Life, Travel

Read This: All the Wild That Remains

August 13, 2015

While I’m a fairly rabid reader, I don’t typically do book reviews on this blog (maybe I should start?).

I figure that you come here for stories and pictures of my exploits in the great outdoors, not to listen to me opine on the novel I just finished or rant about how much I hated Wild (yes, it’s true!). But I’m going to make an exception just this one time because I just finished a book that I could not put down and I think you guys should know about it.

All the Wild that Remains by David Gessner. Do yourselves all a favor and read it.

This book chronicles and compares the lives of Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey via a road trip through the American west. Don’t know who Abbey and Stegner are? Pick up a copy of Desert Solitaire or the Monkey Wrench Gang (Abbey) or Angle of Repose or Crossing the Hundredth Meridian (Stegner) and thank me later.

I first learned about these two characters back in college. Abbey came to me via a boyfriend who considered himself to be somewhat of a George Hayduke type. Stegner came by way of my Environmental History professor. Both were highly influential in my views on the outdoors, environmentalism, Western landscapes, and water.

The special behind-the-glass section at Back of Beyond Books.

I heard about this book a while back when the good people of Colorado Public Radio were talking about their summer reading lists. When I heard that it was about the lives of two of my favorite authors, I knew I had to read it. And when I found myself perusing my favorite book shop on the planet in Moab a few weeks ago, I figured it was the perfect time to pick it up. How could I not buy a book about Abbey in the place that made him famous?

But it’s not just the subject matter that got to me. Let’s face it, there are a lot of books about Abbey and Stegner. It was the beautiful writing and the way that Gessner described the places I love. It was stuff like this:

The land buckles and rises.
For a thousand miles it rolls out, sometimes up and down and sometimes flat like a carpet, all the way from the old crumbling eastern mountains. But then comes a kink in the carpet. A big kink. The continent lifts itself up, its back rising, and most Homo sapiens who are seeing that lift for the first or second or even the fifty-third time feel a corresponding lift in their chests. A feeling of possibility, of risk, and excitement.
That was what I felt, at least, as the West announced itself.

Tell me that that’s not a gorgeous piece of writing!

I started reading this book a couple weeks ago and was not able to put it down. But this isn’t a book to rush through. This is a book to savor. A few nights ago I found myself desperately tired and trying to get through the last few pages before I collapsed into bed. And I kicked myself, put the book down, and went to bed. Because I didn’t want to waste a word of this one.

If you love the West (or think you might) or care about the environment or like to read about writers, pick this up. You’ll love it. I promise.

Bookstores with cowboy boots win every time.

Now I’m looking for what to read next – it’s going to be hard to beat this one. Got a suggestion for me? I’d love to hear it! Come on, book nerds, help a girl out!

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  • Reply Michelle August 13, 2015 at 5:29 am

    My husband absolutely loves Abbey so this is a book I may have to surprise him with. Pretty positive he hasn’t heard of this one!

    • Reply jendz August 13, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      I think it’s relatively new. He’ll love it!

  • Reply Alyssa Pelletier August 16, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    I love that you posted this book review! I’m always looking for something else to read and All the Wild that Remains is now at the top of my list. If you’re into animals, I suggest you check out Wolverine Way by Douglas Chadwick – it’s an incredible story and conservation message all rolled into one. I couldn’t put it down!

    • Reply jendz August 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation! I am very much into animals and will check it out!

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