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Why I Came West: A Memoir [Paperback]

Rick Bass

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Book Description

July 8 2009
In this poignant look at the thirty-year journey of one of our country’s great naturalist writers, Rick Bass describes how he fell in love with the mystique of the West--as a dramatic landscape, as an idea, and as a way of life. Bass grew up in the suburban sprawl of Houston, and after attending college in Utah he spent eight years working in Mississippi as a geologist, until one day he packed up and went in search of something visceral, true, and real. He found it in the remote Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, where despite extensive logging not a single species has gone extinct since the last Ice Age.
Bass has lived in “the Yaak” ever since, and in Why I Came West he chronicles his transformation into the writer, hunter, and environmental activist that he is today. He explains how the rugged, wild landscape smoothed out his own rough edges; attempts to define the appeal of the West that so transfixed him as a boy, a place of mountains and outlaws and continual rebirth; and tells of his own role as a reluctant activist—sometimes at odds with his own neighbors—unwilling to stand idly by and watch this treasured place disappear.

Rick Bass is the author of many acclaimed books of nonfiction and fiction, including The Lives of Rocks, The Diezmo, and Winter.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Reprint edition (July 8 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547237715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547237718
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #811,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In the summer of 1987, nature writer Bass stumbled into the Yaak Valley in northwestern Montana and fell in love. A native of Houston, Bass worked as a geologist in Mississippi before heading west to find his home and his vocation as a writer. Over the years, Bass became increasingly drawn into the struggle to preserve the valley from logging and development, especially those areas that have yet to be marked by roads. This, his newest title, is a memoir in name only. Eight of the 13 chapters have appeared elsewhere in various forms, and each chapter stands more or less as a discrete essay. Actual biographical material is scant and often repeated, and his main points recur (the need to protect wilderness; the twofold nature of his beloved valley, its biological diversity and human venality and short-sightedness, for example). The book reads best as a series of variations on the theme of how our relation to the wilderness is essential to our being human. Bass is an eloquent defender of his precious valley. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

RICK BASS’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good old Yaak - but same old Yaak Aug. 3 2008
By T. Ahrenholz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been a big Rick Bass fan for many years. I enjoy his non-fiction and I revere his efforts to preserve the wilderness areas of his adopted corner of Montana. However, I simply take issue with this book about how misleading the title and liner notes are about its major content. Why I Came West? There is a little about that. And there is some solid thought and writing here. Good writing. But the vast majority of this book is an update (and revision) of his efforts to obtain Wilderness designation for the Yaak since he moved West. It could more correctly be titled Book of Yaak II, or better yet, Book of Yaak Revised. There are large portions of this book that seem to be a letter to his neighbors correcting or updating his true views on Wilderness and logging and even a weak attempt to discourage outsiders from wanting to see the Yaak as a destination, as if he has drawn ire from fellow Yaakians for the notoriety he has brought the area. But his love for the area easily diminishes any intended effect.

As a reader, I want a fair chance to choose what I am reading. I couldn't help feel throughout most of this read, that I was erroneously lured into the prospect of some new and different writing by Mr. Bass - but instead was being given the same whine in a different bottle.

Having said that, I will still look forward to his new efforts both in regard to conservation as well as writing.

... and I mistakenly put 4 stars on this review and couldn't figure out how to edit that. Two and a half would have been generous. TA
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment Dec 28 2011
By Philip Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm a big fan of travelogues and similar types of nonfiction. I also enjoy "On the Road." I found "Why I Came West" in a small bookstore and looked forward to learning about one man's journey from suburban Texas to the wilderness of Montana. However, there's not much of value here for someone wanting to know about that aspect of Rick Bass' life. Instead, it seemed to be little about him and a lot of philosophical musings and poetic language. It became extremely boring and I just put it down after awhile. The one chapter I enjoyed was about his justification for being a meat-eater environmentalist. That had some interesting musings in there. Again, there are pages and pages of these kinds of musings with little substance. Seemed kind of like a bunch of essays. If you're looking for something akin to William Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highways" or "On the Road" you will be disappointed. This is nothing like those. You might somewhat enjoy it if you are into environmentalism.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I will read the truth even if it's not candy coated. Aug. 8 2011
By G. C. Picchetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The introduction is so hard to read I put the book down for a couple weeks. Then it's fun. Then it's deadly serious. Bass's activisim has almost cost him his life. His success has been hard fought for & not completely won. His writing is a bit to poetic for the normal reader. I am glad I read Why I came West. I firmly believe my fellow citizens & the government will not be satisfied until the world is cemented over.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but disappointing Jan. 16 2013
By Mark Gilbertson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have to confess that I agree with the other reviewers who complain about the somewhat misleading title of, and the repetition in, this book. Bass has a passionate commitment to preserve 'his' Yaak valley as a wilderness area and, so, that dominates his writing here. But, this mission is not why he came west. Anyway, though there are good thoughtful passages on his experiences in the wild and his defense of it, it becomes more and more a treatise, rather than the memoir it starts out to be.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr R Forsberg Dec 23 2011
By Dr. R.P. Forsberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rick Bass is a wonder! From his early books to his latest works, he has a way of connecting to readers that makes reading his stories and essays a pleasure. This exploration and explication of why he moved West is another fine personal report on his life, loves, beliefs and personal philosophy. While I, personally, don't buy into some aspects of his philosophy (I will never be a hunter), his descriptions of that personal philosophy are so honest, forthright, and rational that I have to say I completely "get" his view, even if I have a different perspective. This is a book for anyone who sees the West, the natural environment, and the search for a personal "place to be"! Highly recommended.

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