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!
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: On Trails: An Exploration
July 14: Sportsman & Recreation Day on the land
A strikingly original debut from a tremendous new talent, Robert Moor explores how trails help us understand the world, from invisible ant trails to hiking paths that span continents and oceans, from migration routes to the Internet.
For seven years Moor travelled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds. He learned the tricks of master trail-builders, hunted down long-lost Cherokee trails, and traced the origins of our road networks. Moor interweaves his adventures with findings from science, history, philosophy, and nature writing in every chapter.
This deep search for meaning introduces the reader to experts who work with trails of all kinds, outrageous anecdotes from his own experiences and spectacular descriptions of landscapes and animal behaviour. On Trails gives an eye-opening tour, leaving us with a much richer, prismatic take on what we constantly take for granted: how we get where we're going.
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.
September 27: Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert by Terry Tempest Williams
"It is a simple equation," writes Terry Tempest Williams, "place + people = politics." Nowhere is this more apparent than in the American West, where millions of acres of wilderness are at stake in the redrock desert of southern Utah. "How are we to find our way toward conversation?" she asks. One story at a time. Red traces Williams's lifelong love of and commitment to the desert, as she explores what draws us to a place and keeps us there. It brings together the lyrical evocations of Coyote's Canyon and Desert Quartet with new essays of great power and originality, essays that range from a family discussion on the desert tortoise to an investigation of slowness to startling encounters with Anasazi artifacts (including a ceremonial sash made of scarlet macaw feathers).
Pursuing the question of why America's redrock wilderness matters to the soul of this country, Red bridges the divide between the political and the poetic and shows how this harshest and most fragile of landscapes inspires a soulful return to "wild mercy." The preservation of wildness is not simply a political process but a spiritual one.
With grace, humor, and the subtleties of her perception, Williams reminds us of what we have forgotten in the chaos of our lives and what can be reclaimed in the stillness of the desert.
Red is further proof that the writings of Terry Tempest Williams possess a revelatory power and an emotional intelligence at once rare and authentic.