Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West - (Chip Ward, 1999) A father recounts how his family sought neighborliness and safety in a small Utah town and became enmeshed in a drama involving hazardous waste, industrial pollution, and the devilish choice between jobs and health.
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography - (Kathleen Norris, 1993) Norris’s eloquent prose evokes the Great Plains and its influence on the human spirit. This book describes the harsh, desolate, yet sublime landscape that embodies the contradictions of American life as lived in the small towns where history and myth have become indistinguishable.
Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect - (David Orr, 1999) In clear, moving prose, Orr argues for a new education in what it means to live in a finite world and for “an ecological intelligence” that does not alienate us from life.
Eating in America: A History - (Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont, 1976) The story of American eating begins and ends with the fact that American food, by most of the world’s standards, is not very good. This is a rather sad note considering the “land of plenty” the first American settlers found, and even sadder considering that with the vast knowledge of food we possess, we have still managed to create things such as the TV dinner and “Finger Lickin’ Good” chicken. Nevertheless, America’s eating habits, the philosophy behind these habits, and much of the food itself are deliciously fascinating. Wavery Root and Richard de Rochemont, in a style that is rich, tasty, and ironic, chronicle the history of American food and eating customs from the time of the earliest explorers to the present.
Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm - (Davis Mas Masumoto, 1996) An eloquent, humorous memoir of one critical year in the life of an organic peach farmer. Masumoto reflects on saving a family and a way of life, and the market values that threaten both. An author with “a farmer’s calluses and a poet’s soul.”
Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent The World - (Alan Weisman, 1998) More than twenty-five years ago, an intrepid visionary named Paolo Lugari set out to create a village in Columbia that could sustain itself agriculturally, economically, and artistically. He reasoned that if a community could survive in the Colombian llanos, it would be possible to live anywhere.
The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise & Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape – (James Howard Kunstler, 1993) Kunstler traces the history of settlements from the Pilgrim village to the modern suburb, with suggestions on how to build communities once again worthy of our affection.
Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds - (Christopher Cokinos, 2009) Is a book that tells the stories of six extinct North American bird species, along with the obscure and moving tales of the humans who killed these birds and those who tried to save them (sometimes the same people).
The Education of Little Tree - (Forrest Carter, 1976) The Education of Little Tree tells of a boy orphaned very young, who is adopted by his Cherokee grandmother and half-Cherokee grandfather in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez - (John Steinbeck, 1951) Steinbeck and biologist Edward F. Ricketts board the Western Flyer, a sardine boat and head out of Monterey, California, on a 4,000-mile journey into the Sea of Cortez. A great book that helps understand Steinbeck and his beliefs about man and the world, combined with adventure, philosophy and science.
New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community – (Terry Tempest Williams, William B. Smart, 1998) Members of the LDS faith relate personal experiences with the natural world, drawing on scripture and Mormon tradition to develop and environmental ethic and to practice, in the words of Terry Tempest Williams, the “extraordinary acts of faith we can exercise on behalf of life.”
The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness – (Rick Bass, 1998) In three novellas, Rick Bass lets the reader into characters who describe the world and in doing so tell us a great deal about themselves. The last, the title story, describes the world as we would like to see it.
Who Owns the West? – (William Kittredge, 1996) Kittredge offers no easy answers, but a sustained meditation on what it means to be a Westerner today. Three essays compose a celebration of the new West