Book Review: Beyond the Hundredth Meridian

April Book Review by Juane Heflin

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian:
John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

Wallace Stegner

There was a large turnout for a lively discussion of Wallace Stegner’s classic Beyond the Hundredth Meridian. Ostensibly profiling the polymath figure in the subtitle (John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West), the author chronicles Major Powell’s influence in the Western frontier, but the bulk of the book provides an exposé of the vendettas of pork-barrel politicians and legislation that shaped American’s relationships with the county’s natural resources, including the Antiquities Act of 1906 and Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. We agreed that reading and discussing this book was timely given the parallels between what was happening then and current events. Alternative facts, false news, and exploitation of water and land were as rampant then as they are now. As anomalous as it seems, the book incited a sense of hope that persistent advocacy and out-of-the-box thinking by activists today might yet secure a promising future. It is a daunting read but well worth the effort.

We highly recommend this book!