Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, staff from Out West Books in Grand Junction recommend “Empire of Ice and Stone,” “River of the Gods” and “Small Things Like These.”

Empire of Ice and Stone

By Buddy Levy
December 2022


From the publisher: In the summer of 1913, the wooden-hulled brigantine Karluk departed Canada for the Arctic Ocean. At the helm was Captain Bob Bartlett, considered the world’s greatest living ice navigator. The expedition’s visionary leader was a flamboyant impresario named Vilhjalmur Stefansson hungry for fame. Just six weeks after the Karluk departed, giant ice floes closed in around her. As the ship became icebound, Stefansson disembarked with five companions and struck out on what he claimed was a 10-day caribou hunting trip. Most on board would never see him again.

From Marya Johnston, Owner: If it has Buddy Levy’s name on it, I just know it’s going to be a great read, and “Empire of Ice and Stone” does not disappoint!  It’s one of my favorites this year. What I just can’t stop thinking about is the notion of how adversity can make unexceptional men leaders and turn supposed leaders into cowards. 

Luckily, the captain of the Karluk , Robert Bartlett, was a natural born leader and a man of great character, because the head of the expedition abandoned the ship and crew early on.  Keruk, the Eskimo woman called “Auntie” by the men of the Karluk, merits mention as without her, none of the men would have survived. It’s a great read, but keep a blanket nearby because the descriptions of surviving on the ice will chill you to the bone!

River of the Gods

By Candice Millard
May 2022


From the publisher: For millennia the location of the Nile River’s headwaters was shrouded in mystery. In the 19th century, there was  a frenzy of interest in ancient Egypt. At the same time, European powers sent off waves of explorations intended to map the unknown corners of the globe – and extend their colonial empires.

From Marya Johnston, Owner: Like Buddy Levy, if it’s written by Candice Millard, I know I’m going to love it.  Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, as different as two men could be,  convinced the Royal Geographic Society that they could be the people to bring home glory to Britain by finding the source of the White Nile. As with the ill-fated Karluk voyage, the politics of exploration, the differences in the men and the lack of preparation, spelled doom for the expedition. What really stuck with me, though, were the conditions that the men of this exploration experienced: the viruses, the weather, the diseases that left them incapacitated for months, the bug in Spekes ear that kept nipping away at his ear drum…argh!  No wonder it took explorers forever to discover things! 

Small Things Like These

By Claire Keegan
Grove Press
November 2021


From the publisher: It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church. 

From Marya Johnston, Owner:  If you read one Christmas book this year, let “Small Things Like These” be your choice.   This short book is so beautifully written, I will remember every bit of the story, and hope you will, too.  Claire Keegan doesn’t need to hit us over the head with the true meaning of Christmas; her character Bill Furlong embodies it.  No wonder this book has won accolades.  It’s destined to become a classic.  If you need to escape the frenzy that has become Christmas,  this book will give you that “ahhhh”  feeling.  I have her next book, “Foster,” on my nightstand for my Christmas Eve read.


Out West Books

533 Main St., Grand Junction


As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. Read more.

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