Jim’s Book Reviews

Jim’s Book Reviews
 The following reviews are of books Jim has enjoyed which struck a common chord with his own philosophy toward the Earth and its wild places, or life in general. Many of these reviews have appeared in various issues of Jim’s “Wild Wind” newsletter. Some are of books which should be on everyone’s life list. Next time you hit the trail, or just start to dream about it, pick up one of these great books. You’ll be glad you did.

Visit Jim’s Book List for more recommended books.

 Small Wonder
 Stone Work
 The Story of B                                                   Story Line – Exploring the Literature of  the Appalachian Trail
The Trail Home
 Practice of the Wild
 The Open Space of Democracy
  The Book of Yaak
 The Lost Grizzlies  PrairyErth
 Riverwalking — Reflections on Moving Water  The Secret Worlds of Colin Fletcher
 Clearcut  Ishmael
 Impressions of the North Cascades  High Odyssey
 First Site of Land  Green was the Earth on the Seventh Day
  Small Wonder
by Barbara Kingsolver
      Ah, ha. I’ve come upon another “you-have-to-read-this” book. Folks have been mentioning Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver to me for the past several months and I finally dove into it to see what all the fuss was about. I found myself laughing and crying and nodding with reassurance having found a voice for so much of what I’ve been feeling about the state of America. Here at last is a person who really examines us Americans and the way we live, and yet can leave us with some hope for what we might become. Small Wonder is a collection of essays, a glimpse into Kingsolver’s life, but a long, loving look at the life of this nation, too. The problems we face do have solutions; solutions that don’t have to made on the bodies of America’s youth and the innocents of far off third world countries. This is a book that I will proudly add to my library shelf. I hope you do, too. Published by Perennial.
The Story of B
by Daniel Quinn

Several years ago I reviewed Daniel Quinn’s classic, Ishmael. It is one of those “must read” books that can alter your perspective of how you see the world around you. Quinn does it again with Ishmael’s sequel, The Story of B. This story touched me on many levels; perhaps because it summed up so many of my own thoughts on spirituality. Quinn leads us toward a new awakening, a glimpse of enlightenment woven into the planet we walk upon, the creatures we share creation with, and the connection to it all buried in our own human genes. The story is an adventure, a suspenseful tale, and a journey into our collective souls. Don’t miss this one! Published by Bantam Books.

The Trail Home
by John Daniel

Every once in a while I read a book that strikes such a common chord with my own philosophy that I want to run out and buy a dozen copies just to send to friends and relatives. The Trail Home is that kind of book. John Daniel was the poetry editor for “Wilderness” magazine and that poetic bent comes through in this fine collection of his essays. He writes about the natural world; about the desert, the forests, the wild places, and some that aren’t so wild. He writes sometimes with humor, always with a clarity of respect. In an age when humankind has drifted so far from our roots with the land, Daniel lays a path for our return, shining the way with his insights and observations. This book inspired two of my new songs in the summer of ’95. I think it will inspire you, too, and perhaps help us all along on our own “trail home”. Published by Pantheon Books.

The Open Space of Democracy
by Terry Tempest Williams

Over the past several years Terry Tempest Williams has become one of my favorite authors. These are despairing times for those of us who care about the future of our democracy, our freedoms, and the very health of our planet. But the words and thoughts of Ms. Williams always bring me hope and encouragement. Her little book “The Open Space of Democracy” is another inspiring offering from this prolific writer. This short collection of essays, written before the election of 2004, combines the imagery of wild places and democracy to ask some challenging questions about our nation’s way of dealing with its problems. As always, her thoughtful, personal way of looking at things is captivating. Even the footnotes at the end of the book are engaging. Though it’s only 107 pages, this book offers much food for thought. Published by The Orion Society.

The Lost Grizzlies
by Rick Bass

Rick Bass has done it again. In “The Lost Grizzlies” he examines those undefined ingredients which add the spice to those roadless lands we call “wilderness”; those moods and inner feelings inspired by the presence of creatures whose untamed existence is an inspiring breath of fresh air. Grizzly bears in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado? Are they there? Will humankind allow them to be there? This book is the story of a grand quest, a search for answers to those simple questions. Published by Mariner Books, this is a must for any wilderness lover’s bookshelf.

Riverwalking – Reflections on Moving Water
by Kathleen Dean Moore

It’s a joy to discover a book as warm and inspiring as Riverwalking — Reflections on Moving Water by Kathleen Dean Moore . The series of essays in this collection explore relationships with the outdoors, but also with family and our inner selves. Moore’s writing style is smooth and easy, reminiscent of a letter from an old friend. In adventuring with the natural world, which she so obviously loves, she brings us along and shares a unique perspective, but one that also makes me think of mother’s everywhere. Riverwalking is published by Harcourt Brace and Company, and will always have a special place on my bookshelf.

by Bill Hunger

Clearcut,” by Bill Hunger is subtitled “A Novel of Bio-Consequences“. Indeed, the story deals with the impacts of one organism (humans) on the overall health of the biosphere. But it is much more than that. The book presents a wide spectrum of ecological thought wrapped in the form of a suspenseful thriller. The story grabs the reader right from page one and won’t let go. A mysterious disease is killing off the human population of the Earth. The key to its cure lies in a handful of rare herbs growing in the few remaining wild, untouched areas of the globe. The gripping story is an educational one, urging us to recognize the web of life and how all things are truly connected. Clearcut is published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company and they should be commended for offering us this valuable tale. You can also get it through the SwanView Coalition by making a contribution to this dedicated group of forest guardians.

Impressions of the North Cascades
by John C. Miles

I first walked through the North Cascades in the mid seventies on a coast to coast walk. The region struck me then with its superb beauty and unique wild character. I’ve been back since then, and am always astounded by the variety of feelings this region evokes. In reading Impressions of the North Cascades many of those feelings are stirred again. This collection of well written essays from a wide array of authors is edited by John C. Miles and is published by The Mountaineers. It brings the entire range into clearer focus by listening to the many tales of its history, ecology, lore, and life. The pleasant journey hops from one view from one author, to another perspective by the next writer. It really works, and in the end captures some of the mystique and magic which are the essence of the North Cascades. Whether you are planning on a long or a short journey into these mountains, you should take this book along. All royalties from the sale of Impressions of the North Cascades are donated to the North Cascades Institute, a nonprofit educational organization.

First Sight of Land
By Gary Lawless

For those of you who enjoy good poetry, try First Sight of Land by my friend Gary Lawless of Brunswick, Maine. Gary writes from a deep ecological perspective and gives spirit to the notion of Turtle Island. Especially his portion of it. Available from Blackberry Books, RR 1, Box 228, Nobleboro, Maine 04555 for $7.50 plus postage.

Stone Work
by John Jerome

Stone Work, written by John Jerome and published by Penquin Books, was a delightful surprise. Jerome takes us through the seasons at his New England farm as he builds a stone wall. The book is not the home building manual its title would suggest, but rather Jerome’s study of life and his quest to better understand it. It’s a warm, pleasing, easy-going book. One that will leave you looking closer at the small things in life, and appreciating them, too.

Story Line – Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail
by Ian Marshall

The Appalachian Trail is many things to many people. But to Ian Marshall the trail is a path to better understanding of American literature. In Story Line – Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail, Marshall weaves an engaging tale of his own wandering along the trail with his reflections and insight into various authors whose work has been touched by the landscapes the trail traverses. Marshall digs into writings from William Bartram, Annie Dillard, Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Melville, Frost, Hawthorne, Thoreau and many more along his journey. In doing so he delves into the relationship we humans have with nature and how it has evolved and been expressed in our literature. While some may find parts of the book more academically oriented, I greatly enjoyed the stimulation of Ian Marshall’s view. Not only of the authors and their works, but of the trail itself. Published by University Press of Virginia.

Practice of The Wild
by Gary Snyder

The Practice of The Wild is another book to have in your wilderness book collection. Written by Gary Snyder and published by North Point Press, this collection of essays touches upon the essence of wildness and place, and how the human relationship to the land has evolved. Snyder is a poet and a teacher. He paints wonderful word pictures, all the while opening the reader’s eyes to wider perspectives. The essays flow well and reach to the heart of ideas that need to be aired and re-incorporated into all of our lives. READ THIS ONE!!

The Book of Yaak
by Rick Bass

There is a distant place, a place of huge old growth tamaracks and firs, a place of grizzly bears and wolves, a place of remote homesteads and rugged individuals. The place is called The Yaak. It’s in the very northwest corner of Montana, and isn’t very well known. I’ve walked through the area twice, once on a coast to coast walk and once as I finished a Mexico to Canada trek. The Yaak has a mood of it’s own, a unique wild feeling that cloaks the valley and wraps the misty mountains with an aura of primal intensity. That feeling of this unusual place, and the passion of one who loves it, comes through strong and clear in The Book of Yaak, the latest by Rick Bass .

Rick lives in The Yaak and has written about it before, but in this book he presents another side of the story. His love for the last intact islands of the natural world and the creatures who depend on those wild places still shines strong, but here he also portrays a national tragedy. This is the tale being repeated a hundred times over out here in the West. It is the scandal of rape and ruin of our public lands by the powerful interests of big business in hand with our own government agencies. Where ever you come from, East or West, you need to read this book. If you haven’t been aware of what’s happening on our public lands, this true story will open your eyes.

Rick is an artist, writing in his simple, sometimes poetic fashion. The Book of Yaak is full of his passion for the place, the wildlife, and the people of the region. Yet, he also shares the frustrations and the politics of what caring about such a place can bring. He bares his heart and shows his scars. I for one am honored to take a good hard look at what he portrays. I hope you will, too. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, this one will stir up your love for the wild places and the urge to do something about it

by William Least Heat-Moon

For those who love the wide open spaces of the plains, the sweep of grass to the far horizon, and the story of the people who dwell in those places, William Least Heat-Moon offers “PrairyErth“. I was a great fan of his “Blue Highways” book, and picked up “PrairyErth” with thoughts of zipping through all 622 pages. This is not the kind of book you speed through. Like wandering the grasslands of Chase County, Kansas (which this book studies), you must take your time. There are many facets to the tale of an entire county. Heat-Moon looks at nearly all of them with many stories from many people, from interviews to journal excerpts, to eavesdropping in a local bar. He ‘s like a private investigator, nose to the ground, bound to get the essence of this place. And, the thing that really tied it all together for me, he is a walker. He treks the back roads, the rolling hills, the lush bottom lands, poking into the land, probing into the prairie, and coming out with a very real sense of place. His observations as he walks bring Chase County alive. For a taste of the Kansas Flint Hills this is a full course meal.

The Secret Worlds of Colin Fletcher
By Colin Fletcher

Colin Fletcher is easily the most renown backpacker who ever pulled on a pair of hiking boots. His fame comes from his excellent books, The Thousand Mile Summer, The Man Who Walked Through Time, and The Complete Walker, to name just a few. Add to this list of inspiring backpacking books another title; The Secret Worlds of Colin Fletcher. In a series of essays covering a number of shorter trips, Mr. Fletcher comes through again in sharing the special magic that makes backpacking more than just a physical journey. His writings celebrate the natural world and his own connections with it. On Vintage Books, this one is a good inspiration for all of us.

By Daniel Quinn

Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn , is another one of those books deserving of everyone’s “must read” list. An engaging, eye-opening tale of human evolution and our effect on the Earth, it is told through the eyes of a skeptical writer as he is tutored by a philosophizing gorilla. Unusual story line to say the least, but it really does work. Ishmael provides much food for thought especially in these times of environmental degradation and continued human aloofness to problems confronting the rest of creation. It’s a humbling book. You will see the world differently after reading it. Published by Bantam/Turner.

High Odyssey
by Gene Rose

High Odyssey, by Gene Rose, is the tale of Orland Bartholomew and the first winter traverse of the High Sierra back in 1929. To walk the length of those rugged mountains is one thing, but to ski them, and using the gear of that time, is another one altogether. Bartholomew also chalked up the first winter climb of Mount Whitney on this high adventure and had several near misses with avalanches, stream dunkings, and severe cold. The tale is well told and offers us modern day travelers a solid source of inspiration. It is published by Panorama West Publishers c1987.

Green was the Earth on the Seventh Day
by Thor Heyerdah

Thor Heyerdahl ’s books and adventures have captivated and inspired the world for many years. His voyages across the Earth’s major oceans using ancient modes of sea travel have not only proven his theories of how various cultures have spread, but also have been wonderful glimpses of the human spirit. In his recent Green Was the Earth on the Seventh Day (Memories and Journeys of a Lifetime) Thor tells of his first big adventure to the remote South Pacific with his wife, Liv. The newlyweds have a dream of finding an unspoiled island where they can live off the land. In 1937 they head for Fatu Hiva and begin their search for paradise. Through the experiences with the land and the islanders, Thor’s life is changed. His environmental ethic and keen interest in how humans came to be on the islands is ignited and nurtured. The eco-wisdom Heyerdahl offers is heartwarming. Published by Kodansha International 1996.