Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Out West Books in Grand Junction recommends three volumes on our great outdoors.
Brave the Wild River
By Melissa L. Sevigny
From the publisher: In the summer of 1938, botanists Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter set off to run the Colorado River, accompanied by an ambitious and entrepreneurial expedition leader, a zoologist, and two amateur boatmen. With its churning waters and treacherous boulders, the Colorado was famed as the most dangerous river in the world. Journalists and veteran river runners boldly proclaimed that the motley crew would never make it out alive. But for Clover and Jotter, the expedition held a tantalizing appeal: no one had yet surveyed the plant life of the Grand Canyon, and they were determined to be the first.
From Marya Johnston, Owner: If you’ve spent any time around the rivers of the west, you know the name Norm Nevills. You know he ran the first “commercial” trip down the Grand Canyon and is a member of the River Runner’s Hall of Fame. Perhaps you’ve read his river journals, “High, Wide and Handsome,” or you’ve even seen his cataract boat, the Mexican Hat, on display at the John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah.
But for heaven’s sake… how did we never know there were two women on this famous trip? More people were aware of this in 1938 than now, for different reasons. It was unheard of for women to run rivers, much less the Grand Canyon, and they were the darlings of the national news for their bravery. When Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter paid Norm to take them down the Grand Canyon, their plan was not to make history as the first women to make the trip alive, their mission was to collect plants. After making meals every night (they were women, after all) these two botanists would collect samples till the sun went down. Though Norm was and is more famous, what these two women did was far more important to the future conservation of the canyon. Because of them, we know what plants were growing in the canyon before the dam and which have been introduced. Conservationists now know what to try to reintroduce and which to eradicate. Though the river running part of this story is fun, what these two women did for conservation in the canyon is far more important.
This America of Ours
By Nate Schweber
From the publisher: In late-1940s America, few writers commanded attention like Bernard DeVoto. Alongside his brilliant wife and editor, Avis, DeVoto was a firebrand of American liberty, free speech, and perhaps our greatest national treasure: public lands. But when a corrupt band of lawmakers, led by Senator Pat McCarran, sought to quietly cede millions of acres of national parks and other western lands to logging, mining, and private industry, the DeVotos entered the fight of their lives.
From Marya Johnston, Owner: In 1954, a Heritage Press Books committee picked contemporary authors they considered to be “classic”: Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Richard Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, Rachel Carson and Bernard DeVoto. Who? Bernard DeVoto? As a longtime bookseller in the West, I recognized him as a great author of history and a Pulitzer prize winner, but I had no idea of the ways in which he used his pen as a sword. A contemporary of fellow Utahn Wallace Stegner, DeVoto was absolutely dedicated to the West.
Without DeVoto’s writing in defense of the West, we would have no public lands and there would be dams in our national parks. As one customer told me after I introduced him to this book, “My God. Thank You! I thought I knew, but now I know!” This book will change your life, so if you read one book about the West this year, let it be this one.
By Dave Showalter
From the publisher: With powerful visual storytelling, Living River illustrates how we can create a resilient watershed if we change our relationship with water. Exploring the endangered Colorado River from source to sea, award-winning photographer Dave Showalter provides a deeper understanding of how countless numbers of creatures and 40 million humans depend upon its water and how the futures of all are inextricably linked to the health of the river.
From Marya Johnston, Owner: There is so much more than meets the eye here. At first glance, you might think Colorado conservationist Dave Showalter has produced just a coffee table book. He is a stunning photographer, but his photos serve to illustrate an important message: people need to adjust their attitudes toward water consumption. With photographs and text beginning at the headwaters and ending at the delta of the Colorado, Showalter does a deep dive into the many issues facing the river and focuses on people that are making a difference now. This book is about hope for the future, and couldn’t we all use a little of that right now?