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Read This: All the Wild That Remains

August 13, 2015
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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!