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1. Into the Wild
$7.42 list($25.00)
2. The Legacy of Luna: The Story
$9.75 $4.50 list($13.00)
3. Always Running
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4. Where Rivers Change Direction
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5. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
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6. Shadows on the Koyukuk: An Alaskan
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7. Lazy B : Growing up on a Cattle
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8. Where I Was From
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9. This House of Sky: Landscapes
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10. Little Britches: Father and I
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11. Madam: Inside a Nevada Brothel
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12. Living Among Headstones: Life
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13. The Fight in the Fields: Cesar
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14. Arctic Homestead: The True Story
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15. Running After Antelope
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16. Wild Steps of Heaven
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17. Horse Tradin'
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18. Breaking Clean
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19. Ringolevio: A Life Played for
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20. The Doing of the Thing: The Brief,

1. Into the Wild
by JON KRAKAUER
list price: $12.95
our price: $10.36
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385486804
Catlog: Book (1997-01-20)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 1144
Average Customer Review: 4.03 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

"God, he was a smart kid..." So why did Christopher McCandless trade a brightfuture--a college education, material comfort, uncommon ability and charm--for death by starvation in anabandoned bus in the woods of Alaska? This is the question that Jon Krakauer's book tries to answer. While itdoesn't—cannot—answer the question with certainty, Into the Wild does shed considerable lightalong the way. Not only about McCandless's "Alaskan odyssey," but also the forces that drivepeople to drop out of society and test themselves in other ways. Krakauer quotes Wallace Stegner's writing on a youngman who similarly disappeared in the Utah desert in the 1930s: "At 18, in a dream, he saw himself ...wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood inhim has forgotten those dreams." Into the Wild shows that McCandless, while extreme, washardly unique; the author makes the hermit into one of us, something McCandless himself could never pulloff. By book's end, McCandless isn't merely a newspaper clipping, but a sympathetic, oddly magneticpersonality. Whether he was "a courageous idealist, or a reckless idiot," you won't soon forgetChristopher McCandless. ... Read more

Reviews (745)

4-0 out of 5 stars Krakauer's story of Chris McCandless
Why would a talented and gifted young man walk away from his life of promise and lead the life of a penniless wanderer? Jon Krakauer, the nature/travel journalist, takes on this question in the story of Chris McCandless, who after two years of coast-to-coast travel, was found dead in the Alaskan wildreness.

Krakauer retraces McCandless's steps from his childhood to his days at Emory and uncovers a smart, compassionate young man who revelled in the works of Tolstoy, Jack London, and other figures who advocated a simple self-sufficient existence, turning away from money, government, etc. He interviews several people that Chris, "Alex Supertramp" as he calls himself, met in his hitch hiking travels and discusses his journal writings. I came upon this book after reading Krakauer's newest book, Under the Banner of Heaven. I appreciated Krakauer's style of being in the story as an author/journalist, but keeping the story in its purest form.
Krakauer first encountered this story after McCandless's death in 1992. He wrote a feature story in Outside magazine, but was very interested in McCandless, so he decided to research the events more. This book is the further research. He provides some insight and answers some of the questions with his own experiences as a mountaineer and outdoor-lover.

5-0 out of 5 stars FINDING CHRIS MCCANDLESS
As the mother of sons and a writer for whom reading is the greatest pleasure, I found "Into the Wild" to be one of the finest and most unexpectedly beautiful books I have read in a very long time.

It is the harrowing story of the death and short life of Chris McCandless, a bright, charming, adventurous young man whose mysterious travels and untimely death left a legacy of heartbreak and confusion to those who loved him.

In returning to the scene of his own admittedly incomplete reportage of the story for :"Outside" magazine, Jon Krakauer reveals his own honesty and decency as a writer and a man.

The book is as beautifully written as it is fascinating. Krakauer and his readers come to know Chris McCandless as our own youthful hopes made flesh. We also come to know this boy -- and love him -- as everyone's son, perhaps even our own.

Late in his troubled adolescence, Chris set out into the American "wilderness" on a journey to adulthood. He did not return.

He didn't return, that is, until Krakauer, who recognized in this story aspects of his own difficult youth, embarked on an odyssey of his own in McCandless' footsteps. .

With almost unbearable detail he pieces together the last year of this young man's life and derives from it a compelling pilgrim's tale of anger, fear and courage. Through those who knew him during his "lost" days, we move from dissatisfaction and yearning to spiritual rebirth that arrives gratefully, but late and despite terrible twists of fate

.Chris McCandless tunneled through Peer Gynt's mountain, punted across the Slough of Despond and into the dark and icy forest. He received boons and encountered spirit guides; listened and learned from scouts and story-tellers All of them later helped the auther piece together the real story, heretofore untold, of a boy who found himself and death in the same process and in the same place. Free at last, he quietly, and even joyously, welcomed the arrival of both with valor and uncommon grace.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting
How does a young man leave a comfortable life with an education and well to do parents and just wander into the wild? This is one of the questions that Jon Krakauer tries to answer. At first the reader is given the idea that Chris McCandless read one too many books like "On the Road" or "White Fang", but as the story develops, he becomes more complex a character. This young man was looking for adventure and decided to leave "normal" life behind. Unfortanuatly for him. it cost him his life.

Krakauer does an amazing job of bringing McCandless back to life by trying to show what he was thinking. Krakauer used personal notes, interviews with family and friends and historical experiences to flesh out this person. When the personal notes run out and speculation starts, Krakauer gives a personal tale to explain why McCandless was not an idiot and just had some bad luck. This book is a very good read and is time well spent.

5-0 out of 5 stars The dark side of idealism
Last Christmas I gave this book to my father. I thought he might enjoy the adventures of Alex (though you know from the start his life will end badly), and thought if things went well I might use this to try to explain to him why it is that I spend all my extra money on travel and why I do illogical things in pursuit of my dreams. His reaction, though, was nothing but frustration with Alex's "idiocy."

The difference between my response to the book - that Chris/Alex lived an extreme form of the longing I and many others feel - and my father's response is the same gulf that this story seeks to bridge. Jon Krakauer, who has also sacrificed a great deal and risked his life in pursuit of his dreams, clearly feels some sympathy for Alex's wild decisions. But the result of Alex's tramping is his own death and the heartbreak that ensues, which seems to outweigh any selfish satisfaction Alex may have received from his experiences.

When people create great art or invent something remarkable, society celebrates their achievements in spite of any collateral damage. But Alex is an example of someone whose idealism was far greater than his accomplishments. The art he left behind in his notebooks is unremarkable, and the few friends he made in his travels have not been catalysts for improvement in the world. His one success (or failure) was that he was able to unbind himself from his expected, normal life and give himself wholly to his ideals. So many of us secretly wish that we had the courage to do something similar, and this book forces us to confront that desire. Is the pursuit of a dream a worthwhile end, in and of itself?

There are no clear answers, in this book or in life, but the question is worth asking, no matter whether you see Alex as someone to be admired or throttled.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lonesome pines in snow
This is an excellent read! But more than that, it is one of most moving and human stories you will ever have the pleasure of encountering by an author such as Krakauer, a splendid naturalist with a true ear for epiphany. Krakauer has a style unlike any writer this side of the twentieth century, and makes his way honestly and earnestly into the psyche of the reader, unexpectedly portraying a very real and true, almost unspeakable understanding of the young adventurer, Chris McCandless. If you are American, you absolutely must read this book! It should be cannonized. ... Read more


2. The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods
by Julia Butterfly Hill, Julia Hill
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0062516582
Catlog: Book (2000-04-01)
Publisher: Harper San Francisco
Sales Rank: 357547
Average Customer Review: 4.03 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

A young woman named Julia Butterfly Hill climbed a 200-foot redwood in December 1997. She didn't come down for 738 days. The tree, dubbed Luna, grows in the coastal hills of Northern California, on land owned by the Maxxam Corporation. In 1985 Maxxam acquired the previous landlord, Pacific Lumber, then proceeded to "liquidate its assets" to pay off the debt--in other words, clear-cut the old-growth redwood forest. Environmentalists charged the company with harvesting timber at a nonsustainable level.Earth First! in particular devised tree sit-ins to protest the logging.When Hill arrived on the scene after traveling cross-country on a whim, loggers were preparing to clear-cut the hillside where Luna had been growing for 1,000 years. The Legacy of Luna, part diary, part treatise, and part New Age spiritual journey, is the story of Julia Butterfly Hill's two-year arboreal odyssey.

The daughter of an itinerant preacher, Hill writes of her chance meeting with California logging protesters, the blur of events leading to her ascent of the redwood, and the daily privations of living in the tallest treehouse on earth. She weathers everything from El Niño rainstorms to shock-jock media storms. More frightening are her interactions with the loggers below, who escalate the game of chicken by cutting dangerously close to Luna (eventually succeeding at killing another activist with such tactics). "'You'd better get ready for a bad hair day!'" one logger shouts up, grimly anticipating the illegal helicopter hazing she would soon get.Celebrity environmentalists like Joan Baez and Woody Harrelson stop by, too. The notoriety has, on balance, been good to Hill and her cause.George magazine named her one of the "Ten Most Fascinating People in Politics," Good Housekeeping readers nominated her one of the "Most Admired Women" in 1998, and she was featured in People's "Most Intriguing People of the Year" issue. As a result, more Americans know about controversial forestry practices; it remains to be seen, however, whether public outrage is enough to save California's unprotected and ever-shrinking groves of redwoods. While an agreement allowed Hill to descend from her aerie and Luna to escape the saw, most of the surrounding old-growth forest in the region has been felled or will fall shortly.Still, Hill is optimistic: "Luna is only one tree. We will save her, but we will lose others. The more we stand up and demand change, though, the more things will improve." --Langdon Cook ... Read more

Reviews (73)

2-0 out of 5 stars Book Falls Short of Legacy
Admittedly, the saga of Julia Butterfly Hill and the Luna Tree-sit is an incredible and inspiring tale. Anyone wanting to gain insight into the mind and motivations of Hill, and to share in her perspective of this 2 year long act of civil disobedience, will certainly want to read "The Legacy of Luna". Beyond these elements however, the book is a great disappointment and fails to live up to the monumental significance of the story it attempts to portray.

As many other reviews attest, "Legacy" is an easy read. I personally finished the book in less than 4 hours. This readability is unfortunately a result of the book's lack of substance and disconnected ramblings. In her rushed effort to complete the book Hill has failed to capture and articulate the genuine spirit of her action, instead providing a mostly dry account of day to day life in the tree mixed with meandering philosophy. By failing to consider the widespread effects and ramifications of the tree-sit - from its context and sometimes controversial influence within the modern environmental movement to the role the action played in effecting the dynamic of government forest policy on a local and national scale - Hill leaves the reader without a definite sense of just what the legacy referred to in the book's title is.

"The Legacy of Luna" also falls short of providing a comprehensive account of the story in its failure to address many significant events and efforts on the ground which directly related to Hill's success. The reader is instead brought along on the journey in the vacuum of isolation that was Hill's two years in Luna. Considering that the book was written while Hill remained in the tree, having no opportunity to stand back and take account of the bigger picture, Hill's perspective is understandable. Yet as a reader I was left feeling that much was left unaccounted for, including the massive community effort which supported Hill's action that is at best is given passing reference in the book. This considerable omission, along with comments contained in the book's jacket, unfortunately perpetuates the public's romantic perception that the tree-sit was the action of a lone individual.

As the author's Media and Ground Support Coordinator for over one year (I ceased involvement with the tree-sit in April, 1999), I have first-hand knowledge that Hill is a deeply spiritual, gifted activist and a passionate and articulate speaker and writer. Complaints regarding inaccurate timelines and erroneous accounting of events aside, the greatest disappointment is the book's failure to reflect the true legacy of Hill's accomplishments. In the publication of this book Hill was given what may possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a long-standing and profoundly influential work along the lines of Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac" or Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire". Instead, in her hurry to complete the book while under the daily pressures of her action, Hill has produced an interesting, yet unsubstantial account of her experience.

Readers desiring to learn more about the context in which Hill's action was conducted are encouraged to read David Harris', "The Last Stand: The War Between Wall Street and Main Street Over California's Ancient Redwoods". For another account of a personal journey within these magnificent forests Joan Dunning's, "From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line: A Headwaters Journey" will be of interest.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book!
This is a great book and I enjoyed reading every page. Very inspirational and moving. Highly recommended.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Autobiography
This novel is a fabulous autobiography of Julia Hill, and her experience living in a redwood tree for two whole years. At first I thought it would be dull- how could I read a story about a woman living in a tree? I was quickly hooked to this book though. What makes it really fascinating is that Julia wasn't your typical environmentalist. In fact, until she sat in the tree, she wasn't an environmentalist at all (she was a business major-gasp!). This book also points out that the traditional trees vs. jobs problem is a bit of a myth and the real culprits are the big executives who believe in killing all trees rather than practicing sustainable forestry. This novel is both inspiring and eye opening.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bravo!
I remember Julia Butterfly Hill making her stand and remember being so proud of her (and impressed with her bravery). This is a good book recounting what she went through and some of her thoughts over that period. So much of her love for this planet comes through and that was what really spoke to me throughout since I feel the same. I think its hard to write that kind of passion into words - but her actions speak so much more loudly than words. Wonderful work!

4-0 out of 5 stars The "Silent Spring" of our time
Julia Butterfly Hill is the Rachel Carson of our time. I loved this book ... There are very few people who "walk the walk." Julia truly shows us how to make a difference with this book. ... Read more


3. Always Running
by Luis Rodriguez
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0671882317
Catlog: Book (1994-02-09)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 9722
Average Customer Review: 4.48 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East L.A. gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests, then watched with increasing fear as drugs, murder, suicide, and senseless acts of street crime claimed friends and family members. Before long Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words, and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation. Achieving success as an award-winning Chicano poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more -- until his young son joined a gang. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in Always Running, a vivid memoir that explores the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants. At times heartbreakingly sad and brutal, Always Running is ultimately an uplifting true story, filled with hope, insight, and a hard-earned lesson for the next generation. ... Read more

Reviews (139)

5-0 out of 5 stars It's a five star book!
It has been said,"young people read nobles to learn about other people's life." This quote means that young peaple read in order to know how other peaple live through out the different generations and learn from it. It is indeed true, I as a young person like to read most of all to figure out how other people different from me lives and how they get along whith their issues in life and apply it to my self. I personally think this book it's one of it's kind. Always Running it's a piece of literature that basically reflects on a lot of young people, it tells the story of Luis as a gang member when he was young himself and how he feels now seeing his son on the same situation. This is something that gives a lot to think about, I mean to all of us teenagers that think that the thing we do now won't influence our future generation and that we wouldn't be affected by it. This book it's a great example on that and that's the reason why I rated it as a five star book!

5-0 out of 5 stars Reality TV ain't got nothing on this!
On the Strength: If Rodriguez's memoir Always Running sounds raw and intense, that's because it is. A lucid, in your face account of a young man's journey from the darkest depths of barrio life-to a yearning soul, striving for the light that glimmers at the end of a tunnel. Chin (Rodriguez) a young vato loco from the mean streets of Los Angeles Califas, would do just about anything for his click, even commit murder. Living foul was all he knew, castigated by society, the revolving door from the hood' to correctional institutions swirled so fast and frequent it left young Chin feeling bitter and more hateful toward authority, and rival gangs. Drugs and violence would be his refuge-but eventually education and community involvement would become his salvation. Rodriguez delivers a compelling look at gang life, and what it takes to break free from its deadly shackles. What makes this book particularly appealing is the unique poetic voice, which combines English and Spanish, and a whole-lot-of Slanglish (no comprende? Don't trip, there's a phat glossary in the back of the book for those who do not understand the Latin lingo that is spread throughout). Rodriguez also takes you for a lyrical cruise through the Boulevard, "Fancy "shorts" danced on the asphalt with only the eyes and beany caps of the drivers visible through the windshield. Music blared out of a multitude of speakers as a river of headlights streamed toward the silhouette of downtown skyscrapers and back." Reality TV ain't got nothing on this! Always Running is a must read. Very highly recommended. -Michael Perry, OLM Entertainment Watch.

5-0 out of 5 stars WHAT AN INCREDIBLE BOOK!!!!!!! MUST BE READ!!!!!!!!
As he was growing up, Rodriguez had a vivid lifestyle in which he had witnessed countless shootings, racism, beatings, and several other negatively hard crimes. At 12 years of age, he experienced some illusions of gangs and rascim. People would relate to this book in many different ways, as they were growing up too. I believe this book could get to your fealings, but when I started to read it, I was resenting against the people who were rioting.

5-0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ BOOK!!!
It's about a lifestyle of a young child, growing up in the streets of Los Angeles, Luis J. Rodriguez writes about his vivid life, encountering racism, killings,cruicial beatings, and shootings. Moving around the areas of the Los Angeles he gets involve in gangs later on his life, learns that the gang life is not great. Turn his life into school. Write this book for his son so he won't make a mistake. Relates to people who are in gang activity and show that there is another way in life to succeed, Instead of living by a gun.

1-0 out of 5 stars Nothing More Than a Glorified Ex-Gangbanger
I read this book about ten years ago for the first time. My son was being "courted" by a gang in our area and a fellow parent recommended it. It did not help.
Neither does it help to read that Rodriguez' son went back to prison after the publication of that book.
In my modest opinion, but is worth something nevertheless in a world where our Latino and Black youth are being killed and killing on the streets everyday--for all the hype I have heard about Luis Rodriguez--he is no more than a glorified ex-gangbanger who found an angle for self-promotion. As a parent I must ask myself, where was he when his own child needed him? ... Read more


4. Where Rivers Change Direction
by Mark Spragg
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1573228257
Catlog: Book (2000-08-01)
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Sales Rank: 17904
Average Customer Review: 4.96 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Growing up in rural Wyoming, Mark Spragg learned early to read the stars. At 11 he was instructed to quit dreaming, and he went to work for his father on the land. "I was paid thirty dollars a month, had my own bed in the bunkhouse, and three large, plain meals each day." The ranch is a sprawling place where winter brings months of solitude and summer brings tourists from the real world--city types who want a taste of the outdoors and stare at the author and his family as if they were members of some exotic tribe: "Our guests were New Jersey gas station owners, New York congressmen, Iowa farmers, judges, actors, plumbers, Europeans who had read of Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull and came to experience the American West, the retired, the just beginning." By the age of 14, he and his younger brother are leading them on camping trips into deep woods. "No one ever asked why we had no televisions, no daily paper. They came for what my brother and I took for granted. They came to live the anachronism that we considered our normal lives."

As Spragg comes to realize the strangeness of his life, he also detects flaws in his own character--a fear of suffering and mortality that first shows itself when he rides a sick horse too hard, until the animal hovers at the brink of death. He knows that if he had faced the possibility of sickness, if he had been brave, this animal would not have declined so quickly. Throughout his life, this inability to face death, this terror of losing the beauty of the world he so passionately witnesses, drives Spragg to distraction.

Where Rivers Change Direction combines a soaring spirituality with a visceral, often stomach-churning attention to detail. It's a book that continually dares the reader to turn away from its pages in an effort to digest the power of its confused emotions and hauntingly spare images (a "moon-fried plain," a stillborn child "baked alive in my mother's body"). Like Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, Mark Spragg's memoir makes you feel you've been somewhere, you've been out in the depths, and you've come back changed. --Emily White ... Read more

Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars Wyoming, like no place on earth
The book was given to me as a gift, little did I know that I was about to relive my child hood, my youth, my fifty plus years on the high plains of Wyoming. The smell of horse farts in the early dawn, cold feet, till there is no longer pain. Getting a case of 22 shells for Christmas, birthday, and wearing out the gun . Mark has finnaly writen a book of "how the west is" at least the last 50 years. To see death as an almost constant player, hunting, calving, blizzards, drunk driving, fast cars, all part of Wyoming. The country school, first love, almost social retardation. 60 miles from town is a long way, few people can stand the loneness. Twenty years behind the times, still is a good place to be in 2000, May Mark Spragg share more of his life with us , in many more books to come,as his works touch a nerve few authors today can.

5-0 out of 5 stars Spraggs book has something for everyone.
I will reccomend the book "Where rivers change direction" to all my friends. It is easy to read and at the same time extremely powerful. If he comes to your town for a book reading, go see him. Mark Spragg stories come to life when he reads them. I can hardly wait for November to see him at Aunties in Spokane.

5-0 out of 5 stars Men & Horses: A fun and engaging romp growing up in Wyoming
Where Rivers Change Direction is the engaging story of Mark's journey to manhood on a working Wyoming dude ranch in the 1960's. This is a place outside the world of televisions and flashy cars. Life is his regular classroom, and a boy has to grow up quickly in order to endure and survive in the harsh realities of the wilderness. The responsibility that Mark both endures and earns for himself, gives him his character. It is easy to trust his voice and experiences, including the silent moments as he imagines himself as a horse alongside the other horses, testing his breath in the cold air. Mark's words match his imagination, giving us a taste of what it is like to be a horse in Wyoming. Rivers can change direction when dammed up by man, or they can follow the contour of the earth they cut through every day, changing themselves. The river of the title is about Mark's life, and this memoir leads just through the point where he changes direction. I wouldn't have missed a turn.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb!
I read Spragg's Fruit Of Stone and was disappointed with the silly plot. The writing, however, convinced me to try Where Rivers Change Direction. It is a magnificent book in all respects. Buy this book!

5-0 out of 5 stars As Good as They Say
I read Spragg's novel, "Fruit of Stone," first, and was left rather cold. I'm glad I ventured forth with "Where Rivers Change Direction" because it is truly brilliant.

This is a writer who can burnish a sentence the way a saddlemaker polishes leather--the love of craft is obvious, and the end result is a quiet elegance that is breathtaking. He loves the passive verbs...so do I. The stately passivity take the wildness of ranch life from the hands of "action packed" Hemingway types and snares it in amber. Posterity over posturing? Sure, I'll take that!

He's capable of being thoughtful, brash, graphic, elegiac, and, at times, pretty funny. I adored "Wapiti School," wherein he nails Candy Dohse, his first true love, right on the forehead with a snowball during recess. He even put a pebble in the snowball first. Ah, young love!

There's no riders in purple sage, crazy saloon whores, shootouts, chuckwagons, or wacky Western shenanigans, and the "New West, worse than the Old West" place dysphoria/post-mod malaise is absent, as well. What you have instead is Spragg's life--from youth to maturity--carved away from the bone as if by a hunter's skilled hand. Okay, that was a (poor) attempt at a Spraggy sentence. So, don't read me...read him! ... Read more


5. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
by Kathleen Norris
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618127240
Catlog: Book (2001-04-06)
Publisher: Mariner Books
Sales Rank: 30847
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"A book of stories, a book of prayer, a book to be read meditatively and well," DAKOTA offers a timeless tribute to a place in the American landscape that is at once desolate and sublime, harsh and forgiving, steeped in history and myth. From the award-winning author of AMAZING GRACE, DAKOTA is Kathleen Norris at her most thoughtful, her most discerning, her best. She gives us, once again, a rare "gift of hope and balance, a place to begin" (Chicago Tribune) and assurance that wherever we go, we chart our own spiritual geography. ... Read more

Reviews (39)

5-0 out of 5 stars This book rings true
My grandparents live about 30 miles from Lemmon, SD (the setting of Norris's memoir). I was overwhelmed at times while reading Dakota: A spiritual Geography. She has portrayed the people as only an insider/outsider can -- seeing both the faults and the strengths of a small midwestern town. What touched me more than anything, however, was her portrayal of the land. This beautiful, striking, and awe inspiring landscape is brought to life by Norris. I had tears in my eyes while reading and felt pangs of homesickness. Dakota can be a slow read, but it is a beautiful book.

5-0 out of 5 stars a beautiful, deliberate book of faith
Kathleen Norris is the author of Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and The Cloister Walk. She is a poet. Dakota was her first work of nonfiction/memoir. Having read both Amazing Grace and The Cloister Walk, I had an idea of what to expect from Norris's work. She writes deeply personal and deeply spiritual books. Dakota has the same type of feel to it, but the location and the subject is different.

Kathleen Norris's past lay in western South Dakota, but for twenty years she had abandoned both her faith as well has her history. She went to school in New York but decides to move back to Lemmon, SD with her husband. Her book is subtitled "A Spiritual Geography". She writes early on that geography comes from the words for earth and writing, and so knowing that this is a spiritual geography we immediately know that this is a spiritual discussion of the Dakotas, as well as also being about Norris herself.

Norris writes about small town life and small town church, and a semi-history of the town of Lemmon. Since most of the details are told in anecdote, it makes things easier to read. One thing that struck me was how she was comparing monastic life to small town faith and how much things tied together like that. The focus on monastic life and on monks is a theme and a topic that will run throughout the book as well as into her subsequent books. Kathleen Norris may not have a mainstream Christian faith, but she has a deep reverence and respect for the Christian tradition and faith, especially that which has come from the monasteries.

This is a slow moving, peaceful book. It is thoughtful, intelligent, and moving. It is filled to the brim with a steady faith in Christ and in some ways, it moves like time spent in a monastery. I don't know if this sounds like a recommendation, but it is meant to be. I found Dakota to be very interesting and along with Dakota, I would recommend Norris's later book: Amazing Grace.

4-0 out of 5 stars Slow But Steady
I wasn't sure I'd like Dakota because my spirituality leans toward activism rather than asceticism. Kathleen Norris, however, in her elegant, steady way, encourages reflection and thinking, not just about the geography of the land but also about the geography of a spirit-led life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wide open spaces
We have read of the emptying out of the population in selected areas of the prairie states. We have also read of the demise of the family farm because of competition from industrial-style farming operations and consequent over production. We have also read of the destruction of the habitat and other kinds of environmental abuses resulting in the near disappearance of the actual prairie eco-system. Some or all of the factors noted above have resulted in the creation of a new frontier. Kathleen Norris provides a subjective account of the same phenomena in her book, Dakota.

In immediate and human terms she identifies the economic causes and cultural consequences of a broad regional trend. In places her commentary is caustic as she quotes someone who opines that now the farmers are becoming Indians, too, that is to say that everyone in the western areas of North Dakota and South Dakota is becoming marginalized. She describes well the defensiveness of the remaining people who question the motives of professionals who seek to settle in their midst, deeming that such individuals must be second rate or failures of some sort.

Another related characteristic is the inwardness and the creeping parochialism of the community subject to population loss. It would seem that there is a loss of connection to the values of the greater society. She finds that in the course of her observations she has seen instances where families overvalue the children who manage to leave the region and undervalue those who remain to care for family members and to farm. It seems as if the children who stay in the region are seen as losers, diminished beings, who did not cope well in the competition of life.

In addition to the bitterness imposed by psychology and economic circumstances, Norris leads the reader to a position of hope and opportunity in the creation of new American deserts suitable for personal artistic and spiritual growth. For example, deserts make people slow down and take stock of one's surroundings. They may heighten awareness as limitation of sensory input opens out to attention to detail and wonder.

5-0 out of 5 stars A full spirit in the stillness of emptiness
'Nature, in Dakota, can indeed be an experience of the holy.'

From the earliest days of Christianity (and indeed, since the earliest days of religion, period!), women and men have sought understanding in the the large, unpopulated expanses of the earth, far from the madding crowds of urban life. Moses discerned his call from God in the desert wanderings after fleeing Egypt, only to return as the Deliverer; Jesus' first act after baptism was to wander the desert; Mohammed had his desert experience; prophets, sages, wise women and men have always found in the solitude and magnitude of places such as Dakota a spirituality hard to express.

Kathleen Norris, however, does an admirable and enlightening job of putting words to that very ephemeral concept. Combining personal stories with prayerful reflections and mediations, Norris weaves together a book whose riches slowly unfold only for those who give particular attention; however, it yields treasure to even the most cursory of readers, too. Neither Kathleen Norris nor her husband were natives of the land, both having come from vastly different places than the sparsely populated, silent and enigmatic plains. Yet Norris has become a spokeswoman of sorts for the spirituality that is found in a place such as this, the modern equivalent of the early Christian Desert Fathers.

Like those early fathers (alas, not much is recorded about the women who made such decisions in favour of isolation), she has attached both a meditative and monastic framework to her searchings. Being a protestant by upbringing, Norris brings a critical, outsider view to the understanding of monastic practice and the spirituality inherent therein. One of the particular vows of a Benedictine monastic, the variety with which Norris has become most familiar, is the vow of stability--i.e., to remain in one place.

Remaining in one place is important, for in the modern world (as in past times) there is a tendency to see residence in any given place as impermanent and transitory; it is only by becoming wedded to a place that one can get to understand the hidden and secret aspects that are crucial to forming the fabric of life in such places. Dakota is one such place. Those of us who are more urban cultured (and, chances are, 92% of you reading this are urban- or suburban-cultured) tend to regard the plains as empty.

'Everything that seems empty is full of the angels of God.' - St. Hilary

The Plains have become for Norris, quite simply, her monastery -- her place to be apart and to be set apart, so that she may thrive and grow. There is room to move and grow. There is silence to grow into, without the problem of being caught by the noise and stunted. There is an emptiness to contemplate, to fill, to deplete, and to marvel at as it continues its vast expanse.

How much more of a spiritual awakening can one have than to witness the passing of a storm, seen rolling in from miles away, to fill a vast expansive sky, and then to dissipate, leaving the wideness free again to its original stillness? In the contemplation of such natural events, the wonders of all creation become present.

Of course, Norris points out the advantages of this kind of isolation.

'Living in a town so small that, as one friend puts it, the poets and ministers have to hang out together has its advantages. We raid each other's libraries and sustain decent arguments on matters of science, politics, and religion. ...There is a wariness on both sides: poets and Christians have been at odds with one another, off and on, for two thousand years. There is also trust: we are people who believe in the power of words to effect change in the human heart.'

Norris intersperses weather reports with her narratives and essays -- weather being a crucial and vital elemen to the life of the plains. After all, one might get wisked off to Oz by the upcoming twister. Alas, this happens all to often in spiritual development -- one becomes mesmerised by the storm, the power and awesome force, the elegance, or one becomes terrified; rarely does one have a neutral response. How one responds to the internal storms makes all the difference. One spiritual director of mine used to start our discussions with the 'weather report', by which he meant for me to report simply what is happening spiritually, with a minimum of interpretation (saying a cloud looks like Mickey Mouse may be well and good, but is that cloud just floating by or is it turning into a tornado?).

Life on the plains, life on the farm, is earnestly cyclical, as is the pattern of the rule of monasticism. The cycle is never ending, regardless of any events or crises that may arise--the community carries on, and life carries on, always with the long-term in view. The storm will pass, the seasons will pass, the harvest will come, and come again, and again. And still it all remains.

Thomas Merton wrote:

Love winter when the plant says nothing.
Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall
Be silent, they try
To speak your
Name.
Listen
To the living walls.
Who are you?
Who
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Dakota is a place to find the answers. Come find treasures beyond rubies in the empty fullness of Norris' Dakota. ... Read more


6. Shadows on the Koyukuk: An Alaskan Native's Life Along the River
by Sidney Huntington, Jim Rearden
list price: $12.95
our price: $9.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 088240427X
Catlog: Book (1993-04-01)
Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books
Sales Rank: 8029
Average Customer Review: 4.88 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his dramatic autobiography, Alaskan elder Sidney Huntington, half-white, half-Athabascan, recounts his adventures, tragedies, and ultimate success. ... Read more

Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best stories you'll ever find. Period.
I was given this book by my father, who met Sidney and said he was a heck of a guy. That alone is a glowing review. I have been born and raised in Alaska and even though I lead a more urban life, I could relate to and picture most of the accounts in this book. I think the more time you spend in the wilderness, the more you would appreciate this book. Hopefully, those of you who have not been in the wilds of Alaska will still get a lot out of this book. This book is without question one of the best books I have ever read (And I'm comparing it to classic literary works as well). I am not an emotional reader, but I had tears in my eyes more than once while reading it. One should pay special attention to the section on wolves - it is the real story - the one the animal rights activists don't want you to know. Sidney bridges the native and white cultures so well - I think both cultures would be better off if we lived to his ideals.

5-0 out of 5 stars The real Alaska
The experiance this man has growing up in the Koyyakuk is almost to unbelievable, but true. From losing your mom at age 7 and taking care of 2 younger siblings for days until they were discosvered, to killing a Grizzly bear by hand, this was the norm before civilization hit the region. A truly remarkable book. YOu will want to re-read again and again.

5-0 out of 5 stars Shadows on the Koyukuk are enchanting!
Sidney Huntington grew up along the Koyukuk River in Alaska's harsh interior over 80 years ago. After his legendary mother suddenly dies, 3 year old Huntington protects & cares for his younger siblings during two weeks of isolation before rescue comes. As a teenager he plies wilderness traplines with his father, nearly freezing to death several times.

Shadows on the Koyukuk is a plain & simple memoir with unpretentious recounting of arduous survival interwoven with memories of cheerful, wholehearted contentment of where Sidney found himself in a fabled & beautiful land.

With names like Weaselheart & Schilikum, Monkey John & Cosmos Mountain, Sidney tells of his life on the edge & what happened when civilization arrived & bureaucracy took over. These are the memories of when Anchorage was a city of about 2,000 souls, after the great the Alaska Railroad system was built & the railroad crews had left. You will also find out what "tundra daisies" are. A pleasing memoir of a full life!

4-0 out of 5 stars Shadows on the Koyukuk
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I was fascinated the entire time I was reading this book, and I didn't want to put it down. I have decided to read this story to my children. I hope to find the story of James Huntington called "On the Edge of Nowhere". A compelling story and I would recommend this story to anyone.

5-0 out of 5 stars The real-deal Interior Bush adventure bio!
I arrived to work in the Bush for my first summer of '99. Immediately, this book was recommended. Simultaneously, I ended up visiting most of the villages mentioned in the book; very accurate, informative and fun! Sydney is still alive, fishing and living the Yukon River... ... Read more


7. Lazy B : Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest
by SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR, H. ALAN DAY
list price: $13.95
our price: $11.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812966732
Catlog: Book (2003-04-08)
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Sales Rank: 39835
Average Customer Review: 4.26 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

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.
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Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beatifully captures a bygone era of the American Southwest
I loved reading this beautiful, gritty account of the remote Arizona cattle ranch where O'Connor and her brother grew up. The book is a portrait of the Lazy B ranch and the family and cowboys who created and sustained it for over a century. O'Connor's account is unromantized and yet touching, and it succeeds in vividly revealing a bygone way of life from the old West.

We see the the daily rhythms and activities of ranch life, the ongoing struggles of the Day family to keep the ranch afloat, and portraits of the colorful, rugged cowboys who worked at the Lazy B for most of their lives. And we hear the perspectives and fond recollections of the young girl (O'Connor) and her brother who grew up there.

If you are drawn to the West, you'll enjoy this book as much as I did.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Memoir
Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother, H. Alan Day, tell the story of growing up in the harsh yet beautiful land of the Lazy B Ranch in Arizona. The book is organized as a series of vignettes ranging from character sketches of the cowboys who spent their lives on the ranch to rain to the BLM.

I loved this book. I first became aware of it during a trip to southern Arizona. The authors describe a way of life -- on an isolated cattle ranch -- that is almost extinct. I knew that water was important in such a land, but I didn't know that the majority of the time of the owners and employees of the ranch was spent in maintaining the wells, windmills and pumps that provided that water.

I also enjoyed comparing the book to Jimmy Carter's An Hour Before Daybreak, his memoir of his childhood in rural south Georgia during a similar time period.

2-0 out of 5 stars Semi-BORING
This book seemed politically written. The "right" word took center-stage over the substance.

5-0 out of 5 stars Only the B was Lazy
Growing up in a city, I always wondered during car trips through ranchland how the people there lived. Was it a hard life? Lonely? Were they like us in the city?

I knew from movies and TV that calves in pastures were grown into large steers through a gradual process of fistfighting and gunslinging, with the cowboys taking frequent breaks to drink whiskey and play poker. But that was only part of the story. What role did the women and children play? Why the windmills? Who provided basic services?

All these questions and more have now been answered by a Supreme Court Justice, of all things. Lazy B is Sandra Day O'Connor's memoir of her girlhood on a ranch in the desert Southwest. The simple unaffected style of her writing is just right to convey the power of the story: a family living on a desolate ranch for 113 years--a happy family, a resourceful and persistent family.

The Day ranch had already been operating for 50 years when Sandra was born in 1930, and was still going strong when she was appointed to the high court 51 years later. The Days didn't have hot running water until 1937, but when they did it was from a solar heater designed by Sandra's father--40 years ahead of the solar energy craze of the 1970s.

That sort of self reliance and innovation is one of the main themes of the book: when they needed more water they built windmills to bring it up out of the ground. When the windmills broke, they fixed them. Before the windmills and solar heater, the limited hot water for bathing was used in sequence: first Sandra's mother, then her father, then the children, then the ranch hands, if they had any interest in the water that remained. Not a cushy life, but several of the cowboys liked it enough to stay at Lazy B for over 50 years.

The self-reliance in the area of first aid is even more striking: Sandra's father successfully mending the uterus of a cow with a wine bottle and some stitches; one of the cowhands giving himself a root canal with red hot baling wire, or taping his broken finger to a nail so he could keep working.

And while all of them--Mom,Dad,kids,cowhands--did whatever they had to do to keep working, O'Connor's memories are overwhelmingly happy ones of card games and wild animal pets and riding through the desert and, more than anything else, conversations. One gets the impression that no one ever had a better childhood.

O'Connor may or may not be a great justice--I don't know much about the law--but it seems to me that she was a part of something great long before she ever got a law degree. A happy family and a solvent ranch are two things which are hard to maintain for more than a dozen years. The Days did it for a dozen plus a year and a century. Looking at the picture on page 257, I see the very bedrock of the country.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Facinating Portrail of a Time Gone...By a Facinating Woman
Sandra Day O'Connor is simply one of the most impressive women to have lived in the 20th Century. I've only very recently reached this opinion, primarily based on listening to her read 'Lazy B'. Her childhood was remarkable, and it is indeed a testament to her character. Her voice is distinct and understated. Yet, one can tell that she is at once humble and proud. I highly recommend listening to her reading of the book, and I believe that you will come away with a strong impression of this distinguished lady. ... Read more


8. Where I Was From
by JOAN DIDION
list price: $23.00
our price: $15.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679433325
Catlog: Book (2003-09-23)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 33022
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours. Where I Was From, in Didion’s words, “represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely.” The book is a haunting narrative of how her own family moved west with the frontier from the birth of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother in Virginia in 1766 to the death of her mother on the edge of the Pacific in 2001; of how the wagon-train stories of hardship and abandonment and endurance created a culture in which survival would seem the sole virtue.

In Where I Was From, Didion turns what John Leonard has called “her sonar ear, her radar eye” onto her own work, as well as that of such California writers as Frank Norris and Jack London and Henry George, to examine how the folly and recklessness in the very grain of the California settlement led to the California we know today–a state mortgaged first to the railroad, then to the aerospace industry, and overwhelmingly to the federal government, a dependent colony of those political and corporate owners who fly in for the annual encampment of the
Bohemian Club. Here is the one writer we always want to read on California showing us the startling contradictions in its–and in America’s–core values.

Joan Didion’s unerring sense of America and its spirit, her acute interpretation of its institutions and literature, and her incisive questioning of the stories it tells itself make this fiercely intelligent book a provocative and important tour de force from one of our greatest writers.


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Reviews (10)

4-0 out of 5 stars Geography, Genealogy, Generations and the Great Divide
Californians think they're special. There is no doubt about that. The first thing a native will tell you upon introduction is how many generations their family has been here. They don't do that in Boston -- where old families know they're old families and don't really give a damn if you know it or not. They don't do that in DC, New York or Toronto. But they do it in California. Those who have been here awhile will tell you exactly how many generations a long while is.

Didion's book is filled with that brand of smugness - the one-upmanship of who's been here longer.
Personally, I don't care.
I don't mean to be too harsh on the book, though, for on another level this is a story not of geography or genealogy but of a generation - the generation born in the mid-to-late 1930s - too young to remember the Depression but old enough to remember the way America "used to be."

My parents are from that same generation, and Didion bears a resemblence to a cousin. My grandparents are of the same generation as Didion's parents. Like them, we also have a family graveyard (ours is still in the family, still accepting members). And my father was an aerospace worker who lamented how things changed in his 42 years on the job, happy to now be retired.

I mention all this because "Where I Was From" had its greatest impact on me not as a depiction of the changes in the Golden State, but as a depiction of how a family ages, of how the older generations pass over the Great Break of the grave and the Great Divide of death. While it may feel true that the land is yours only after you bury your dead in it, underlying much of this book is a sadness that this may not be enough, that not even the graves of the elders shall be respected with the passage of time - that graveyards will be sold, driven over, dug up. That progress will efface all markers.

In retrospect there appears to have been no redemption for passing over the Great Plains. Perhaps there will be or will not be a redemption after passing through the grave. There is here an acceptance of the possibility that all is meaningless; and I was left with the impression that the title is facing the wrong direction. Perhaps it is not so much "Where I Was From" but "Where I Was Going." The promised land of the Golden State may prove to be nothing other than a hustler's illusion, there for the masses to devour only to enrich those who in turn will become the Disillusioned.

4-0 out of 5 stars more about Didion than about California
I think most of the reviewers have missed the point -- this book is not about California, it's about Didion. If you read her novels, the central character is always a woman looking for home and safety and innocence -- Maria in "Play it as it lays" dreams about "the way light strikes filled Mason jars on a windowsill" and brushing her daughter's hair, and Lily in "Run, River" likes to remember waking early on a summer morning and running barefoot through the sprinklers, etc. This longing for home/safety/innocence is the lifetime obsession of certain people (usually women, but not always), and this obsession is EXACTLY the same, whether you're from Sacramento or St. Louis or Syracuse. But the people who lose their home/safety/innocence are the ones who ruthlessly jettison the past (like the California pioneers she denigrates), who abandon people and places without a backward glance. Like Didion did, when she left California and moved to New York City and became a famous journalist. If she had stayed in Sacramento and married a local boy and spent years canning peaches in Mason jars and brushing her daughter's hair, she wouldn't have a subject to write about. Her novels and her nonfiction always tell the same story: I had a sweet innocent life, I ruthlessly left it, now I'm adrift in the big bad world, and I can't get back. It's about her lost innocence, not California's.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book for a Summer read
As a California historian and author of "Southern California Miscellany" I am particular about books written from an insider's point of view. This book fills the gaps often left by writers who do not know of which they speak. The author is definitley an insider who has all the best details down in print along with an entertaining story. This is a wonderful book to read while on vacation.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not the whole picture
Didion writes in her characteristic style -- the clear, hesitant sentences that are reminiscent of James Baldwin. And, as usual, she tells a story behind a story, here about how the golden promise of California was often based on illusion, on schemes that enriches outsiders at the expense of the suckers who came to the state looking for a better life. Mixed in with all this is the story of her own family (the sophisticated New Yorker started life as a Sacramento girl).

So why only three stars? For me, as is often the case with this writer, I felt that she was straining to make a negative point, putting the worst spin on everything. Any time you devote a good chunk of a short book to the story of kids who turn to gang violence and drugs you're going to make a place look bad. Her limited focus on prison construction and other ideas that fail to bring in the promised wealth to locals overlooks the industries that have helped make the state rich, such homegrown enterprises as the wine growing of Napa, the silicon and software farms of Silicon Valley and, oddly enough, Hollywood (odd, because Didion has written so many screenplays herself).

All of these industries -- along with the state's once-vaunted school system, the University of California, the highways, etc. -- may be shadows of their former selves. But Didion refuses to find reasons for hope even in the natural beauty of the place, which is surely without rival in this country. The book is instructive about some of the underlying reasons for California's tough times and surely helps to deglamorize the place, but it ain't the whole story.

5-0 out of 5 stars Where I Was From
The latest from Didion is a complex and challenging memoir, difficult to enter into but just as difficult to put down. It manifests Didion's continued interest in social disorder and unrest, the "telling detail," and how the personal and the social intertwine. On one level, this is a very personal story of Didion's family's history that starts with the birth of her great-times-five grandmother on the Virginia frontier in 1766. On another, it is a critique of American ideals of independence and the story of how the settling of California-and the character of the original settlers-led inexorably to the California of today. Didion is an acclaimed novelist, screenwriter, and journalist who has written numerous articles, essays, and reviews. Those who have long admired the clarity and precision of her prose will not be disappointed with this partly autobiographical, partly historical, but fully engrossing account. Suitable for academic libraries and most public libraries, this is of particular interest to genealogists and American history collectors and is essential for libraries in California. ... Read more


9. This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind
by Ivan Doig
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156899825
Catlog: Book (1980-02-19)
Publisher: Harvest Books
Sales Rank: 31149
Average Customer Review: 4.95 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This work introduced a major modern author to the reading public. Doig’s life was formed among the sheepherders and other denizens of small-town saloons and valley ranches as he wandered beside his restless father. New Preface by the Author.
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Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars A loving gift
This House of Sky is an incredible gift to Doig's (the author) father and grandmother. Doig writes with grace and beauty in remembering his life with them in Montana when life was sometimes something to be physically endured. For example, his picture of a small town after a blizzard: 'In the fresh calm, wood smoke climbed straight up from chimneys, until it appeared as if the fat gray ribbons were dangling all the town's houses down into a bowl of snow.'

You must read this book. Then, give copies as gifts to everyone you love.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written!
This House of Sky chronicles the early years of a boy growing up in Montana under circumstances that to others might appear difficult - his mother died young, his father and grandmother bring him up, poverty is never far. The author is a remarkable man whose tale that describes a way of life gone by and people whose spirit and determination are hard to find. This is one of the few books that I have read more than once - even after four or five reads it remains fresh. This is also great book to give as a gift, and the recent hardcover version has a special forward by the author

5-0 out of 5 stars Growing up in Big Sky Country
As a writer, Ivan Doig is something of a favorite son in Montana, and for good reason. His memoir is a rhapsody of affection for the land where he grew up -- the small towns, homesteads and ranches in the Smith River Valley, along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, extending north to the Blackfeet Reservation on the Canadian border. It's also a wonderful and often touching story of a father and son. Born in 1939, Doig begins his tale with the emigration of his forebears from Scotland to Montana. At the end, in the 1970s, he has emerged as a writer with a graduate degree, living in Seattle, with rich and deeply felt memories of the people and the land he has known -- the house of sky.

An only child, his mother dying when he is six years old, Doig is raised by his father, Charlie, who works various jobs, sheepherding, haying, moving from place to place, and for a while leasing a small ranch of his own, his son in tow. Charlie is a hard-working man, with a big heart and tender love for his son. Concerned by a turn of bad health, he is reconciled to his mother-in-law, who did not approve of her daughter's marriage to him, and the three of them become a family that remains together until Charlie's death at age 70.

The book captures and preserves in detail a way of life that has almost vanished from America. Doig tells of growing up in wide open spaces among livestock and wildlife, learning from his father the skills of making a living off the land and surviving against the odds. He attends small town schools, spending the winters in rented rooms, seeing his father and grandmother only on weekends. Much of his time spent with adults or alone, he grows up more quickly than his peers and learns to love solitude.

At 300+ pages, this is not a long book, but it's no page-turner. You find yourself reading it slowly, relishing the rich prose style that captures the poetry in this landscape of mountains, valleys, and plains, as well as the people, with their personal quirks, habits, ways of talking, and often eccentric behavior. In fact, the book reads much like a novel, full of stories, colorful characters, humor, pathos, suspense, and adventures. The vividness of Doig's writing reflects his training as a journalist, and I suspect that he may have been influenced more than a little by the novels of Thomas Wolfe. I recommend "This House of Sky" to anyone with an interest in the West, nature writing, books about growing up, family sagas, ranching and rural life. As a companion volume, I recommend Wallace Stegner's "Wolf Willow," about his boyhood in southwestern Saskatchewan.

5-0 out of 5 stars Through the Eyes of a Master...
Ivan Doig has captured my heart. I felt that he took my hand and led me to this magnificently rugged and sometimes brutal place, and shared all the joys and sorrows he shared there with the people he loved.He tells of his father's great inner strength, his father's love of the grandeur of those wild mountain ranges, deep-notched valleys, and the prairie fields that go on forever. He tells of his mother, whom he lost at the age of six, and the people who come into his life to get him through those tender years of loss, each one a rich, full-bodied character of the West, who leaves an indelible mark on Ivan's life. This is not a tear-stained narrative. This is a proud son of the West, with a deep love of his heritage and the people who made him the man he is today.I'm so grateful he was willing to share his story with us.If you love beautiful,richly-descriptive prose, great narratives, histories of the people who settled the West, please enjoy this fine portrait painted by a master of the art.

5-0 out of 5 stars A special book for us all
Read this in the company of someone else. Every five minutes or so you'll call attention to something in the text -- a choice description, a picturesque flow of words, a bit of hilarity that will reduce you both to laughter. This is a book to be shared.

Doig is a gifted writer with the facility of a James Agee in his choice of words and phrasing. On the page he presents a constant wild, vivid sensory impression, as if you were riding on horseback with him through his beloved Montana hills, sharing the terrain, people and history in ways you hadn't experienced before and couldn't experience anywhere else.

His descriptions show keen insight and attention to detail through carefully chosen, apt simile and metaphor. "I had noticed at Jordan's," he writes about a situation he experienced as a child, "...the boarding child is something like a stranded visitor that people get accustomed to half-seeing at the edges of their vision -- and no one, least of all me, seemed to think there was much unusual about my alighting here and there casually as a roosting pullet."

As a young boy, exploring: "For by greatest luck a silvered ship, high-hulled and pinging with emptiness, rode at the far end of the ranch buildings. A ship, at least to my imaginings. In the years when the machine chomped broadly through grainfields, it was called a combine. Now this dreadnaught stood, in its tones of dulling metal and cluster of idle gearwheels, for me to climb into..."

Here's the epitome of fine writing. You won't find more vivid images anywhere and he doesn't stint at all with language. Like this description of a teacher: "She was buxom, much like Grandma with a half more plumped all around; her mounding in front and behind was very nearly more than the lackadaisical dresses wanted to contain. Leaning forward from the waist as she hurried about, she flew among us like a schooner's lusty figurehead prowing over a lazy sea."

To read Doig's books is to experience Montana and a world long past. This is a book to be savored, treasured and read again and again. ... Read more


10. Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers
by Ralph Moody
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0803281781
Catlog: Book (1991-09-01)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Sales Rank: 5497
Average Customer Review: 4.95 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (38)

5-0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, Enjoyable, readable for any age level
I first read a book from this series, "the fields of home" when I was 8 or 9, on my fathers recomendation, he said it reminded him of his father and himself. after reading the story, I found that rather than seeing my father and grandfather, I saw my dad and myself. I didnt know any other books from this author existed until a couple of years ago, when I ran accross the entire box set. my whole family has enjoyed them; both as read aloud books for the younger kids but as quiet reading for the older ones as well as my wife and I. I read the entire series at least once a year, and they never fail to bring a warm feeling to my heart, as well as a close feeling of family ties and kinship to the rural way of life. If the kids of today cared half as much for the well being of the family as Ralph Moody did for his, this would be a much better world to live in

5-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, humorous, quality reading for any age level
I read my first book by Ralph Moody, "The fields of home" when I was 8, on my fathers recomendation. He told me that the story reminded him of he and his father, but after reading it I saw more of my dad and myself; rather than father and grandfather. A couple of years ago a friend told me of these great books he had bought, and said that he would loan them to me, once I saw the author I had to purchace the set for myself. I read these books at least once a year, and there hasn't been a time when they dont bring a warm feeling to my heart, and bring a feeling of kinship to Ralph and his family with its rural heritage. If the kids of today cared half as much for family as Ralph does for his, today would be a much better place.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best books to read aloud
I have read Little Britches and its sequel, Man of the Family to my 6th grade history students and to my 4th grade students for five years now. I have found that the story holds the attention of both girls and boys. My students have been able to make connections with other items we have read in history. The story is full of excellent values without being preachy. Basically, it is a well told first person narrative of life in the American west in the 1910's. A great book to read outloud to children or to read with children.

5-0 out of 5 stars Build Your Character House
If a classroom full of students with BEHAVIOR problems can sit through this book without incident, you can imagine how compelling this story is.

Little Britches is the first book in an autobiographical series. Ralph Moody (aka Little Britches) tells us about his family's move from the East and their struggles and triumphs as they scrape a living from a ranch in Colorado. Ralph is 9 years old, with an older sister and several younger siblings. The book is much more than a chronology of interesting and exciting events-- much more. It is rich in the values of honesty, family unity, ingenuity, and the pride of doing a task well.

There are many strong messages about building character -- earning trust, earning respect, and giving a man a good day's work. Ralph's wonderfully wise father is his primary teacher regarding the building of Ralph's "character house", but along the way Ralph meets other memorable men -- "Hi" the cowboy was our favorite. Ralph gets in several predicaments, doesn't always make the right choice, but takes to heart his father's wise counsel.

This book is a true treasure. I would recommend it for ages 5 and up as a read aloud. 10 and up to be read alone. A great read for adults too -- a "can't miss" present. Don't hesitate -- put it in your library and then share the gift of this wonderful author.

5-0 out of 5 stars Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody
We read this book as a family one summer when my children were young. Every night they couldn't wait to read more in the book. We ended up reading several more of the series. We all enjoyed this book and the ones to follow immensely. They are a wonderful series to read aloud. Fascinating and heart warming. I hope to read them to my grandsons. I think I have a copy of every book Ralph Moody wrote. I recommend this for all ages. ... Read more


11. Madam: Inside a Nevada Brothel
by Lora Shaner
list price: $20.23
our price: $20.23
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0759603677
Catlog: Book (2001-03-01)
Publisher: Authorhouse
Sales Rank: 250284
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A former madam of a Nevada brothel tells all--sex, customers and business--about the professional prostitution industry. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of this Industry!
Shaner takes you inside to the very center of the brothel from the women who work there, to the customers to the mundane but necessary operations that keep the whole thing afloat. She even dares to tackle the subject of systematic racism in this industry, which is something I have NEVER seen done in any other book on this issue. The only reason I did not give this book 5 stars is because in the beginning, Shaner uses a lot of obvious puns and one-liners that are irritating and distracting to read. Once you get past that,however, this is a very informative book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well Written-Passionate, Daring and Totally Unconventional!
A fantastic book! A book of insights and deep dark secrets, offering the reader the most sumptuous feast of a novel to ever emerge from this "other" side of life. A true roller-coaster of emotions evoking laughter and compassionate tears at the same time. I devoured each page, staying up 'til the wee hours of morning with this one-of-a-kind find. Where has this author been all my life?? Read this book and be prepared to discover stories which have never previously existed in the world of literature! They're delicious, funny, sensual, painful and some are outright unbelievable! Overall, it's an outstanding contribution to our real understanding of the deeper processes that shape all our lives, because it reveals the human side of prostitution. Like others, I thought of prostitutes as dirty, misguided and low-life's. Those who patronized them were just as despicable in my mind. But of course, I knew nothing of the real facts until I read Madam. I had never thought about the disabled, disfigured, paraplegics or the mentally retarded who may never experience the human touch, a hug or being held in a woman's arms,except when they visit bothels and the women/prostitutes who are with them emotionally as well as physically. Most women I know, myself included, would not have the level of compassion it would take to hold a severely retarded man in her arms, while he drooled and jerked all over her! The book paints both sides of the story, the good, the bad and the ugly. It's all so very fascinating and a real learning experience. I felt like I was watching the entire brothel operation through the Madam's eyes and heart. Thank you, thank you for an unforgettable experience and life-lesson! ... Read more


12. Living Among Headstones: Life in a Country Cemetery
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
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Asin: 156025677X
Catlog: Book (2005-05-10)
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press
Sales Rank: 51036
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Book Description

A few years ago, Shannon Applegate was bequeathed a small cemetery in western Oregon. The neglected five acres were not only the burial site for generations of her family and friends but the designated resting ground for many in the nearby, down-on-its-luck logging town. Living Among Headstones chronicles the author’s experiences as she takes charge of this sacred land and finds herself plotting graves, consoling families, and confronting the funeral industry as she examines the universal question of why the living care so much about the earthly setting in which the dead are laid to rest.

Filled with humor, singular events, pathos, original illustrations, and unexpected smiles, this book offers historical asides and moving personal stories. For example, Shannon explores the language and customs of funerals as she agonizes over how to approach families who have covered graves with plastic flowers and inappropriate ornaments. In doing so, she contemplates the myriad ways cultures past and present approach the dead. In part, this is a book about rural cemeteries in contemporary America, but the sum is a meditation on how we long for those we love to have a continuing place in our world, focusing as much on life as death. ... Read more


13. The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement
by Susan Ferriss, Ricardo Sandoval, Diana Hembree
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156005980
Catlog: Book (1998-04-01)
Publisher: Harvest Books
Sales Rank: 137928
Average Customer Review: 4.75 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars AN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY BOOK
Okay, I'm biased. I'm the author of a mystery novel in current release that features a Latino private investigator as the protagonist, and I've been teaching in a rural California high school with a student population over 98% Hispanic for over twenty years. This biography, loaded with photographs and facts, is perfect for today. It clearly proves what an exceptional man Cesar Chavez was and what exceptional accomplishments that man achieved. If you have any interest in the real America, you have to read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent history
This very personal history of the Cesar Chavez and the UFW is a comprehensive account of the farmworkers movement and the difficulties encountered in their fight for justice and fair treatment. Very well written and illustrated.

4-0 out of 5 stars HUELGA! Gracias Cesar.
Fight in the Fields - without a doubt, a story worthy of a thousand books. This book is simply a comprehensive history of the UFW. The struggle and the suffering must never be forgotten and continue today. A fantastic account of a imensely important movement.

5-0 out of 5 stars To date, this is the most complete history of the UFW.
I haven't read the softcover revision, but the hardback edition of Fight in the Fields is the most complete history of the farm workers' movement led by Cesar Chavez out there. It is factual and personal. I worked with Cesar 11 years and our friendship spanned three decades. I also recommend With These Hands (Harcourt Brace) by Daniel Rothenberg for the expanded picture of farm labor around the nation. ... Read more


14. Arctic Homestead: The True Story of One Family's Survivaland Courage in the Alaskan Wilds
by Norma Cobb, Charles W. Sasser, Charles Sasser
list price: $14.95
our price: $10.17
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Asin: 0312283792
Catlog: Book (2003-02-01)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Sales Rank: 63373
Average Customer Review: 3.68 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In 1973, Norma Cobb, her husband Lester, and the their five children, the oldest of whom was nine-years-old and the youngest, twins, barely one, pulled up stakes in the Lower Forty-eight and headed north to Alaska to follow a pioneer dream of claiming land under the Homestead Act. The only land available lay north of Fairbanks near the Arctic Circle where grizzlies outnumbered humans twenty to one. In addition to fierce winters and predatory animals, the Alaskan frontier drew the more unsavory elements of society’s fringes. From the beginning, the Cobbs found themselves pitted in a life or death feud with unscrupulous neighbors who would rob from new settlers, attempt to burn them out, shoot them, and jump their claim.

The Cobbs were chechakos, tenderfeet, in a lost land that consumed even toughened settlers. Everything, including their “civilized” past, conspired to defeat them. They constructed a cabin and the first snow collapsed the roof. They built too close to the creek and spring breakup threatened to flood them out. Bears prowled the nearby woods, stalking the children, and Lester Cobb would leave for months at a time in search of work.

But through it all, they survived on the strength of Norma Cobb---a woman whose love for her family knew no bounds and whose courage in the face of mortal danger is an inspiration to us all. This is her story.
... Read more

Reviews (28)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the BEST books I've EVER read!
My husband read this book first and told me to read it as soon as he finished. He said is was almost imposible to put down. He was right! From the first page all the way through to the last, it's a page turner! A family moves from Colorado to homestead in Alaska. It's filled with one incredible adventure after another which makes the readers wonder how much more this family can take of the harsh Alaskan winters, bear attacks, and living in a land where law is as scarce as it was in the wild West. You won't want to put this book down and worse...you'll be so awed by this family, you won't want to see the book end!

4-0 out of 5 stars Homesteading adventure with an edge.
I read this book because I have always had an interest in the lives of those who choose to live in the wilderness. Louise Dickinson Rich (We Took to the Woods) and Deanna Kawatski (Wilderness Mother) come to mind. Norma Cobb's account of her family's homesteading in Alaska is very readable but unlike these other books, her writer's focus is on the high drama of their lives rather than an account of their daily life. I came away wondering if some of that drama (and it's one drama after another) was self induced. Norma and Les Cobb seem to be awfully shrewd judges of character, but unfortunately after the fact. There are several incidents where she feels they are 'ripped off' or worse by people they encounter. After a while I started to find her guilty of what she was accusing those people of; blaming someone else for their problems. I came away from this book feeling that Norma Cobb has little patience for anyone she deems less perfect than herself. I do not deny that their life in remote Alaska is a challenge few could rise to and her book is a gripping account of that life, but there is an edge to her story that left me wondering if anyone but God could meet her standards for a neighbor.

1-0 out of 5 stars God's Chosen People
If you've never lived where the weather can kill you, you might be inclined to believe everything Norma Cobb writes. If you've never encountered a Black bear outside of a zoo, you might think Norma has it right. If you've never set out on your own without a net, you might think God was Norma's personal servant.

I usually enjoy books of adventure, particularly set in the North, and books of personal hardship overcome. This book, however, annoyed and insulted me. Does this author really believe she and her family are unusual? Pioneering is not about moving to Alaska and kind of living off the land; it is about meeting great obstacles and finding the resources to overcome them. Her world view is based on superstition, ignorance, and paranoia. When others start to follow their lead in mining gold in their precious valley, she starts to whine like those she says she despises. To use one of her pet phrases, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander."

Read the reviews carefully. You will find one from someone who is actually mentioned in the book and was a witness to the reality of the Cobb's lifestyle. I didn't read them before I bought and read the book. I wish I had.

1-0 out of 5 stars Tried hard to like this book...
I really tried to get through this, but the pontificating, pious tone was just too much! If you want to read something about living WITH your environment, rather than trashing it as seemed to be the dominant theme in this, try any by Nick Jans,or Richard Nelson.

4-0 out of 5 stars Incredibly well-told story; spine-tingling tale
I've been enthralled with the 'North Country' for quite some time; mainly Minnesota and Canada. After spending a summer in Northern Minnesota as a child, I felt I would make it back some day...hopefully to stay or at least build a vacation home. I'm not shy about sharing this 'dream' with close friends so it came as no surprise when a buddy of mine suggested I read ARCTIC HOMESTEAD before I became too giddy about the North.

Norma and Les Cobb came together in a second marriage for both, with the added baggage of 5 children between them. In an effort to make a life for themselves and their childre, they decided to leave the Lower 48 behind and claim a homestead in Canada. Along the way, they found out only a Canadian citizen could file for homestead in Canada at that time. Undeterred, they soon determined that Alaska still had homestead provisions so they set their sights for Alaska, a home and a new life.

Norma and Les find their previously unseen homestead just south of the Arctic Circle. Thus begins their story of striving to beat the homestead clock of improving the land and creating commerce within 5 years of filing the homestead papers. Along the way, they face one of their sons being accidentally shot, a derelict (and former friend) attempting to kill Les, coming face-to-face with black and grizzly bears, dealing with the Bushman (a/k/a Bigfoot), prospecting for gold, holding off ravenous wolves, and, of course, last but certainly not least, the indomitable cold and snow. Through it all, Norma and Les persevere and overcome each challenge faced.

This factual novel was written by Mr. Sasser, a very gifted storyteller, the source document of which was Norma's journal. Norma maintained enough detail to allow Mr. Sasser to write an extremely complete and entertaining novel. It cannot be said that the veracity of Norma's recollections are without challenge. Ken Nelson, who Norma speaks of in Chapters 66 and 67, wrote a review of the hardback version of ARCTIC HOMESTEAD. Mr. Nelson is quite candid regarding his version of the events versus those told by Norma/Mr. Sasser. The biggest discrepancy revolves around the health of Sid's (the oldest Cobb son) dogs entrusted to Mr. Nelson when the Cobb family flew to Colorado to visit Les's ailing father. This certainly creates some uncertainty as to veracity and credence but nevertheless, this book is still a winner regardless the actual chronology of events.

The Cobbs still live in their small homestead in Minook Vally, AK and even have a website promoting their big game/fishing guide services ...Anyone interested in the last true frontier should immediately pick up a copy of ARCTIC HOMESTEAD. Again, regardless your views of Norma, Les and their children, this book reads incredibly easy and totally engrossing.

Highly recommended. ... Read more


15. Running After Antelope
by Scott Carrier
list price: $22.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1582431116
Catlog: Book (2001-02)
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Sales Rank: 365004
Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Science, human nature, war reporting --- it's all here
A collection of pieces loosely based on the author's obsession, inspired by his biologist brother's studies, with literally running down a deer, as some say primitive men once did. In between the attempts to corraborate stories of Indian tribes who do this and trying to catch pronghorns in Wyoming, Carrier intersperses essays about his divorce, his attempts to produce radio segments on the road, his adventures in hitchhiking, and stories from global hot spots that he did for Esquire. None of these digressions in unwelcome, especially the latter, which are superb stories of the best and worst in human nature, of death and survival. Whether he's interviewing a Cambodian woman whose greatest relief is that she no longer has to spend her day making poison sticks to keep out the militia, or an Indian commander is Kashmir who says the daily carnage is only "friendly fire," Carrier knows how to get the quotes and anecdotes that stick with his readers for a long time.

4-0 out of 5 stars Desert Amerika
Scott Carrier runs to the edge of a high, dry place and observes: "Here it is, Reality; but the reality of what?" The answer comes back as the echo of laughter in the hills. Haunting and wonderful.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Unique, American Voice
Scott Carrier's collection of essays, Running After Antelope alternates sections about travel's to Cambodia, time spent interviewing the mentally ill, and beatnik hitchhiking adventures with brief, intercalary chapters, indexed by year, which describe his passion for animal of the title. Carrier is consumed by the idea of being able to run with these creatures, to track them and perhaps outrun them eventually. On several occasions we meet Scott's brother, a scientist who studies the respiratory systems of mammals. Their relationship is often engaging, as is Scott's relationship to the antelope themselves. Indeed, the author's voice, so easy to read along with after hearing it so many times on NPR, dominates the landscape to such a degree that the reader never really gets a clear view of the vistas, natural and metaphorical, that he attempts to exposit in these brief essay. As individual works, the essays are like existential snapshots of a hell always just below the surface. The best essay in the collection, The Test, describes Carrier's time as a field interviewer for the mentally ill. He meets several, decidedly disturbed individuals - a man who tells Carrier that he can read his mind with the help of a crystal he carries, a woman who was put on medication because she claims sex with angels, and an eighty year old man who responds to every question with a plaintive "I can't remember". Carrier's job plunges further into the heart of darkness when he decides to take the test himself, only to discover, half way through, that the results aren't going to be good. As starling, even heartbreaking, as this essay is, the fact that it is followed later on by a rather lighthearted, Charles Kuraltesque piece about hitching a ride across country with an aspiring art dealer - who incidentally, believes his brother to be a genius of the art world; I wonder if Carrier considered making a stronger parallel with his own brother - and then by two pieces of travel journalism in which Carrier, promisingly enough, rents a motorcycle to transverse the countryside, and then, after getting lost on his way back to the palatial hotel, promptly returns it. The rudiments of Carrier's dark vision of things not quite in their proper place (especially the author himself) do make themselves known from time to time, event these weaker essays. The problem is that the reader's focus is split between the narrator's neurosis (and it is a fascinating one) and the decidedly journalistic intent in many of these essays. The divide never seems to converge at any point, despite the contextual format which leads the reader to believe otherwise. The lack of tonal cohesion between the various pieces, though distracting, should not dissuade a good, long sitting with Carrier's book, however. The precision of his prose style, which sometimes boarders on the baroque, has been honed by years freelancing for public radio. As such, the writing is meant to stimulate the mind's eye. In an early essay, Carrier describes the quite, natural splendor of his Utah:

There are little birds in the trees, and big birds on the rock walls of the canyon - red rock walls in the shadow of the afternoon sun. A dirt road comes around and down and crosses over the stream, and in the pool below road a pale snake slides silent into the water and swims to the other side, holding something rather large in its mouth.

Assonance aside, these sorts of passages, brief and almost haiku-like, crop up throughout the book and provide the necessary calm and elegance to counter Carrier's dark and often morbid musings. It is strange that Scott Carrier, the brooding, almost transient voice so often heard amongst the wacky and the cranky on This American Life, should become a representative belle letterist for this new century. However, the hodgepodge of modes that make up Running After Antelope - memoir, travel essay, nature writing - seems a perfect fit for the era of the translucent computer and gourmet fast-food. Appetites change and morph throughout even a single sitting of reading. To this end, Scott Carrier's short collection of flawed but very often beautiful and haunting essays should provoke even the most distracted of readers.

4-0 out of 5 stars FH grows up
I have always liked Scott Carrier the most of all of the producers on "This American Life". Something about his voice, writing style, and introspection. I found this book to be a non-fiction Jesus' Son, maybe lacking the manic moments that Denis Johnson pens but the sadness, naiveté, and poetic prose is all there.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Running to Stay Alive"
Scott Carrier's theme in "Running After Antelope" is a description of his life, of my life, of everyman's life. Intercalated between short essays of his adventures are recurrent descriptions of Scott and his brother's hypothesis that they (humans) can outrun a pronghorn antelope. This metaphor fits a thinking man's quest in life. We all must keep running to really stay alive. This is some sort of by-product of consciousness I suppose. I predict that Scott will never succeed, but he must keep running. Most of us loose sight of what we should run after. This book gently reminds us without the usual prostelitizing. The sparkling essays are crystals without too much said. This is a soothing book, despite the horrors that are depicted. I plan to give it to everyone I know capable of introspection. ... Read more


16. Wild Steps of Heaven
by VICTOR VILLASENOR
list price: $13.95
our price: $10.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385315694
Catlog: Book (1997-02-10)
Publisher: Delta
Sales Rank: 36776
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In his critically acclaimed bestseller Rain of Gold, Victor Villase-or brought his mother's family vividly to life. In Wild Steps Of Heaven, he turns to his father's family, the Villase-ors. Against a vivid backdrop of love and war, magic and heroism, the author breathes life into his father's people--and in particular, the Villase-or women*Margarita, the indomitable matriarch who was swept away by Don Juan Jesus Villase-or on the eve of the Mexican revolution*their beautiful daughters, who find strength and endurance in their mother's faith, and searing passion amidst the turmoil of war. But it is little Juan, the youngest son, through whose eyes this tumultuous saga unfolds. Juan would learn from his brother Jose, a hero of the revolution, how to be a man; and from his beloved mother, how to live and love con gusto y amor.

A story of madness and miracles, rage and redemption, In Wild Steps Of Heaven creates a riveting portrait of an extraordinary family and the country whose earth gave them roots. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Wild Steps of Heaven
Read this book before you read "Rain of Gold". "Wild Steps of Heaven" is a short read and actually the paternal part of the family story. I wish Villasenor had included the info in Wild Steps of Heaven" in "Rain of Gold". Both books are a wonderful patchwork of history,and genuine family integrity. Excellent summer read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Wild steps of heaven is magic
This is a wonderful book. This book is about a family living during the Mexican Revolution.His writing just takes into this magical world and even though you know that he has made a little piece of history into this great big piece of fiction, he does it so as a matter-of -fact that you just can't believe that it's not true.

5-0 out of 5 stars Epic Tale of Family Loyalty, Love, and Making of Heroes
In times of hardship heroes are needed and none moreso than in Mexico as revolution rages. The Villasenor family patriarch, an exiled red-haired Spaniard, has married an Indian woman. The first ten years of the marriage are a time of great love and passion, and the children born first are fair and favor Don Juan Villasenor. Later children are dark like their mother. One of the dark ones, Jose, from age 12 must live in the barn because he defied his father and gentled a stallion to rescue his baby brother holding onto the leg rather than shoot the horse. In his exile and solitude a hero begins his training with Grandfather Don Pio Castro who knows Jose understands the power of love and gentleness. This will be the son who defends la familia during the revolution from the soldiers who time and again attach the village. The colonel commanding the troops more particularly desires Jose's true love Mariposa and destroys her. Ultimately, the younger brother Juan (author Villasenor's father) begins to show heroic tendencies himself and will be the one to defend his mother and the remaining family against the colonel. Villasenor moves the tale along with a powerful, songlike cadence. Notable characters are the giant cousins, Basilio and Agustin, who strip naked and race the lightning and then Halley's comet on January 17, 1910, a night of magic and love, the day before el colonel begins shooting up the home village, el paraiso de Los Altos de Jalisco. Each chapter begins with epigrams featuring "Great Father Sun" that provide a sense of power from above, as in "the heavens smile . . . as all around him the gods and serpents did battle." When the final epigram tells us "and out of these children of the earth and of the stars would now come a glorious new gente in all their wonder and fire," we realize that while we have been traveling through an exciting story with more twists and turns than fiction, we also have been participating in something approximating a creation myth. Highly recommended is Villasenor's first tale of the family Villasenor, Rain of Gold.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced, enjoyable reading
After reading Rain of Gold, an exceptional story, I couldn't wait to read this one. Wild Steps of Heaven tells more of Victor Villasenor's ancestral history, this time focusing on his grandfather's life as a young boy in Mexico. The book is very fast-paced and full of stories that are shocking in their violent imagery, yet show the importance of faith in God, love, and la familia. ... Read more


17. Horse Tradin'
by BEN K. GREEN
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.68
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 039442929X
Catlog: Book (1967-05-12)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 78468
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Horse Stories
I read this book many years ago and am glad to see it reissued. Even my non horsey kids enjoyed the stories. It's even worth rereading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Green Not Hokey
Whoever said that Green's stories were hokey must be young, and not appreciative of bootstrap operations. Ben Green was a self-made man, sizing up opportunities as an enterprising youngster. He shows determination, he demonstrates decision-making skills, and he always plays within the framework, ever flavored with a fine-tuned sense of humor. In short, he's the sort who made this country great, and what we are woefully short of in today's crop of youngsters. I know; I'm a retired middle school teacher. I'd recommend this book to any of my former students, except most of them don't like to read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Strange Short Stories
This is a book of odd little tales written with a western "flair". The line drawings are nice but the stories were occasionally a bit hokey for my taste. Good for those who like old westerns and beans from a can on the grill. ... Read more


18. Breaking Clean
by JUDY BLUNT
list price: $24.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375401318
Catlog: Book (2002-02-05)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 314276
Average Customer Review: 4.18 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

“A memoir with the fierce narrative force of an eastern Montana blizzard, rich in story and character, filled with the bone-chilling details of Blunt’s childhood. She writes without bitterness, with an abiding love of the land and the work and her family and friends that she finally left behind, at great sacrifice, to begin to write. This is a magnificent achievement, a book for the ages. I’ve never read anything that compares with it.”
—James Crumley, author of The Last Good Kiss


Born into a third generation of Montana homesteaders, Judy Blunt learned early how to “rope and ride and jockey a John Deere,” but also to “bake bread and can vegetables and reserve my opinion when the men were talking.” The lessons carried her through thirty-six-hour blizzards, devastating prairie fires and a period of extreme isolation that once threatened the life of her infant daughter. But though she strengthened her survival skills in what was—and is—essentially a man’s world, Blunt’s story is ultimately that of a woman who must redefine herself in order to stay in the place she loves.

Breaking Clean is at once informed by the myths of the West and powerful enough to break them down. Against formidable odds, Blunt has found a voice original enough to be called classic.
... Read more

Reviews (44)

3-0 out of 5 stars A near miss
Although I will freely admit that this book held my interest, I must admit to an unsettling feeling at the finish. Why the title? Is she gloating about leaving the life she was raised in and claims to cherish? What happened to her parents, her husband, her friends? The disjointed ending leaves a reader full of questions. I cannot help but wonder how the people of Malta feel about Blunt's analysis of her existence. Although her life as a ranch wife must have been difficult, her husband loved and protected her. The writing style is compelling, the storyline is riveting,but the ending is evasive. Is the author happy now in Missoula? I both like and dislike the book. To me, Blunt seems to be an oxymoron: she pays tribute to her heritage, yet she works feverishly to destroy it. I hope she writes a sequel that provides answers. She is a gifted writer, but the ending of this book does not provide any kind of satisfaction for a reader--- most especially a Montana reader who is familiar with the life of which she writes.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Especially Compelling Memoir
Those familiar with the writings of James Joyce already know that suffocation is one of his dominant themes, especially in The Dubliners and even more specifically in "The Dead," one of the short stories included in that volume. I was reminded of that theme as I read Judy Blunt's memoir. (I suggest no other comparisons of her work with Joyce's.) Both writers have a great deal of value to say about those who live lives of "quiet desperation." In this book, Blunt speaks eloquently and sometimes with humor as she brilliantly describes her first 30 years in northeastern Montana, a period during which she worked on her family's ranch, graduated from high school, married, and gave birth to three children. For various reasons she shares in her book, Blunt eventually decided to leave her husband as well as a lifestyle which had by then become unendurable. During succeeding years, she began to organize and record her thoughts about life on a ranch for her and for the other women she knew. It is important to keep in mind that this is a memoir: It provides Blunt's observations and conclusions and from her own point of view. Presumably not everyone who knew her then agrees with everything she has to say.

Indeed, some may view this book as an indictment of the culture in which she lived, worked, struggled, and suffered throughout much of her life. (No doubt her former husband and father-in-law do.) For men as well as women, there was (and is) always so much to do to maintain a ranch. Prolonged periods of isolation within a human community whose population was diminishing. Harsh winters. Droughts. For women, contrary to the national average, a much briefer life span than for men because of inadequate healthcare and death in childbirth, with wives meanwhile required to maintain a workload (in addition to homemaking) which most men would find daunting. Also noteworthy: according to Blunt, women in this culture are wholly subservient to men in terms of any decisions concerning family members, the home, or the ranching business. In a word women were "powerless." It was from such a life that Blunt fled, making as clean a break as she could.

Born and raised in Chicago, and having since lived in several other major cities, I am unable to identify with the way of life Blunt describes. However, over the years, I have frequently encountered men as well as women who also felt trapped in their lives. (Some described themselves as "prisoners.") They expressed feelings of being overworked as well as under appreciated, and (yes) powerless to seek a better life elsewhere. I am certain they and countless others can identify with the experiences Blunt shares in her book. It took courage for her to break away. To her credit, she did. Although it may not have been Blunt's intention, perhaps (just perhaps) her book will help others to find the courage they also need to replace a life of "quiet desperation" with one which offers social freedom and personal fulfillment.

3-0 out of 5 stars Breaking clean?
I am always scouring the shelves for books like this--accounts of modern and not so modern ranch life in the American West--especially from a women's perspective. The boldness of the title attracted me. I thought, 'Now, here's something written by a women who's going to get straight to the point, and I can expect some raw and vivid imagery about the western landscape.' The more I read the less I liked it. I gave it 3 stars just because the prose is good--but the account just didn't live up to my expectations of the title and I was confused as to how Blunt really felt. Bitterness seemed to grow as a theme so I didn't get the idea that she really 'broke clean' she just made a temporary but emotionally she's still stuck on it. As the saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.

4-0 out of 5 stars Breaking Clean Review by Judy Blunt
The book Breaking Clean is about the author and her life growning up in a small town of Malta, Montana. She describes her life growing up on farm from a little child in to a grown woman. She tells about how her family wants whats best for her and whats her to keep the family tradition alive by marrying the neigbors son who is 12 years older than her. But she wants more than to be living on a farm for the rest of her life. I thought this book was really good because i can make lots of connections to it from where i am from. But over all it is a good book.

1-0 out of 5 stars breaking clean by judy blunt
I was appalled at this book, I grew up on a ranch close to the one she writes about. Her facts about ranch life are mostly untrue and I believe she was on a vindictive rout of the people on this ranch. I do understand that she has since retracted much of the book, but after she took all her 15 minutes of fame. What has happened to her. I was furious so see such a blantant piece of writing get so much play. There are such good books about ranch life she should never again create any piece of writing and expect the public to be so duped. ... Read more


19. Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps (Citadel Underground)
by Emmett Grogan
list price: $21.95
our price: $21.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0806511680
Catlog: Book (1990-07-01)
Publisher: Citadel Press
Sales Rank: 160529
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"Ringolevio" is the memorable tale of Emmett Grogan and the Diggers, the irreverent urban guerrillas anti masters and masters of street theater who made San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury a home, putting on Grateful Dead dances in Golden Gate Park, ladling out free stew to all comers in the park's Panhandle, and keeping the peace with the cops. While Kesey's Merry Prankster's were off tripping the light fantastic, the Diggers were transforming the Haight from a seedy district of abandoned Victorian houses into an evanescent paradise on earth.

For anyone who thinks that those were days only of peace, love and flower power, Ringolevio will be a revelation, as it evokes the gritty urban sensibility that supplied the backbone to the community's free flights of fancy.

Vastly entertaining, Ringolevio is at once high adventure, political screed, social history. and hyperbolic memoir. This classic traces the story of Emmett Grogan, a larger-than-life sixties legend of great controversy, from the streets of New York to the heights of the Haight.

Citadel Underground's edition of Ringolevio features a new introducing by the actor Peter Coyote, one of Grogan's oldest friends, a fellow Digger and a veteran of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

"The San Francisco Diggers combined Dada street theater with the revolutionary politics of free". Slum-alley saints, they lit up the period by spreading the poetry of love and anarchy with broad strokes of artistic genius. Their free store, communications network of instant offset survival poetry, along with an Indian-inspired consciousness, was the original white light of the era. Emmett Grogan was the hippie warrior par excellence. He was also a junkie, amaniac, a gifted actor, a rebel hero, ...and above all a pain in the ass to all his friends. Ringolevio is half-brilliant". -- Abbie Hoffman ... Read more

Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Worth reading-- but suspend your disbelief
Grogan is a born storyteller, sorta like your old uncle who tells you in detail how he killed scores of Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. "But Uncle Bert-- you were 12 years old in 1944!" "Yeah, but I enlisted early..." Grogan is like that-- he tells a great story, and it's up to you to figure out which parts are true, and how much he's exaggerated: 20%, 50%, or 193%. Why this is worth reading: if you wish to know about the sixties and the counterculture in NY and LA and SF, and if you want a (mostly unreliable but entertaining) eyewitness, this will inform and intrigue. Someday, this will be made into a film-- if they can make a movie of Chuck Barris' "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," they can film this hodgepodge of fiction and fact as well.

4-0 out of 5 stars A sad book about a sadder life
While it is true, this is a wonderful, true-to-life autobiography of one of the central figures to the Haight-Ashbury scene, there is something fundamentally tragic about Grogan, especially if you read Peter Coyote's introduction and realize what happened to Grogan in the 1970s. Grogan was no bohemian intellectual, and so the reading is rough at times, but Grogan was a man who had an amazing amount of gaul, a joie-de-vivre, and a sense of daring that made his life fascinating... "a life played for keeps" as his subtitle tells us.

Unfortunately, at too early an age, that sense of daring led him to heroin. Perhaps because Grogan opens himself up so completely in "Ringolevio", one comes away from the book with a sense that somehow, despite Grogan's disappointment with the failure of the Haight-Ashbury adventure, he was going to be all right, he was going to find a new way to do his good work in this world. The book ends with a first-hand account of the Rolling Stones Altamont Speedway murder. Grogan was writing with hindsight, recognizing that the concert marked the end of the illusion: many residents of Haight Ashbury began to move away, or get into trouble, and it didn't take long before the whole gig was over. But Grogan seemed optimistic that he would find other gigs, equally as enriching as his years as a Digger in San Fransisco.

The first time I read this book it was a first edition copy, and I didn't have the benefit of knowing what happened to Grogan in the years following this book's publication. Reading Coyote's recollections of Grogan in the years after the book's publication - how financial success led Grogan back to the needle, and how the needle eventually claimed Grogan's life - makes the feigned optimism of Ringolevio's end all the more bittersweet.

I don't give it five stars because it reads at times like the work of a hack. Nonetheless, this is a fascinating document for anyone interested in the history of the Haight-AShbury community of the late 1960s, who the figures involved in the community were and what events shaped that community. And for the most part it seems honest, warts and all, not some nostalgia-tinged feel-good book about peace and love.

5-0 out of 5 stars An American classic?
Each time I read this book, I'm more amazed and amused by it. There is never a dull moment, and I still can't figure out when or whether it crosses the line from fantasy into reality. It has a voice as authentic and American as "Huckleberry Finn" and Woody Guthrie's autobiography, and it stands as tall as they do in American literature, no joke. One of my favorites of all time. It captures a place and time, and delivers an unforgettable character, as charming as he is unreliable. I hope it will be rediscovered and recognized someday.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE COOLEST BOOK ABOUT THE 60'S
Anybody who wants to know anything about the San Fran "hippie" scene of the late 60's has to beg, borrow or steal "Ringolevio." Even if some of it is ***, it's the read of a lifetime. Far better than fiction

5-0 out of 5 stars The 'Gone With the Wind' of the Sixties
Ringoloevio is a game played by NYC street kids which lies somewhere between 'tag' and a gang fight.

This purportedly self auto-biographical book centers around Kenny Wisdom as he matures from street-wise punk to heroin addict to cat burglar; then follows him to Europe and back to the US, and onto his misadventures in the army and his relocation to the Haight in the early sixties, where he helps create the Diggers, a legendary (and well documented) group of people that sponsored free food and free concerts in Golden Gate Park where such luminaries and legends as the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin performed. Incisively written and indelible on one's memory once read, it stands as one either of the great first hand social histories of the sixties, or as one of the most imaginative fictions ever concieved.

When the book was first published in 1972, Peter Coyote's name was not listed as one of the authors.

From the inside jacket (1972 edition):
"He's America's most famous invisible man who, determined on keeping his identity anonymous, has fed deceptions to the press and let others use his name to the point where some people think he doesn't even exist ("Whenever a Digger identifies himself as 'Emmett Grogan'", the San Francisco Chronicle reported, "it means nothing, since all Diggers call themselves Emmett Grogan . . .")" ... Read more


20. The Doing of the Thing: The Brief, Brilliant Whitewater Career of Buzz Holmstrom
by Vince Welch, Cort Conley, Brad Dimock
list price: $16.95
our price: $14.41
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1892327074
Catlog: Book (2004-05)
Publisher: Fretwater Press
Sales Rank: 300731
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Biography of America's great river runner, Buzz Holmstrom: thefirst to run the Green and Colorado Rivers alone in 1937. Born in the coastallogging communities of coastal Oregon, Holmstrom built his own wooden boats andsoloed several of the country's great whitewater rivers. He died mysteriously onthe Grande Ronde River at age 37. ... Read more

Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Answers to an old story....
I remember years ago when I was a kid a story my father told me about an amazing river rafter and boat builder.My Dad grew up in Coquille and went to school with Buzz's younger brother. His story always ended with how Buzz had been on a rafting trip in eastern Oregon and went off and committed suicide.I couldnever understand how someone who had done the amazing things he did could end his life on that note.I thought about that story many times over the years and always wished I knew more.This book is incredibly well researched and documented.Even thoughmany questions were answered,many more were raised.Such was the enigma that was Buzz Holmstrom.

5-0 out of 5 stars INSPIRING
Well-written and researched. But the thing that shines through is Buzz and his strong spirit - the writers were careful to be sure this was HIS book, not theirs, which is how it should be. A true boatman's boatman, Buzz wasmaybe born too soon - it seems the world wasn't quite ready for his singular love of the rivers and nature. This book won't disappoint you - what will disappoint you after reading it is that Buzz is gone.

5-0 out of 5 stars A "must read" for all Grand Canyon lovers
True adventure is not limited to distant lands and times long ago.Here in the good ol' U.S. of A., just a few short years ago, a common man blew his fanfare in the form of beautiful wooden boats made without plans byhand in his basement, and in his solo running of whitewater rivers in thoseboats.If you have ever slept under the stars, you will understand a bitof Buzz and why he did what he did.You may even want to do it yourself. Buzz would like that.

5-0 out of 5 stars An in-depth look at the man who became a hero.
Buzz Holmstrom is, in the mythos of Grand Canyon boatmen, a singular icon.For years, xerox copies of the journal he kept on his 1937 solo runthrough Grand Canyon have circulated among river runners, avidly read andtreasured.Now, with "The Doing of the Thing," we have athorough and exhaustively researched picture of his life.Buzz is, formany of us, our hero.Now we can know him as a man.The subtlties andnuances of a private life made public by the magnitude of hisaccomplishments reveal a man of sensitive nature and indominable courage.

5-0 out of 5 stars Painstakingly researched, beautifully written, captivating
Years ago (1970) on my first trip to the inner canyons of the Colorado River I heard stories of Bert Loper, Norm Nevills, the Kolb Brothers and "Buzz" Holmstrom, all early pioneers running the whitewater ofthe Colorado river. A one line entry in the "Powell Centennial, GrandCanyon River Guide," mentioned Holmstrom as,"... the first to runthe canyon alone, built boat and rowed from Green River, Wyoming, to HooverDam in 1937."

Welch, Conley, and Dimock have done a beautiful jobof bringing to light a story that should have been told long ago.

If youlike outdoor adventure then, "The Doing of The Thing," should bea perfect read. ... Read more


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