100 books like Sagebrush Empire

By Jonathan P. Thompson,

Here are 100 books that Sagebrush Empire fans have personally recommended if you like Sagebrush Empire. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

Nate Schweber Author Of This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis Devoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild

From my list on public lands and conservation.

Why am I passionate about this?

By lucky lottery of birth, Missoula, Montana, nestled between forested mountains and sliced through by trout-filled rivers, is where I was born and raised. Public land conservation came into my consciousness naturally as clean, pine-scented air. But when I moved to overcrowded New York City in 2001 to try a career in journalism, homesickness made me begin researching conservation. Why are there public lands in the West? What forces prompted their creation? Who wants public lands, and who opposes them? Can their history teach us about our present and our future? These books began answering my questions. 

Nate's book list on public lands and conservation

Nate Schweber Why did Nate love this book?

From this bracing and brilliant biography, I learned about how John Wesley Powell went on an epic Western discovery adventure and became inspired to challenge thousands of years of Anglo dogma about rain, rivers, land, and how humankind must live with them.

Basic conservation is such a part of American life today that, like gravity, which Newton gets credit for discovering, we forget the genius it first took to conceptualize it. No one is more foundational to conservation than one-armed Grand Canyon explorer Powell. His story is here told by an admiring author, Wallace Stegner, who understood that genius because he was one. 

By Wallace Stegner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Beyond the Hundredth Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the “dean of Western writers” (The New York Times) and the Pulitzer Prize winning–author of Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety, a fascinating look at the old American West and the man who prophetically warned against the dangers of settling it
 
In Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, Wallace Stegner recounts the sucesses and frustrations of John Wesley Powell, the distinguished ethnologist and geologist who explored the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, and the homeland of Indian tribes of the American Southwest. A prophet without honor who had a profound understanding of the American West, Powell warned long ago of…


Book cover of The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky

Stephen Trimble Author Of The Capitol Reef Reader

From my list on Utah Canyon Country.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long ago, in college in Colorado, I discovered Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire—the classic that grew from journals he kept while a ranger at Utah’s Arches National Park. I’d grown up in the West, visiting national parks and revering park rangers. Abbey gave me the model—live and write in these wild places. After graduating, I snagged jobs myself as a seasonal ranger/naturalist at Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. I was thrilled. Since then, I’ve spent decades exploring and photographing Western landscapes. After working on 25 books about natural history, Native peoples, and conservation, Capitol Reef still remains my “home park” and Utah Canyon Country my spiritual home.  

Stephen's book list on Utah Canyon Country

Stephen Trimble Why did Stephen love this book?

Ellen Meloy just might be my favorite Utah writer. She’s smart and witty. She’s laugh-out-loud funny. She’s self-deprecatory and never preachy. She gets her natural history right. And her writing is gorgeous. She died far too young, at 58, in 2004, and I miss her. As she wanders outward across Bears Ears National Monument from her home in Bluff, Ellen’s musings apply equally to the slickrock spine of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef. So I was determined to include her in my own book. I chose an excerpt from The Anthropology of Turquoise—a terrific piece on sensual canyon country wildflowers, “slickrotica.” In her book, Ellen follows turquoise to the ends of the earth, but she always brings us back to her home territory in the canyons. 

By Ellen Meloy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this invigorating mix of natural history and adventure, artist-naturalist Ellen Meloy uses turquoise—the color and the gem—to probe deeper into our profound human attachment to landscape.

From the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Bahamas to her home ground on the high plateaus and deep canyons of the Southwest, we journey with Meloy through vistas of both great beauty and great desecration. Her keen vision makes us look anew at ancestral mountains, turquoise seas, and even motel swimming pools. She introduces us to Navajo “velvet grandmothers” whose attire and aesthetics absorb the vivid palette of…


Book cover of Searching for Tao Canyon

Stephen Trimble Author Of The Capitol Reef Reader

From my list on Utah Canyon Country.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long ago, in college in Colorado, I discovered Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire—the classic that grew from journals he kept while a ranger at Utah’s Arches National Park. I’d grown up in the West, visiting national parks and revering park rangers. Abbey gave me the model—live and write in these wild places. After graduating, I snagged jobs myself as a seasonal ranger/naturalist at Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. I was thrilled. Since then, I’ve spent decades exploring and photographing Western landscapes. After working on 25 books about natural history, Native peoples, and conservation, Capitol Reef still remains my “home park” and Utah Canyon Country my spiritual home.  

Stephen's book list on Utah Canyon Country

Stephen Trimble Why did Stephen love this book?

I just missed seeing Glen Canyon. I didn’t start exploring southern Utah until the early 1970s, as Lake Powell began to fill, drowning this most beautiful canyon and its astonishing tributaries. In these same years, Jeremy Schmidt and his buddies were searching for the best remaining slot canyons, returning with extraordinary photographs from places few yet knew about. Jeremy is a colleague and old friend, and so I’d seen a few of these photos. Here, finally, the three photographers have collected their pioneering work in a perfectly printed and designed book. Jeremy’s text contains some of the best recent writing about the Colorado Plateau. Their book carries us deep into the maze of sandstone cathedrals along the Colorado River and celebrates the adventure of exploring this glorious country in our youth.

By Pat Morrow, Jeremy Schmidt, Art Tomey

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Searching for Tao Canyon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning book of retro, mind-bending photography that unlocks a hidden world of natural wonder, personal reflection and outdoor adventure.

More than 40 years ago, British Columbia photographer Art Twomey stumbled across a narrow crack in the desert floor in northern Arizona. It was a slot canyon, a stone crevasse – narrow, carved by water, its interior lost in shadow when seen by a curious person peering in from the rim.

Twomey’s photos from that day were unlike anything he had ever put on emulsion. They pictured a dream world, an intricate underground fantasy where lines bent, topsy met turvy,…


Book cover of A Quick Trip to Moab: Insurrection in the Wilderness

Stephen Trimble Author Of The Capitol Reef Reader

From my list on Utah Canyon Country.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long ago, in college in Colorado, I discovered Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire—the classic that grew from journals he kept while a ranger at Utah’s Arches National Park. I’d grown up in the West, visiting national parks and revering park rangers. Abbey gave me the model—live and write in these wild places. After graduating, I snagged jobs myself as a seasonal ranger/naturalist at Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. I was thrilled. Since then, I’ve spent decades exploring and photographing Western landscapes. After working on 25 books about natural history, Native peoples, and conservation, Capitol Reef still remains my “home park” and Utah Canyon Country my spiritual home.  

Stephen's book list on Utah Canyon Country

Stephen Trimble Why did Stephen love this book?

Kevin Jones’s rollicking page-turner takes place in the San Rafael Swell, just north of Capitol Reef—my home territory. All these southern Utah canyons share the same wild beauty and face the same threats. Jones was famously fired as Utah state archaeologist for standing up for Native rights, and his deep love of cultural history and rock art elevate this thriller into the ranks of regional classics. In his yarn, a regular guy—our hero, Stan—stops along the highway with his dog, Speck. A desperate woman, Lily, hides there and needs help. As all three are swept into a chase through the Swell, pursued by armed anti-wilderness extremists, Jones’s characters thoughtfully ponder the future of public lands while racing for their lives. We’re with them all the way. 

By Kevin T. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Quick Trip to Moab as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anti-wilderness protesters have taken over a portion of eastern Utah. Stan Watson, driving to Moab, stops by the highway to walk his dog Speck, and encounters a woman who begs him for help. When he offers Lily and her injured husband a ride, they are confronted by armed men, and Stan is in for a nightmare he had not anticipated. Chased through the wildlands by rag-tag extremists riding off-road vehicles, Stan, Lily, and Frank, a lost reporter, face dehydration, starvation, and murder at the hands of their pursuers. When Stan and Frank become incapacitated, Lily and Speck lead them through…


Book cover of The Size of the Risk: Histories of Multiple Use in the Great Basin

Adam M. Sowards Author Of Making America's Public Lands: The Contested History of Conservation on Federal Lands

From my list on bringing the public into the public lands.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started studying public lands by accident in the 1990s for a class project before I really knew what they even were. Since then, I've published hundreds of thousands of words about them, including my latest book Making America’s Public Lands where I’ve brought together much of what I’ve learned. I’m convinced the national forests, parks, rangelands, and refuges are among the most interesting and important experiments in democracy we have. I'm a writer, historian, and former college professor who now calls the Skagit Valley of Washington home. As much as I enjoy studying the public lands, I've appreciated hiking, sleeping, teaching, and noticing things in them even more.

Adam's book list on bringing the public into the public lands

Adam M. Sowards Why did Adam love this book?

I suspect most people see much of the Great Basin—and Nevada specifically—as empty, uninteresting, and boring in its geographic features and history. I confess that I’ve been guilty of this. But in Leisl Carr Childers’s hands, I learned to recognize how full, fascinating, and insightful this place can be. She takes a key management idea that pervades public lands management—multiple use—and demonstrates what it means when the public and their representatives call for one stretch of land to be used for grazing and recreation and wildlife habitat and bombing ranges and mining and, seemingly, new things under the sun almost continuously. With a fragile ecosystem and a fractious political environment, Nevada offers many lessons that can only be taught when a careful writer digs as deeply as Carr Childers has. We’re lucky she rescued this place from relative obscurity.

By Leisl Carr Childers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Size of the Risk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Great Basin, a stark and beautiful desert filled with sagebrush deserts and mountain ranges, is the epicenter for public lands conflicts. Arising out of the multiple, often incompatible uses created throughout the twentieth century, these struggles reveal the tension inherent within the multiple use concept, a management philosophy that promises equitable access to the region's resources and economic gain to those who live there.

Multiple use was originally conceived as a way to legitimize the historical use of public lands for grazing without precluding future uses, such as outdoor recreation, weapons development, and wildlife management. It was applied to…


Book cover of Stop Saving the Planet!: An Environmentalist Manifesto

Erik D. Curren Author Of The Solar Patriot: A Citizen's Guide to Helping America Win Clean Energy Independence

From my list on solving the climate crisis.

Why am I passionate about this?

Drawing on my own experience as a local elected official and citizen lobbyist at all levels of government, I write books to help get citizens involved in the biggest challenges of our day. As an activist for clean energy, I wanted to write an easy-to-use guide to help ordinary citizens to become effective champions for more solar power in America. The Solar Patriot is my third book and my second on solar power. For two decades I have worked as a communications consultant and advocate for solar power, renewable energy, and climate solutions. Now, I’m writing a call to action for America off of fossil fuels as soon as possible to meet the urgent challenge of the climate crisis.

Erik's book list on solving the climate crisis

Erik D. Curren Why did Erik love this book?

A welcome corrective to the trend of X number of things you can do in your personal life to save the Earth that won't threaten the rule of greedy polluters over the economy and government, Price's lighthearted book welcomes the reader with a smile but strikes hard against propaganda from corporate polluters while she stands up for climate justice. To help readers make a real difference, as opposed to doing things that feel helpful but really aren't like buying a Prius, Price does actually offer a few personal life changes, like buying less stuff or buying higher quality stuff at lower quantity. But most of her ideas are about thinking differently about the environment--such as Redefine Economy or even Redefine Extremism (greedheads, not environmentalists, are the real extremists). Or getting active in public policy--from the strikingly simple "Vote!" to "Join up locally--government & economy R us."

By Jenny Price,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stop Saving the Planet! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We've been "saving the planet" for decades now and the crises have only got worse. Many of us-environmentalists included-continue to live deeply unsustainable lives. At home, affluent citizens "buy green"; while at work, they maximise profits with dirty energy and toxic industries that are poisoning poorer communities.

With brevity, humour and plenty of attitude, Jenny Price tracks "save the planet" enthusiasm through strategies that range from ridiculously ineffective (Prius-buying and carbon trading) to flat-out counterproductive (greenwashing and public subsidies to greenwash). We need to imagine far better ways to use and inhabit environments. Why aren't we cleaning up the messes…


Book cover of Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics

Gareth Dale Author Of Revolutionary Rehearsals in the Neoliberal Age

From my list on Degrowth from a fellow traveller.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I grew up I assumed growth is good. Tomatoes grow, so do people—and economies too? Certainly, recessions were bad: many workers were made ‘redundant’. But as we grew older we noticed that growth continued yet people’s lives were getting harder. Looking back, the 1970s in Britain appears a golden age: almost everyone had plenty to eat, society was relatively equal, and all to a soundtrack of fabulous music. With climate change and other environmental threats it’s getting more obvious with each passing season that a global social transformation is required. These are the questions that have driven my own research, on climate politics, growth ideology, and technology fetishism.

Gareth's book list on Degrowth from a fellow traveller

Gareth Dale Why did Gareth love this book?

Should one species dominate half the entire planet? To some that seems greedy, but others think it’s not enough.

This book suggests a middle way: half the planet for us, but no more. It’s the most sumptuous book on my list, and even comes with an online game (which my students enjoyed playing in class). The book blends fictional passages with socio-ecological analysis. One fantasy paints a disturbingly plausible eco-dystopia, another portrays an attractive utopia—a future where people develop forms of democratic planning to enable rich human lives amidst flourishing fauna and flora.

Along the way, Vettese and Pendergrass introduce us to a galaxy of visionaries—from William Morris to Otto Neurath to Ursula Le Guin—who have developed ideas and planning techniques that could make that utopia real.

By Troy Vettese, Drew Pendergrass,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Half-Earth Socialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the next generation, humanity will confront a dystopian future of climate disaster and mass extinction. Yet the only "solutions" on offer are toothless cap-and-trade programs, catastrophic geoengineering schemes, and privatized conservation, which will do nothing to reverse the damage suffered by the biosphere. Indeed, these mainstream approaches assume that consumption in the Global North can continue unabated. It can't.

What we can do, environmental scholars Troy Vettese and Drew Pendergrass argue, is strive for a society able to provide a comfortable standard of living while stabilizing the environment: half-earth socialism. This means:
- Rewilding half the Earth to absorb…


Book cover of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment

Richard Munson Author Of Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food

From my list on the future of food.

Why am I passionate about this?

Innovators long have fascinated me. I helped launch a clean-energy startup and advance legislation promoting environmental entrepreneurs. I’ve written biographies of Nikola Tesla (who gave us electric motors, radio, and remote controls) Jacques Cousteau (inventor of the Aqua Lung and master of undersea filming) and George Fabyan (pioneer of modern cryptography and acoustics), as well as a history of electricity (From Edison to Enron). I love reading (and writing) about ingenious and industrious individuals striving to achieve their dreams. 

Richard's book list on the future of food

Richard Munson Why did Richard love this book?

When it comes to discussions about meat, wouldn’t you like something balanced rather than strident? Denis and Gail Hayes offer a well-researched and well-written look at the role of cows in our history and diets. The book’s appeal is that it is both too radical for most cowboys (except the couple hundred ranchers actually doing it right) and too honest about the important role animal protein played in human evolution for the vegans. Cowed also delivers an array of quotable facts, such as “Eating a pound of beef has a greater climate impact than burning a gallon of gasoline.” 

By Denis Hayes, Gail Boyer Hayes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Cowed, globally recognized environmentalists Denis and Gail Boyer Hayes offer a revealing analysis of how our beneficial, centuries-old relationship with bovines has evolved into one that now endangers us.

Long ago, cows provided food and labor to settlers taming the wild frontier and helped the loggers, ranchers, and farmers who shaped the country's landscape. Our society is built on the backs of bovines who indelibly stamped our culture, politics, and economics. But our national herd has doubled in size over the past hundred years to 93 million, with devastating consequences for the country's soil and water. Our love affair…


Book cover of Mining North America: An Environmental History Since 1522

Kenneth O'Reilly Author Of Asphalt: A History

From my list on the environment for the age of global warming.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I left Wisconsin and arrived for a position at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I was struck by the state’s nearly manic fear of low prices for the oil flowing from Prudhoe Bay through the Alaska (or North Slope) oil pipeline. Years later I returned to Wisconsin and quickly learned that there was relatively little interest in a pipeline that ran down the entire state in the manner of the Alaska pipeline. Only this pipeline carried synthetic crude made from natural asphalt hacked or melted out of the ground in Alberta, Canada. My interest in the environmental and political aspects of that pipeline set me on the path to a book about asphalt.

Kenneth's book list on the environment for the age of global warming

Kenneth O'Reilly Why did Kenneth love this book?

This anthology makes the case that an empire of extraction has existed from the dawn of the colonial era until deep into the 21st Century. The essays in the “Health and Environmental Justice” section are both fascinating and disturbing. And how could they not be disturbing with such words as these in chapter titles? “Uranium Mine and Mine Tailings.” “Arsenic Pollution.” “Quebec Asbestos.” Nearly every chapter in this section emphasizes the impact on indigenous populations with the chapter title on the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, being particularly stark. It opens with this: “If the Rivers Ran South.”

By John Robert McNeill (editor), George Vrtis (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Over the past five hundred years, North Americans have increasingly relied on mining to produce much of their material and cultural life. From cell phones and computers to cars, roads, pipes, pans, and even wall tile, mineral-intensive products have become central to North American societies. As this process has unfolded, mining has also indelibly shaped the natural world and the human societies within it. Mountains have been honeycombed, rivers poisoned, forests leveled, and the consequences of these environmental transformations have fallen unevenly across North America. Drawing on the work of scholars from Mexico, the United States, and Canada, Mining North…


Book cover of Learning to Die: Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis

Mallory McDuff Author Of Our Last Best Act: Planning for the End of Our Lives to Protect the People and Places We Love

From my list on change your relationship with death and heal Earth.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach environmental education at Warren Wilson College outside Asheville, North Carolina, where I’ve raised my two daughters in a 900-square-foot campus rental with an expansive view of the Appalachian mountains. My students work in jobs ranging from managing the herd of cattle to growing vegetables for the cafeteria. After the sudden deaths of my parents, I decided to take this one-year journey to revise my final wishes with climate change and community in mind as a legacy to my children and my students. I’ve written five books, including the forthcoming Love Your Mother: 50 states, 50 stories, & 50 women united for climate justice (April 2023). 

Mallory's book list on change your relationship with death and heal Earth

Mallory McDuff Why did Mallory love this book?

A friend recommended this slim book of 100 pages that poses a profound and direct question: How should we live in the end times when the climate crisis threatens our very existence? How can we garner the moral courage to live with the responsibility our times demand of us—as individuals and in collective? These are heavy queries but the philosophical and poetic lens of the authors opens that space to approach the challenge with more grace than fear. Plus, it’s a book that can fit in your back pocket, perfect for walks outside when you’re thinking about life and death in uncertain times. 

By Robert Bringhurst, Jan Zwicky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Truth-filled meditations about grace in the face of mortality." -MargaretAtwood In this powerful little book, two leading intellectuals illuminate the truth about where our environmental crisis is taking us. Writing from an island on Canada's Northwest coast, Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky weigh in on the death of the planet versus the death of the individual. For Zwicky, awareness and humility are the foundation of the equanimity with which Socrates faced his death: he makes a good model when facing the death of the planet, as well as facing our own mortality. Bringhurst urges readers to tune their minds to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in environmentalism, Utah, and presidential biography?

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