The best books about the American West

The Books I Picked & Why

Walking It Off: A Veteran's Chronicle of War And Wilderness

By Doug Peacock

Walking It Off: A Veteran's Chronicle of War And Wilderness

Why this book?

Peacock is one of two authors who make me want to put down the book and take a hike. I am an avid reader, and the ability of Peacock to make me put down his book is astonishing. Walking it Off is simultaneously a personal journey in light of the death of his friend Edward Abbey and also a pragmatic guide to hiking in the southwestern United States. This book reveals Peacock and his relationship with Edward Abbey, the desert anarchist.


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Desert Solitaire

By Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire

Why this book?

Abbey is one of two authors who make me want to put down the book and take a hike. I am an avid reader, and the ability of Abbey to make me want to take a hike instead of reading further is impressive. Desert Solitaire, Abbey’s account of serving as a park ranger in Arches National Monument, pays homage to wildlands everywhere. Abbey’s breakout book is a testimonial to his writing and, more importantly, to his critical thinking.


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The Journey Home: Some Words in the Defense of the American West

By Edward Abbey

The Journey Home: Some Words in the Defense of the American West

Why this book?

The Journey Home is a fitting sequel to Desert Solitaire in which Abbey makes a compelling case for saving what remains of the western United States. A long-time “desert rat,” Abbey lives his message of anarchism with a profound sense of humor. My exposure to Abbey’s writings while I was in college contributed to my love of the American West, where I grew up, and also contributed to my desire to pursue anarchism.


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Angle of Repose

By Wallace Stegner

Angle of Repose

Why this book?

Stegner was one of several writers who influenced Edward Abbey, and therefore Doug Peacock. Published in 1971, Angle of Repose was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. The writing is efficient and as beautiful as the region it describes. Stegner’s love of the people and landscape in western North America rings true in this book. Stegner’s impact on Abbey and Peacock is as clear as his writing.


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The Blue Hen's Chick: An Autobiography

By A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

The Blue Hen's Chick: An Autobiography

Why this book?

Guthie’s autobiography describes the wild, western United States from his perspective as a 64-year-old westerner. Born in 1901, Guthrie provides a compelling account of the rugged beauty of the West. Guthrie’s writing is lucid and compelling. I had read most of his books by the time I turned 30.


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