Good Reads for the Western Life Book Club
We started our book club in May 2016, and have grown with every new book and engaging meeting since! Join us every month to discuss all aspects of each novel and memoir we choose to read!
You don't have to read the books to come to the meetings – although it's helpful.
We usually meet at the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library, 300 W. Aspen Ave. Please try to buy your book local; Bright Side Book Shop, 18 N. San Francisco St., will even give you a discount if you're buying the book for the club!
August 30: Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West by Courtney White
August 17-18: Annual Campout
In the final decade of the twentieth century, the American West was at war. Battle lines had hardened, with environmentalists squarely on one side of the fence, and ranchers on the other. By the mid-1990s, debates over the region’s damaged land had devolved into political wrangling, bitter lawsuits, and even death-threats. Conventional wisdom told us those who wanted to work the land and those who wanted to protect it had fundamentally different—and irreconcilable—values.
In Revolution on the Range, Courtney White challenges that truism, heralding stories from a new American West where cattle and conservation go hand in hand. He argues that ranchers and environmentalists have more in common than they’ve typically admitted: a love of wildlife, a deep respect for nature, and a strong allergic reaction to suburbanization. The real conflict has not been over ethics, but approaches. Today, a new brand of ranching is bridging the divide by mimicking nature while still turning a profit.
Westerners are literally reinventing the ranch by confronting their own assumptions about nature, profitability, and each other. Ranchers are learning that new ideas can actually help preserve traditional lifestyles. Environmentalists are learning that protected landscapes aren’t always healthier than working ones. White, a self-proclaimed middle-class city boy, has learned there’s more to ranching than grit and cowboy boots.
The author’s own transformation from conflict-oriented environmentalist to radical centrist mirrors the change sweeping the region. As ranchers and environmentalists find common cause, they’re discovering new ways to live on—and preserve—the land they both love. Revolution on the Range is the story of that journey, and a heartening vision of the new American West.
September 24: Interwoven: Junipers and the Web Of Being by Kristen Rogers-Iversen
The junipers that fill these pages are not the landscaping shrubs that color many suburban lit. What you'll find here are, instead, the native junipers that grow across millions of acres - one of the iconic plants of the American West. When Kristen Rogers-Iverson realized that junipers had secured a place in her consciousness, she set about exploring the stories, meanings, and multiple perspectives that interweave through the history and natural history of the tree. She discovered its prominent place in ecosystems and human lives over millennia. Junipers have warmed, sheltered, healed, and fed the humans who have lived among the trees, acquiring a supernatural mystique expressed in myths and tales. The juniper has played a key role in the American West as part of a web that is intricately connected with other plans and animals in the pinyon-juniper woodlands, overlapping much as the scalelike leaves of the Utah juniper do. Learning about juniper is one way to explore the wonders we love among; its shaggy bark and pale blue berries are as much a part of the landscape as jays or jackrabbits, sagebrush or Apache plume, and Colorado Plateau or Great Basin vistas. Learn about ghost beads and spiral grain, packrat middens and wildfire, spirituality and folklore, charcoal and gin, as well as biotic communities, tree life cycles, wilderness, and land management policies. Interwoven's exploration of junipers will enrich your appreciation for the trees and your experience of the natural world.
November 26: Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton
The open range cattle era lasted barely a quarter-century, but it left America irrevocably changed. These few decades following the Civil War brought America its greatest boom-and-bust cycle until the Depression, the invention of the assembly line, and the dawn of the conservation movement. It inspired legends, such as that icon of rugged individualism, the cowboy. Yet this extraordinary time and its import have remained unexamined for decades.
Cattle Kingdom reveals the truth of how the West rose and fell, and how its legacy defines us today. The tale takes us from dust-choked cattle drives to the unlikely splendors of boomtowns like Abilene, Kansas, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. We venture from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakota Badlands to the Chicago stockyards. We meet a diverse array of players--from the expert cowboy Teddy Blue to the failed rancher and future president Teddy Roosevelt. Knowlton shows us how they and others like them could achieve so many outsized feats: killing millions of bison in a decade, building the first opera house on the open range, driving cattle by the thousand, and much more.Cattle Kingdomis a revelatory new view of the Old West.