadership and connecting to traits leading to his political success. My personal interest in reading about Ike's life began with knowledge that my maternal grandfather was a schoolmate (Grandfather Reade was four years older than Ike) of Ike's in Abilene, Kansas and that their families were neighbors and friends. Another connection, both the Eisenhower's and the Reade's had a brood of seven boys.

Dyja, Thomas (Ed.) (2001). Life-changing Stories of Coming of Age. Marlowe & Company. ISBN 1-56924-576-2.
This anthology spans an interesting variety of tales about life-changing events and growing up. The excerpted stories are from the writings of Sherwood Anderson, Jill Ker Conway, Spalding Gray, James Joyce, Garrison Keillor, Walter White, and others.

Greene, Melissa Fay (2003). Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster . Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 0-15-602957-X.
Seeing that this account of a 1958 Nova Scotia mine disaster was written by the author of Praying for Sheetrock: A Work of Nonfiction (1991) did attract my attention. Greene provides a well-researched account of the struggle, courage, and suffering of trapped miners underground and agonized families above ground. Along the way, the author unveils links to Ed Sullivan and the state of Georgia.

Gowdy, Barbara (1998). The White Bone: A Novel. Picador U.S.A. ISBN 0-312-26412-7.
Canadian author, Barbara Gowdy writes an amazing story of elephants. The story follows the journey of one elephant, Mud, through a threatening period of drought and attacks by deadly hunters. An online reading guide for The White Bone is available from Henry Holt and Company.

Hamilton, Steve (2003). Blood Is the Sky. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-30115-4.
An "escape" read and an impulse selection, this crime mystery brings a former cop and his Ojibwa neighbor together in trailing a missing brother into Canada moose hunting country. Okay read but series will probably not join Jance and Barr in my "have to read sector."

Lavender, David (1943, 1977). One Man's West. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-5855-0.
This is a classic western biography about mining, mountain climbing, ranching, and living in Colorado and Utah written by a rancher, historian, writer. Lavender provides a first-hand account that deserves attention by anyone trying to understand the West.

Proulx, Annie (2002). That Old Ace in the Hole: A Novel. Scribner. ISBN 0-7432-4248-3.
National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, Annie Proulx provides a hilarious tale of a young, mediocre businessman - - Bob Dollar working to scout out locations for Global Pork Farm hog operations in the Texas-Oklahoma panhandles. I've been to that country and those hog factories are there .

Smith, Jordan Fisher (2005). Nature Noir: A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-22416-5.
Veteran park ranger, Jordan Fisher Smith, in his first book provides a unique blend of evocative nature writing and realistic descriptions of the daily risks and rigors inherent in his job as a park ranger. Read a recent interview of the author: Dalton, Aaron (Mar. 2005). Not Just Another Pretty Place Grist Magazine. Listen to an archived interview: Forum with Michael Krasny (Feb. 2005), KQED Public Radio of Northern California.

Vowell, Sarah (2005). Assassination Vacation. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6003-1.
Having read The Partly Cloudy Patriot and enjoyed listening to ("Consonant Vowells" on NPR's This American Life) and seeing her on television (Late Show with D. Letterman and The Daily Show) and radio, I quickly purchased a copy of Sarah Vowell's latest book. Her wit and humor pervades this narrative that combines history, travel, and personal insights following the author's visits to a variety of locations all related to Presidential assassinations.

2004 Favorites

Asbury, Herbert (1927, 1928). The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld. Thunder's Mountain Press. ISBN 1-56025-275-8.
Seeing the Martin Scorsese filmed version led me to reading this book. Although its biased against Irish and historically inaccurate in many places, this book gives a lurid and garish, sometimes too detailed description of the thugs, mobs, and gangsters, some who were police and fire officers. Mostly centered on nineteenth century events, it contains a sometimes disjointed description of the fighting, rioting, murder, arson, robbery, and government corruption that plagued New York City for over a century.

Brands, H.W. (1997). T.R.: The Last Romantic. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-06959-2.
This thoroughly researched book laid on the table for several months after having been purchased September 11, 2001 at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park visitor center. Author Brand labels Theodore Roosevelt as an "uncompromising moralist" and details his life sometimes telling things I did not know. The doorstop weight book details his early years, family life, rise to public attention, political success and fallout of this maverick president.

Carlin, George (2004). When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0134-7.
Not for the faint-hearted, Carlin's strong language will probably offend almost everyone at some point. However language use is the main focus of Carlin's comedy and writing. He leads me to examine some of the motives and concepts that underpin our use of legitimate words. As he recently stated to CNN's Todd Leopold, "try to see the world for what it actually is, as opposed to what someone or some company or some organization or some government is trying to represent it as, or present it as, however they've mislabeled it or dressed it up or told you."

Conley, Robert J. (1997). War Woman. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17058-0.
This historical novel provided a unique view of colonial history (late 1500s to mid-1600s) from two perspectives. An award winning author and poet, Conley provides a Cherokee viewpoint and the main character is a strong female leader.

DeGeneres, Ellen (2003). The Funny Thing is... Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-4761-2.
Knowing that I am a fan, this was a perfect gift. A retelling of many of her latest comedy routines makes this a fun, fast read. The book captures Ellen DeGeneres's unique, off-beat insights into the hilarity of everyday life. Her comedy is the best kind, often making fun of herself and reminds me to never take myself too seriously.

DiLorenzo, Thomas (2002). The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Prima Publishing. ISBN 0-7615-3641-8.
This analytical study questions the motives and practices of the legendary and somewhat mythical president. Reading this volume caused this Illinois son to reconsider many of my opinions. The book brought to mind that powerful leaders often dominate the media and public opinion; their influence and supporters can often "rewrite history." Read more at a World Net Daily article.

Dolnik, Edward (2001). Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon. Perennial. ISBN 0-060-95586-4.
On May 24, 1869, John Wesley Powell and a small band of frontiersmen set out from Green River Station, Wyoming Territory, in four wooden boats. The one-armed Union veteran and geology professor, Illinois State University, planned to explore the uncharted Green and Colorado rivers and pass through the mysterious Grand Canyon. Ill equipped and inexperienced in navigating wild rivers, the main party - - long given up for dead - - reached their destination. This is a great story of early exploration in the American West. Learn more at NPR's The Vision of John Wesley Powell.

Farabee, Charles (2003). National Park Ranger: An American Icon. ISBN 1-57098-392-5.
Farabee provides an insider's look at the growth and development of our National Park system, and the men and women who shaped its history.

Flannery, Tim (2001). The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples. Grove Press Books. ISBN 0-8021-3888-8.
An australian scientist looks at about 65 million years of plant and animal migration and evolution in North America. The author also discusses the impact that hunter-gatherers, farmers, human cultures and civilizations had on the land's animals and plants plus the impact that they had on humans. You can read a review from Booklist at

Franken, Al (2001). Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-94764-7.
After finishing Michael Moore's book (See below), I still had a need for another dose of alternative viewpoint related to federal government, the executive branch, and our foreign policy. I must have a need to counter the syrupy, sugar-coated media coverage that is prevalent today. You can tune into the Al Franken Show on Air America.

Kooser, Ted (2002). Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-7811-X.
Written by an honored poet and former insurance company executive, this biography beautifully details the author's life in the low hills of southeastern Nebraska. Kooser is a master of writing big about small things - - "seeing small." Winner of the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003, Kooser was named the nation's poet laureate in October 2004 (

Lamb, Brian (2001). Booknotes: Stories from American History. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-200249-6.
This collection (3rd in the series of Booknotes titles) of seventy-eight interviews from the founding C-Span CEO and author provides chapter summaries of seminal events in American history. Contemporary writers and historians focus on a moment or event(s) in history that influenced and shaped our country. Visit the Booknotes website.

MacLeod, Alistair (1999). No Great Mischief. McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-5570-6.
Winner of the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, this is a story of the MacDonald family, who journeyed from Scotland to the rugged, harsh coast of Cape Briton, Nova Scotia. The story is rooted first in exile, then perseverance through life's hardships and tragedies, and generations later reveals the fierce ties that still bind the clan loyally together.

Mosley, Walther and Kenison, Katrina (Eds.)(2003). The Best American Short Stories 2003. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-19733-8.
The latest of this annual series (published since 1915) provides an annual collection of carefully selected recently-published short fiction and nonfiction stories. This year's volume was a great read.

Peacock, Andrea (2003). Libby, Montana: Asbestos & the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation. Johnson Books. ISBN 1-55566-319-2.
This is an investigative report of the tragic history of W.R. Grace Corporation's disrespect and destruction of people and the environment in a small mining town in northwest Montana. Researched and written by a journalist, this book links an asbestos-vermiculite mining operation and lax state and federal agency oversight to gross corporate coverup, obstruction, and abandonment. Libby has been called the "Chernobyl of the U.S." and remains one of the worst EPA Superfund sites in a time when funding for cleanup is uncertain. Lastly the author questions the procedures employed in the cleanup after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks; thousands of tons of asbestos laden fireproofing (raw materials were from Libby's Vermiculite mountain) enveloped the steel support beams of the building. If interested, you can read a review: "Vermiculite, Cancer & Lies" by M. Nijhuis ( from Health and Energy. Learn more from Nightline Examines the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, MT.

Peacock, Doug (1990). Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-4553-0.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book combining Peacock's decades long study and filming of grizzlies in their natural habitats with his personal journey of healing and self-understanding - - a have to read that brought greater understanding of our (Annette's and my) encounter with a grizzly while hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana. Learn more about the author in an July/August 2002 article, Q&A Grizzlies ( by T. Chamberlain, from National Geographic Adventure. Note that Andrea (Above) and Doug Peacock are married.

Proulx, Annie (2004). Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2. Scribner. ISBN 0-7432-5799-5.
This collection of stories weaves loads of humor, unexpected behavior, and some weirdness into her unique tales of people's survival in tough, dried-out marginal lands. My favorite is about a game warden who discovers a hellhole that will suck wrongdoers down into its gravel-covered realm of doom. Learn more about the author and her writing: ( and Who2 (

Stabenow, Dana (2004). A Taint in the Blood. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-30683-0.
No doubt, I first began to read Stebenow's mystery series because they are set in Alaska and often feature the Alaskan wilderness and native life. Edgar award winner, Stabenow's writings have evolved greatly since the early 90s, yet she still maintains a fresh, unique approach. Learn more from an interview article by C.E. White at Writers Write (

Steinberg, Ted (2002). Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514009-5.
One of a small group of environmental historians, the author provides fascinating details and insights into U.S. History through the viewpoint of environmental episodes. Learn how natural conditions and mankind's impact have interacted and affected American life. Learn more from a review by E. Voves, "Informing the Debate" ( in January Magazine.

Vanderhaeghe, Guy (2002). The Last Crossing. McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-8738-1.
This book, the winner of the Canada Reads award, is set in 1870's wilds of northern Montana and Canada's bordering Northwest Territories. The historical novel brings a story of three very different English brothers; a diseased and demonic ex-army officer, his artistic younger brother, and the latter's missing twin who is linked with a religious fanatic. Thrown into the search is an array of characters that include a Scottish tracker, an irish-American saloon owner, and an aging Civil War veteran who is smitten with an abandoned and brutalized young woman. Learn about the author at Prairie Storyteller: An Interview . . ( While still in Canada, I read and enjoyed reading another Vanderhaeghe novel, The Englishman's Boy (1996), winner of Canada's Governor-General's Award.

Webb, Melody (2003). Woman in the Great Outdoors: Adventures in the National Park Service. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0826331750.
This autobiography covers Melody Webb's quarter-century career in the National Park Service. Her work began in historic preservation in Alaska during President Ford's term. Webb continued in management positions in New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. She provides an insider's account of a woman working in a male-dominated bureaucratic public agency. Information about the book from the publisher can be found at

2003 Favorites

Barr, Nevada (2002). Hunting Season. G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-14846-9.
At one time, I was an avid mystery reader but now have outgrown most of my needs for that type of escape. However, there are a hand full of mystery writers (See more below) whom I still follow. I believe its a series location rather than the mystery story that holds my attention. Naturally, I would be interested in a national parks series.

Evans, Nicholas (2001). The Smoke Jumper. Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-33403-6.
Read this while we were camped on the outskirts of Missoula, Montana, the home base for "smoke jumpers." The read fit our location!

Herrera, Hayden (2003). Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. Perennial. ISBN 0-385-50420-9.
After seeing the film, I wanted to learn more about this Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, who was married to muralist Diego Rivera.

Hillerman, Tony (2003). The Sinister Pig. Harper-Collins. ISBN 006019443X.
I have read most of Hillerman's books, so reading his recent installment of the Jim Chee, Navajo Tribal Police was necessary. However, I do believe that his earlier efforts were better. Visit a fan site, Welcome to Hillerman Country!

Jance, J.A. (2002). Partner in Crime. William Morrow. ISBN 0-06-091127-1.
This is another favorite mystery series author. Her books are usually a quick and interesting read. Jance wrote of Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont in her first series, then more recently she has authored several titles in a new series featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady of Bisbee, Arizona. This latest novel brings Beaumont and Brady together in investigating the Arizona homicide of a recent Washington State resident.

Moore, Michael (2003). Dude, Where's My Country? Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-53223-1.
I was spurred to read this latest book by Moore because I wanted to learn the thoughts of the man who aims to overthrow President Bush. Keep it up Michael, all of our government leaders need critical scrutiny of their motives and actions, regardless of the times (post September 11th) or their party affiliation.

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Created by Larry Johnson, 10/03. Updated 2009.