The best books to read about resistance

Who am I?

I’m a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction living in northwest Montana’s Yaak Valley. I moved here from Mississippi 35 years ago to live in the mountains and write short stories, novellas, novels, but have gotten sucked into decades of battling a recalcitrant U.S. Forest Service intent on building roads and clearcutting in this incredibly unique ecosystem—the Yaak Valley, is the lowest elevation in Montana, the wettest valley, and an ancient inland rainforest that contains 25% of the entire state of Montana’s “species of concern.” Chief among these are the valley’s last 25 grizzlies: one of the rarest subpopulations in North America. Loving a thing deeply is almost always revolutionary. Revolution: to turn. To change. To revolve, evolve, return. To turn around.

I wrote...

Fortunate Son: Selected Essays from the Lone Star State

By Rick Bass,

Book cover of Fortunate Son: Selected Essays from the Lone Star State

What is my book about?

Fortunate Son is a literary tour of the Lone Star State by a native Texan of exceptional talent. The essays encompass a Texas that is both lost and found, past and present. The stories reach from Galveston Bay to the Hill Country outside Austin, and from Houston in the 1960s to today. They are bound together by a deep love and a keen eye for the land and its people and by an appreciation for what is given, a ruefulness for what is lost, and a commitment to save what can be saved.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness

Why did I love this book?

Doug Peacock’s Grizzly Years is revolutionary on two counts. The tale of a Green Beret medic devastated from his tours trying to sew soldiers and civilians back together in the killing fields of Vietnam, who seeks—and finds—recovery in the American wilderness: Wyoming’s Wind Rivers, the desert Southwest, and, always, the mountains of Montana—particularly Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. That wilderness can save our lives is a beautifully simple and revolutionary concept for many—that it is not a thing to be frightened of, but celebrated, preserved, defended.

In Montana’s backcountry, Peacock was drawn to the grizzlies, observed them at a distance, respectfully, and began filming them. His portraits of them playing show them to be what they are, but what not many had thought—incredibly social, certainly incredibly intelligent, but most of all, incredibly playful sentient beings. What’s revolutionary about this is also so simple: observation, and keen attention to detail, is an act of humility. Humility is the only thing that will save the tentative and late-arriving experiment that is Homo sapiens. Here in the twenty-first century, it is the utmost survival skill.

By Doug Peacock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Grizzly Years as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For nearly twenty years, alone and unarmed, author Doug Peacock traversed the rugged mountains of Montana and Wyoming tracking the magnificent grizzly. His thrilling narrative takes us into the bear's habitat, where we observe directly this majestic animal's behavior, from hunting strategies, mating patterns, and denning habits to social hierarchy and methods of communication. As Peacock tracks the bears, his story turns into a thrilling narrative about the breaking down of suspicion between man and beast in the wild.

Book cover of One of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among Bears

Why did I love this book?

Dr. Barrie Gilbert’s memoir, One of Us: A Biologist’s Walk Among Bears, is nothing if not a magnificent portrait and case study of humility. A half-century of incisive study and research into the baits, and needs and, perhaps most importantly, social complexity and intense attachments and intelligence of grizzly bears should be the lede here—not a single incident from Gilbert’s youth, when he surprised a mother grizzly with cubs while coming over a ridge into the wind. But so goes storytelling. Imbued with the compassion and generosity of the forgiven, Gilbert’s acute and intimate knowledge of the animal Indigenous cultures referred to as “the Real Bear” is unprecedented and unequaled in the tattered and impoverished remains of contemporary society in which so many have lost—are bereft of—any attachment to the wilderness from which we were birthed.

By Barrie Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One of Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Barrie Gilbert's fascination with grizzly bears almost got him killed in Yellowstone National Park. He recovered, returned to fieldwork and devoted the next several decades to understanding and protecting these often-maligned giants. He has spent thousands of hours among wild grizzlies in Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks, Alberta, coastal British Columbia, and along Brooks River in Alaska's Katmai National Park, where hundreds of people gather to watch dozens of grizzlies feast on salmon. His research has centered on how bears respond to people and each other, with a focus on how to keep humans and bears safe.

Drawn from his…

Book cover of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

Why did I love this book?

Finishing out the nonfiction—though I leave thousands undiscussed here—is Terry Tempest Williams’ seminal Refuge: An Unnatural History of Place. Bold and original in its direct comparisons between the personal and the ecological, the memoir chronicles the deterioration of Williams’ beloved mother, Diane Tempest, to ovarian cancer at the same time their shared landscape, the Bear River marshes of the Great Salt Lake where three generations of the Tempest had gloried in birding expeditions, were succumbing to record flooding. The memoir also details the exposure of Williams and her mother—her entire family—to radioactive fallout from the U.S. government’s atomic testing in the 1950s. Passionate, eloquent, fiery, informative, and wise, it’s a must-read.

By Terry Tempest Williams,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Refuge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the herons, owls, and snowy egrets that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. One event was nature at its most random, the other a by-product of rogue technology: Terry's mother, and Terry herself, had been exposed to the fallout of atomic bomb tests in the 1950s. As it interweaves these narratives of dying and accommodation, Refuge transforms…


By Larry Brown,

Book cover of Joe

Why did I love this book?

Fiction as literature of the resistance? Larry Brown’s Joe is a top candidate for what I’d call The Great American Novel. There are many entries, of course: as many stories as there are communities, past, present, and even future. 

What I love about Joe is the simplicity of metaphor. A backwoods ne’er-do-well, Joe Ransom makes his living killing—literally—the great wild biodiversity hardwood powerhouse forests of the Mississippi bottomlands by injecting them with poison so that they die, and the rich forest can be converted to the homogenous, fast-growing, essentially sterile monoculture of southern yellow pine. His way of life—wild, reckless, dangerous—is disappearing as well, and as he kills the thing he loves most, he drinks himself ever-deeper into harm’s way and seeks a violence commensurate with the one he is inflicting upon the forest. Worse yet, he begins to train a young acolyte, an orphan disciple, Gary Jones. The sentences are beautiful as the saga is horrific. Where’s the revolution? In acknowledging that wild nature threatens quick commerce; and that which we do to the land, we do to ourselves. Again, simplicity.

By Larry Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Brilliant . . . Larry Brown has slapped his own fresh tattoo on the big right arm of Southern Lit.” ―The Washington Post Book World

Now a major motion picture starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green.

Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won’t slow down--not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estimates his own age to be about fifteen. Born luckless, he is the son of a hopeless, homeless wandering family, and he’s desperate for a way out. When their paths cross, Joe offers him a…

All the King's Men

By Robert Penn Warren,

Book cover of All the King's Men

Why did I love this book?

Another contender for The Great American Novel? All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is the classic tale of the Louisiana populist governor who climbs from a hardscrabble farm to the statehouse and incredible power, there are two messages. Each is wrought with lyricism and luminous imagery: the first, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely; and the second, the incredible river-like power of time.

By Robert Penn Warren,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked All the King's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Willie Stark's obsession with political power leads to the ultimate corruption of his gubernatorial administration.

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