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Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

Updated on April 16, 2014

Edward Abbey wrote about his experiences as a park ranger in Utah

Edward Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger at the Arches National Monument, near Moab in southeast Utah. He worked there for two consecutive years and then returned for a third season several years later. This book is drawn from the journals he kept and his observations of the desert and the living things there. However, this is not a standard book of memoirs. It is a series of vignettes, related in no particular order, that show a sharp eye for detail and a wonderful ability to describe the landscapes and creatures that make the reader see through his eyes. The author clearly loves the desert and is happy living there alone. He has strong feelings about the way civilization is detroying the natural world, and within his own corner of the world you can see how the "improvements" made for the tourists are destroying the very things they have come to see. A pattern that is happening all around the world.

Photo: The Organ at Arches National Park, Utah from Wikipedia

New York Times Book Review

"This book may well seem like a ride on a bucking bronco. It is rough, tough, combative. The author is a rebel and an eloquent loner. His is a passionately felt, deeply poetic book."

Desert Solitaire: a season in the wilderness by Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire
Desert Solitaire

I live in Australia and have never seen the desert and canyon land country that Abbey writes about, but his writing is so evocative I feel I know the sights, sounds and scents of that country. He makes the reader want to see the things he describes, while at the same time telling them they probably won’t if all they want to do is drive out to the National Park. He makes it clear that you have to live with the desert to see the things it contains. He has strong opinions about the interactions of man and nature and is clearly both an environmentalist and conservationist, although he doesn’t mention those words. He advocates living at one with the environment and is strongly critical of the trappings of the modern world and the greed of big businesses. The book is beautifully written and shoots straight from the hip. Abbey tells things the way he sees them and is not out to make friends – he is highly prejudiced and even anti-social, but the book struck a chord in me that has made it one of my favourites for over 30 years. Edward Abbey died before Google was created, but I think he would have approved of the motto “Do no harm”.


From the Author's Introduction to Desert Solitaire

... most of what I write about in this book is already gone or going under fast. This is not a travel guide but an elegy. A memorial. You're holding a tombstone in your hands. A bloody rock. Don't drop it on your foot - throw it at something big and glassy. What do you have to lose?

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Edward Abbey on YouTube - Edward Abbey - A Voice in the Wilderness

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Do you think you would enjoy Desert Solitaire?

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    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I've visited these areas in Utah many times, and love the idea of this book.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Yes i Would!

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      I think I just might.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Blessed, as well! ;-)

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Been there, done that! ;-)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I think I would.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      Very much

    • profile image

      WilliamWijaya92 5 years ago

      i love that

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 5 years ago from Orange County, California

      Fascinating review. I think my husband would love this book!

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 5 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: So do I. I first read the intro in the bookshop and I think that was what made me buy it!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      I love his quote about throwing at something big and glassy.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 5 years ago

      This book is famous, tho I've not read it. Maybe I will now.

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 5 years ago

      @lewisgirl: I know what you mean. It's one of those books you always remember.

    • lewisgirl profile image

      lewisgirl 5 years ago

      My all time favorite! I was going to write a lens on this book, but saw your lens and chose another book. I lived in Moab, Utah as a child and spent many hours in the desert. This book sings to my heart!

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Hadn't heard of this book, but looks quite interesting. Thank you for raising awareness.