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September Reading List: Six Books On Transition

Here in the West, September’s arrival signals many transitions– the transition from afternoon monsoons to high county snow squalls; from dark green aspens to groves of golden foliage; from serene herds of grazing elk to the aggression of the rut.

So, in the spirit of this magical time of year, here are six books that build on the theme of transition. Whether describing an author’s physical movement across landscapes or a fictional character’s transition through time, these stories remind us to embrace and respect the ever-changing nature of our lives.

Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West

by Heather Hansman

Journalist and paddler Heather Hansman embarks on a solo river trip from the headwaters of the Green River down to its confluence with the mighty Colorado. Along the way, she transitions through the full spectrum of western landscapes– from Wyoming’s jagged Wind River Range to Utah’s rugged canyon country. Hansman masterfully weaves together adventure, history, and current events into this wonderful book that simultaneously educates and entertains.

Querencia

by Stephen Bodio

As a native Southerner who now calls the West home, I felt a deep personal connection with this memoir. It is Bodio’s story of moving to a New Mexico mountain town and his heartwarming transition from outsider to accepted community member. For anyone who has made (or dreams of making) a life in the West, reading this book should be a top priority.

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature

by J. Drew Lanham

As one of the world’s foremost birders, it’s no surprise Dr. Lanham’s life has been defined by his connection to nature. In this touching and poetic memoir, we learn about his family and the rural southern landscape that has been their home for generations. Whether describing his grandmother’s otherworldly connection to plants and animals or his own deep connections with birds, The Home Place is an engaging meditation into the importance of family, place, and the relationships that bind the two.

August

by Callan Wink

A boy’s transition into manhood has been a well-worn theme of literature for centuries. Up-and-coming, award-winning novelist Callan Wink builds a compelling narrative on this thematic foundation, focusing on a boy’s coming of age in rural Montana, and how the people and places of that harsh, arid region shape his life’s trajectory.

Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crisis

by David Gessner

As we continue to make our way through this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, many of us are seeking tools or frameworks to help us adjust to our rapidly changing world. David Gessner sought wisdom from Henry David Thoreau, the “original social distancer.” Part pandemic diary, part instruction manual for intentional living, Quiet Desperation offers lessons from the past to help us navigate today’s crazy world. 

Losing Eden: An Environmental History of the American West

by Sara Dant

The history of the American West can be defined by its abrupt, sometimes violent transitions– from Indigenous societies to the arrival of Europeans; from the concept of Manifest Destiny to the encroaching tentacles of the railroads; from the gold rush to modern-day fights over fossil fuel development. Dr. Dant provides an informative and engaging overview of the various eras and individuals who shaped the West, giving readers valuable context with which to understand the modern west.

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