The best books by or about to Edward Abbey

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been passionate about Edward Abbey since I read Desert Solitaire in 1994. By 2010, I decided to write a biography on Abbey, Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, which allowed me to research and explore Abbey. I interviewed his great friends, including Jack Loeffler, Doug Peacock, Ken Sleight, and David Petersen. I visited Abbey’s special collections library and read his master’s thesis on anarchism and an unpublished novel. I visited his first home in Pennsylvania and many of his Desert Southwest homes. Along the way, I found the spirit of Abbey and the American Southwest. Finding Abbey won the National Outdoor Book Award.


I wrote...

Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave

By Sean Prentiss,

Book cover of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave

What is my book about?

When the great environmental writer Edward Abbey died in 1989, four of his friends buried him secretly in a hidden desert spot. The final resting place of the “Thoreau of the American West” remains unknown and has become part of American folklore. In Finding Abbey, Sean Prentiss takes readers across the country as he gathers clues from his research, travel, and interviews with Abbey’s best friends to strikeout for Abbey's grave, offer a creative biography of Abbey, and study Abbey to learn what home means.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Desert Solitaire

Sean Prentiss Why did I love this book?

This is the book that made Edward Abbey and Arches National Park famous and is considered the Walden (from Henry David Thoreau) of the Desert Southwest.

Essay by essay, Abbey shows us Arches, Canyonlands National Park, and more of the Desert Southwest through stunningly lyrical and brilliant writing. An American classic and also the book that introduced me to Edward Abbey.

After I read this book, I was hooked on Abbey and desperate to explore the Desert Southwest.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Desert Solitaire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'My favourite book about the wilderness' Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

In this shimmering masterpiece of American nature writing, Edward Abbey ventures alone into the canyonlands of Moab, Utah, to work as a seasonal ranger for the United States National Park Service.

Living out of a trailer, Abbey captures in rapt, poetic prose the landscape of the desert; a world of terracotta earth, empty skies, arching rock formations, cliffrose, juniper, pinyon pine and sand sage. His summers become spirit quests, taking him in search of wild horses and Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, up mountains and across tribal lands, and down the…


Book cover of The Monkey Wrench Gang

Sean Prentiss Why did I love this book?

If Desert Solitaire is an American classic, The Monkey Wrench Gang is the blockbuster that everyone knows and loves for its humor, and sex, all wrapped up in an environmental action thriller.

While this book might not be quite as literary as Desert Solitaire, it changed environmentalism in America. This book blended anarchism and environmentalism. It also helped inspire the environmental organization, Earth First. And it created the term “to monkey wrench.

Read the book because it changed American environmentalism. Love it for its action and thrills in the Desert Southwest. I know I did.

And while I always wanted to be like the brash main character, George Washington Hayduke, in all truth I was and am more like Seldom Seen.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Monkey Wrench Gang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Revolutionary ... An extravagant, finely written tale of ecological sabotage' The New York Times

Audacious, controversial and hilarious, The Monkey Wrench Gang is Edward Abbey's masterpiece - a big, boisterous and unforgettable novel about freedom and commitment that ignited the flames of environmental activism.

Throughout the vast American West, nature is being vicitimized by a Big Government / Big Business conspiracy of bridges, dams and concrete. But a motley gang of individuals has decided that enough is enough. A burnt-out veteran, a mad doctor and a polygamist join forces in a noble cause: to dismantle the machinery of progress through…


Book cover of The Fool's Progress: An Honest Novel

Sean Prentiss Why did I love this book?

Abbey wrote twenty-one books. While others considered him a “nature writer,” he roiled at that idea.

Instead, he considered himself a novelist, and he spent his entire career trying to write “the great American novel.” Published in 1988, a year before his death, Abbey called The Fool’s Progress his “fat masterpiece.” And I agree.

This might be his most intimate and emotional book. To me, this book aches with heart. This semi-autobiographical novel is about Henry Holyoak Lightcap’s journey home from the Desert Southwest to die in West Virginia.

The book is filled with reflection on death, which was what Abbey was experiencing in his own life.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fool's Progress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Henry Lightcap, a man facing a terminal illness, sets out on a trip across America accompanied only by his dog, Solstice, and discovers the beauty and majesty of the Southwest


Book cover of Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey

Sean Prentiss Why did I love this book?

For decades, Jack Loeffler and Ed Abbey were best friends. Nearly fifteen years after Abbey’s death, Loeffler wrote about their friendship and their time exploring the Desert Southwest in this beautiful biographical memoir.

Loeffler takes us on some of the countless backpacking trips the two men went on while also revealing the many complexities of Abbey. This beautiful book lets us lean in and listen to Loeffler and Abbey talking about anarchism and environmentalism around so many campfires. I had the pleasure of interviewing Loeffler, and this book sounds so authentic to him.

It is smart, passionate, and kind, just like Loeffler is. 

By Jack Loeffler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adventures with Ed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No writer has had a greater influence on the American West than Edward Abbey (1927-1989), author of twenty-one books of fiction and non-fiction. This long-awaited biographical memoir by one of Abbey's closest friends is a tribute to the anarchist who popularised environmental activism in his novel 'The Monkey Wrench Gang' and articulated the spirit of the arid West in Desert Solitaire and scores of other essays and articles. His 1956 novel 'The Brave Cowboy' launched his literary career, and by the 1970s he was recognised as an important, uniquely American voice. Abbey used his talents to protest against the mining…


Book cover of Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989

Sean Prentiss Why did I love this book?

Confessions of a Barbarian is an edited collection of Abbey’s private journals.

Across these pages, we get so many of the stories that never made it into an Ed Abbey novel or memoir. Instead, we see Abbey in all his glory and failures. We see Abbey at his emotional best and at his neediest. We see Abbey wrestling over anarchism, philosophy, and environmentalism. We see the complexity of a great writer and thinker.

Abbey’s “scribblings” offer some of the most complex and beautiful writing by Abbey and act, more or less, as his autobiography. 

By Edward Abbey, David Petersen (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confessions of a Barbarian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of excerpts from the private journals of an eccentric environmentalist features his notes, philosophies, and character sketches, chronicling his lifelong struggle to preserve the Southwestern wilderness. 20,000 first printing.


You might also like...

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

Book cover of I Meant to Tell You

Fran Hawthorne Author Of I Meant to Tell You

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Museum guide Foreign language student Runner Community activist Former health-care journalist

Fran's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not a criminal, she stumbles into other secrets that will challenge what she thought she knew about her own family, her friend, Russ—and herself.

I Meant to Tell You

By Fran Hawthorne,

What is this book about?

When Miranda’s fiancé, Russ, is being vetted for his dream job in the U.S. attorney’s office, the couple joke that Miranda’s parents’ history as antiwar activists in the Sixties might jeopardize Russ’s security clearance. In fact, the real threat emerges when Russ’s future employer discovers that Miranda was arrested for felony kidnapping seven years earlier—an arrest she’d never bothered to tell Russ about.

Miranda tries to explain that she was only helping her best friend, in the midst of a nasty custody battle, take her daughter to visit her parents in Israel. As Miranda struggles to prove that she’s not…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Edward Abbey, park rangers, and environmentalists?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Edward Abbey, park rangers, and environmentalists.

Edward Abbey Explore 9 books about Edward Abbey
Park Rangers Explore 23 books about park rangers
Environmentalists Explore 18 books about environmentalists