The best books about Utah

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Utah and why they recommend each book.

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Searching for Tao Canyon

By Pat Morrow, Jeremy Schmidt, Art Tomey

Book cover of Searching for Tao Canyon

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.

Searching for Tao Canyon

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.


Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

The Capitol Reef Reader

By Stephen Trimble,

Book cover of The Capitol Reef Reader

What is my book about?

In The Capitol Reef Reader, I collect writing that best captures the spirit of Utah’s least-known national park in personal narratives, philosophical riffs, and historic and scientific records. Editing this anthology was a labor of love. I arrived in Capitol Reef in 1975 to work a season for the National Park Service as a ranger. I began reading everything I could find about the park’s cliffs, canyons, and characters, and I've never stopped. I'm endlessly intrigued by the challenge of responding to this place in language.

The Reader condenses this rich literature, featuring fifty writers, young and old, who have graced these canyons with their attention and imagination—along with my photographs from 45 years of wandering in the park.

A Quick Trip to Moab

By Kevin T. Jones,

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

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. 

A Quick Trip to Moab

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.


Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

The Capitol Reef Reader

By Stephen Trimble,

Book cover of The Capitol Reef Reader

What is my book about?

In The Capitol Reef Reader, I collect writing that best captures the spirit of Utah’s least-known national park in personal narratives, philosophical riffs, and historic and scientific records. Editing this anthology was a labor of love. I arrived in Capitol Reef in 1975 to work a season for the National Park Service as a ranger. I began reading everything I could find about the park’s cliffs, canyons, and characters, and I've never stopped. I'm endlessly intrigued by the challenge of responding to this place in language.

The Reader condenses this rich literature, featuring fifty writers, young and old, who have graced these canyons with their attention and imagination—along with my photographs from 45 years of wandering in the park.

The Executioner's Song

By Norman Mailer,

Book cover of The Executioner's Song

Mailer’s novels from the 1960s-2007 are notoriously challenging, and I’ve seen readers wanting to see what Mailer is about sometimes make the mistake of starting with one of his more difficult, convoluted novels—Ancient Evenings or Harlot’s Ghost, for example. But The Executioner’s Song is thought by many critics to be not only his best novel (winning his second Pulitzer Prize), but his most readable, despite its length. It recounts the story and ultimate execution in January of 1977 of Gary Gilmore, who murdered two men during his release from prison on parole. But what Mailer does is work outward from that basic fact to go beyond the media circus that surrounded the case and the execution to try to understand Gilmore, his girlfriend Nicole, and the whole American setting—particularly the American West—that defined their lives. 

Joan Didion’s wonderful review in the NYTBR said Mailer had written a book…

The Executioner's Song

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Executioner's Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ANDREW O'HAGAN

In the summer of 1976 Gary Gilmore robbed two men. Then he shot them in cold blood. For those murders Gilmore was sent to languish on Death Row - and could confidently expect his sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment. In America, no one had been executed for ten years.

But Gary Gilmore wanted to die, and his ensuing battle with the authorities for the right to do so made him into a world-wide celebrity - and ensured that his execution turned into the most gruesome media event of the decade.


Who am I?

I’m a Professor of English Emeritus at Southern New Hampshire University and author of ten books, including fiction, criticism, memoir, and collected journalism. I was also an inaugural faculty member in the writing workshops at the Norman Mailer Center in Provincetown, MA. I first got into Mailer in the 1970s after reading The Naked and the Dead and Cannibals and ChristiansI ended up writing my doctoral dissertation on Mailer, which became my first book, Acts of Regeneration. My second book, Toward A New Synthesis, examined Mailer along with John Fowles and John Gardner as writers who adopted some of the techniques of post-modernism but kept their work firmly tethered to ethical issues.  


I wrote...

Norman Mailer at 100: Conversations, Correlations, Confrontations

By Robert J. Begiebing,

Book cover of Norman Mailer at 100: Conversations, Correlations, Confrontations

What is my book about?

Demonstrating that Mailer (who was born in 1923 and died in 2007) is still a provocative presence in American letters, Norman Mailer at 100 commemorates Mailer’s centenary and the 75th anniversary of his best-selling debut novel The Naked and the DeadThrough six critical essays, two creative dialogues featuring Mailer with Walt Whitman and Ernest Hemingway, and my own interview with Mailer, the book reveals how Mailer’s work contributed to shaping the 20th-century literary landscape and underscores how Mailer’s work can help us confront the challenges of today.

The book is but one commemorative artifact among the films (American and European), plays, books, and a television series about Mailer due out in late 2022 through 2023.

Book cover of Sonic Memories and other essays

Sonic Memories makes the best use of a compact space without losing any of the narrative depth and emotional impact. This small collection of essays uses sound and music as its top note all the while using the silence in between to showcase a rich memoir-like exploration of Black girlhood growing into Black womanhood.

Sonic Memories and other essays

By Cija Jefferson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sonic Memories and other essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Finding a voice is something I struggled with since childhood. Always afraid of being invisible or silent, finding common ground with writers who excelled at relating the human condition became a safe haven. I made a choice to focus on creative work that explores what is means to be simply human--to examine the hopes, needs, wants, and energies that make our daily lives move.


I wrote...

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

By Athena Dixon,

Book cover of The Incredible Shrinking Woman

What is my book about?

A quiet retelling of a life in the background, Athena Dixon's debut essay collection, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, is a gentle unpacking of the roles she learned to inhabit, growing up as a Black woman in a small Midwestern town, to avoid disruption. But after the implosion of the life she'd always wanted, Dixon must explore the implications of her desire to hide as she rebuilds herself in a world that expects freedom to look boisterous. As Dixon presses the bruises of her invisibility, these essays glide between the pages of fan fiction, the rush of new panties, down the rabbit hole of depression, and reemerge on the other side, speaking with the lived authority of a voice that, even when shaking, is always crystal clear.

Autoboyography

By Christina Lauren,

Book cover of Autoboyography

Coming out once is difficult, but going back into the closet is a unique sort of challenge. Tanner and Sebastian fall in love when neither of them are exactly ready for it, and their conflicting backgrounds make it difficult for them to reach a happy medium. No spoilers, but this book presented the pain of coming out – or not better than any other I’ve read.

Autoboyography

By Christina Lauren,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Coming-of-age novel about two boys who fall in love in a writing class-one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott's family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High's prestigious Seminar-where honor roll students diligently toil to draft…

Who am I?

Louise is a geographer and writer from Staffordshire, England, where she aims to someday own a house with a library. Until then, she is collecting books of all genres – from romantic YA to true crime – and working on improving her embroidery skills. She can often be found either yelling about queer rights or walking through the countryside sometimes both!


I wrote...

Not Quite Out

By Louise Willingham,

Book cover of Not Quite Out

What is my book about?

William Anson is done with relationships. He’s starting the second year of his medical degree single, focused, and ready to mingle with purely platonic intentions. Meeting Daniel, a barely recovered drug addict ready to start living life on his own terms, might just change that. There are two problems. One: William isn’t out. What’s the point in telling your friends you’re bisexual when you aren’t going to date anyone? Two: Daniel’s abusive ex-boyfriend still roams the university campus, searching for cracks in Daniel’s recovery. No matter how quickly William falls for Daniel, their friendship is too important to risk ruining over a crush. William is fine being friends forever. Well, not quite.

Content warning – This book includes references to abortion, PTSD, drug addiction, abusive relationships, and self-harm.

Athabasca

By Alistair MacLean,

Book cover of Athabasca

Have you ever been cold, in your bones cold? That’s what I felt reading Athabasca. Growing up in northern Utah, I thought I knew cold. Then Alistair MacLean introduced me to a true, icy, desperate cold. The atmosphere is so much a part of this story, it’s like a character. I’ll admit, this book challenged me as a young reader. It tends to plod along at glacial pace until the last third of the book, but that end is feverishly spectacular. This book is the first I read by this author and I rapidly devoured all his other titles.

Athabasca

By Alistair MacLean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reissue of the nail-biting tale of sabotage set in the desolate frozen wastes of two ice-bound oil fields, from the acclaimed master of action and suspense.

SABOTAGE!

THE VICTIMS
Two of the most important oil-fields in the world - one in Canada, the other in Alaska.

THE SABOTEURS
An unknown quantity - deadly and efficient. The oil flow could be interrupted in any one of thousands of places down the trans-Alaskan pipeline.

THE RESULT
Catastrophe.

One man, Jim Brady, is called in to save the life-blood of the world as unerringly, the chosen targets fall at the hands of a…


Who am I?

I’m a middle school science teacher, and many of my students are “readers,” the ones that constantly have their heads in books when they aren’t dragged away by classwork. I created this list because they remind me of what I enjoyed about reading when I was their age, the environment. Characters and plots were great, but I wanted a book to take me somewhere I’d never been. Whether it was the Klondike or soaring through clouds, I needed to believe it was real, someplace I might see for myself. Vivid descriptions that provide fuel for imagination make reading more dynamic.


I wrote...

Venomous

By Brian Clifford,

Book cover of Venomous

What is my book about?

Oliver Stanton has just been kicked out of school. His mouth just doesn’t know when to quit and it got him into one too many fights. His desperate parents have taken him to Arizona for a change in atmosphere and to meet an estranged uncle. Oliver is amazed at his luck when he sees the man’s house, practically a mansion. Then he meets Gabriella who doesn’t put up with his attitude. He discovers quickly that not everything is sunshine and happiness in the desert. His uncle may not be entirely sane and this new environment is full of dangers from both men and nature. Dangerous as it is, the wild of the desert has a strong pull and hides many secrets.

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

Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt famously described his first reading of Stegner’s book about John Wesley Powell: it felt like a brick had been thrown through a windowpane, transforming his view of a West he thought he knew. The same thing happened to me when I read the book while serving as a Capitol Reef seasonal naturalist in my 20s. No one else writes like Stegner, who was born on the frontier and grew into a scholar of that frontier. In this book, he takes us along on Powell’s harrowing 1869 river trip down the Colorado River. And then Stegner uses Powell’s growing understanding of our arid West to illuminate the very nature of that desert West. Utah Canyon Country lies at the heart of his story.

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian

By Wallace Stegner,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

The Capitol Reef Reader

By Stephen Trimble,

Book cover of The Capitol Reef Reader

What is my book about?

In The Capitol Reef Reader, I collect writing that best captures the spirit of Utah’s least-known national park in personal narratives, philosophical riffs, and historic and scientific records. Editing this anthology was a labor of love. I arrived in Capitol Reef in 1975 to work a season for the National Park Service as a ranger. I began reading everything I could find about the park’s cliffs, canyons, and characters, and I've never stopped. I'm endlessly intrigued by the challenge of responding to this place in language.

The Reader condenses this rich literature, featuring fifty writers, young and old, who have graced these canyons with their attention and imagination—along with my photographs from 45 years of wandering in the park.

The 19th Wife

By David Ebershoff,

Book cover of The 19th Wife

I love escaping into a story, and if it is historical fiction, I want it to be historically accurate. By telling the story in both the present day and in the past, I was intrigued and this kept me reading. The novel is based on the experiences of a real woman living in polygamy but tells the story of what happened then and how it affects the lives of others later. It may be fictional, but the historical accuracy made the story come to life. I could feel her angst with being part of her family, but also knowing she didn’t want this life.

The 19th Wife

By David Ebershoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 19th Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives - Jordan's mother - is accused of the crime.
Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and…


Who am I?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.


I wrote...

The Treasure of Cedar Creek

By Brenda Stanley,

Book cover of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

What is my book about?

In 1896, the isolated and vast state of Idaho is a haven for the polygamous splinter group called The Kingdom of Glory, which is hiding more than their outlawed practice of plural marriage.

Peri, who escaped the Cedar Creek compound years earlier, returns to help rescue Grace, a girl betrothed to the prophet himself, she ends up also saving her own sister Emma. As the three women make a frantic and deadly escape from the compound, they take with them both the newborn heir to the church, and their dead mother’s cryptic journal to the prophet’s hidden treasure. Along their journey, the women realize to truly be free they must face what holds them captive, even if those answers are more horrifying than they ever imagined.

Keep Sweet

By Michele Dominguez Greene,

Book cover of Keep Sweet

I read this book in two days because the story kept pulling me back. It’s a YA novel that is accurate and haunting in its telling of the life of a young girl trapped in a polygamist cult. I loved how realistic this story felt. To explore what happens when this girl is caught going against the teachings of the cult and the horrific ramifications had me wanting to know what would happen next. I found this book so intriguing and came away with an interesting perspective on the issue of modern-day polygamy.

Keep Sweet

By Michele Dominguez Greene,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.


I wrote...

The Treasure of Cedar Creek

By Brenda Stanley,

Book cover of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

What is my book about?

In 1896, the isolated and vast state of Idaho is a haven for the polygamous splinter group called The Kingdom of Glory, which is hiding more than their outlawed practice of plural marriage.

Peri, who escaped the Cedar Creek compound years earlier, returns to help rescue Grace, a girl betrothed to the prophet himself, she ends up also saving her own sister Emma. As the three women make a frantic and deadly escape from the compound, they take with them both the newborn heir to the church, and their dead mother’s cryptic journal to the prophet’s hidden treasure. Along their journey, the women realize to truly be free they must face what holds them captive, even if those answers are more horrifying than they ever imagined.

Thunderhead

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child,

Book cover of Thunderhead

Nora Kelly, assistant professor at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, assembles an expedition to find the lost city of Quivira—Coronado’s City of Gold. Their footsteps are dogged by a pair of murderous, pelt-covered creatures. After unimaginable horrors, they at last discover the pueblo city and its treasure—but in an ironic twist, it isn’t gold at all.

I recommend every single one of Preston and Child’s thrillers. Superbly written and, though fantastic, they never lack a good grounding in science. Thunderhead is particularly alluring to me because of the descriptions of the sere landscape of the slot canyons and high desert of southwest Utah.

Thunderhead

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a visit to her family's abandoned Santa Fe ranch, archaeologist Nora Kelly discovers an old letter, written from her father to her mother, now both dead. What perplexes Nora is the fact that the faded envelope was mailed and postmarked only a few weeks earlier.
Her father had vanished into the remote canyon country of Utah 16 years before, searching for Quivira, the fabled Lost City of Gold, whose legend has captivated explorers since the days of Coronado. Upon reading the letter, Nora learns that her father believed he had, in fact, located the lost city. But what happened…


Who am I?

For much too long a perennial student, I hold degrees in Anthropology, Arabic Studies, and Library Science. I’ve studied nine languages and lived or traveled on five of the seven continents. I do not hunt tangible treasure—gold or jewels or sunken ships; I hunt knowledge. My love for rooting out treasure troves of information began with my first job. I held passes to the Library of Congress stacks, where I tracked down sources on Ethiopian history. After months of unearthing mostly obscure references, I came upon the mother lode—the great explorers’ accounts. It was like finding a chest of doubloons. I was hooked on the treasure of the mind.


I wrote...

Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine

By M. S. Spencer,

Book cover of Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine

What is my book about?

Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.

Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city. Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.

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