I look forward to High Country News’ Special Issue on Books and Essays. The latest is from Vol 40, No 17 (Sept 15 and 29, 2008). Visit the HCN Website at http://www.hcn.org/. Half of this issue is devoted to books and book reviews and in light of the upcoming elections,  “reading lists” for the president-elect are included. These are great overall reading list and every westerner should at least be familiar with the titles. The lists were created by western authors and literary personas such as Jeff Lee, Director of the Rocky Mountain Land Library; Laura Pritchett, author of Sky Bridge and Hell’s Bottom, among others; Linda Hasselstrom, Dan Flores, Rick Bass, Barry Lopez, and others. Some of the most striking books in these lists include:

  • Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock
  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • Plainsong by Kent Haruf
  • Anything by Cormac McCarthy
  • Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs by Wallace Stegner
  • Marking the Sparrow’s Fall by Wallace Stegner
  • This House of Sky by Ivan Doig
  • The Legend of Colton H. Bryant by Alexandra Fuller
  • … And many others! This is an amazing list of important western titles.

This issue also includes reviews of new and recently released books by Terry Tempest Williams (Finding Beauty in a Broken World), Ivan Doig (The Eleventh Man), William Stolzenburg (Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators), William Least Half-Moon (Road to Quoz), Alexandra Fuller (The Legend of Colton H. Bryant) and Kim Barnes (A Country Called Home).

Even just in these titles, there is a theme – a desperation, a longing for a place to call home without the interruptions of man. The essays in this issue also reflect this. A wonderful essay about the devaluation of low country demonstrates this essence of remorse for land lost, water stopped, disappearing playas, and wilderness marketing campaigns that take the wilderness right out of the purpose.

Thanks to this issue, I now have several more books on my wish list. One of note that I plan to read very soon is Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacy O’Brien (Free Press, August 2008). This title is a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and author Temple Grandin, of Animals in Translation, says this book gives “An inside look at the mind of an owl. If you are interested in animal intelligence, you should read this book.” I was reminded of another book, along the same vein, but not reviewed in this issue of HCN, called Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris by Michael Allin (A Delta Book, 1998), the true story of a twelve foot giraffe who was captured in Sudan and brought to France in 1826. This book has been on my list for several years and I finally plan to read it soon too.

Coming up next…. reviews of the poetry by Colorado poet Dr. Robert King…. Well, I have my work cut out for me here! Happy Reading out there!

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