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!
Now, for the first time in paperback, here is the remarkable story of Sandra Day O’Connor’s family and early life, her journey to adulthood in the American Southwest that helped make her the woman she is today—the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and one of the most powerful women in America. In this illuminating and unusual book, Sandra Day O’Connor tells, with her brother, Alan, the story of the Day family, and of growing up on the harsh yet beautiful land of the Lazy B ranch in Arizona.
Laced throughout these stories about three generations of the Day family, and everyday life on the Lazy B, are the lessons Sandra and Alan learned about the world, self-reliance, and survival, and how the land, people, and values of the Lazy B shaped them. This fascinating glimpse of life in the Southwest in the last century recounts an important time in American history, and provides an enduring portrait of an independent young woman on the brink of becoming one of the most prominent figures in America.
June 28: The BIg Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan
June 02: Volunteer Day on the Land
June 08: 4FRI Day on the Land
We're reading this in partnership with the Mountain & Prairie Podcast Book Club! Click here to join their discussion.
On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in the blink of an eye. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men — college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps — to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.
Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen. The robber barons fought Roosevelt and Pinchot’s rangers, but the Big Burn saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in their favor and became the creation myth that drove the Forest Service, with consequences still felt in the way our national lands are protected — or not — today.
July 26: Crossing Arizona: A Solo Hike Through the Sky Islands and Deserts of the Arizona Trail by Chris Townsend
July 14: Sportsman & Recreation Day on the land
Crossing Arizona takes us on an extraordinary journey across some of the harshest, most remote, and arguably most beautiful natural terrain in the Lower 48. Long-distance hiker Chris Townsend, inspired by the writings of Edward Abbey and Colin Fletcher, set out alone to explore the desert landscape that inspired them. The rough, still-evolving Arizona Trail he hiked runs 800 miles from desert floor, through grasslands, through mountain forests, all the way from the Mexican border to Utah. Along this distinctly American path, Townsend's uniquely British sensibility ensures an entertaining read. Crossing Arizona is both an account of Townsend's adventure, and a chance to experience a truly unique corner of the world. This ultimate Lower 48 adventure describes some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness in the states.
August 30: Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West by Courtney White
August 18-19: 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.