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Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  1,320 Ratings  ·  198 Reviews
Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, with a foreword by Jon Krakauer, is the definitive biography of the artist, writer, and eloquent celebrator of the wilderness whose bold solo explorations of the American West and mysterious disappearance in the Utah desert at age 20 have earned him a large and devoted cult following. More than 75 years after his vanishing, Ruess s ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published July 19th 2011 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Aug 10, 2011 Melissa rated it it was ok
I think I just find David Roberts to be a boring writer. I couldn't get into this. With all the speculation about whether or not Ruess was bipolar, does no one think that maybe he was just nineteen? Any of my writing from the time I was nineteen was probably pretty manic depressive, and I think swinging from one extreme to the next emotionally is pretty much a definition of "life from 13-20 years of age." At least.
Oct 29, 2011 Susan rated it it was ok
I'm not sure what to make of this book. The story of Everett Ruess might be interesting; maybe the author's way of telling it was just boring. Or maybe my irritation was with Ruess himself: his selfish entitlement in demanding his parent's financial support of his wanderings for four years, his pedantic descriptions of the wonders he encountered in his travels, his racist attitude toward the Navaho people, his cavalier destruction of ancient artifacts and wildlife sacred to the Native People. An ...more
Sep 11, 2011 Kristi rated it did not like it
I could not get into this book. I gave it 3 chapters (roughly 1/3 of the book) and I kept getting frustrated. I feel bad for his family not getting closure, but I feel that he acted like a spoiled child. Writing letters home while wandering through the Southwest asking for food & money & getting upset that they wanted him to come home. I didn't enjoy reading his letters where he kept speaking bad about the Native Americans. He was going through old burial grounds & looting items (eve ...more
Oct 02, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
Although he doesn't actually come out and say so, David Roberts is probably the single most important writer who has brought Everett Ruess to the attention of the general public. He did so first by bringing Everett to the attention of his friend Jon Krakauer who included a chapter on Everett in 'Into the Wild'. Then, Roberts wrote two articles a decade a part for National Geographic Adventure magazine on Everett.

Finding Everett Ruess is really well done. The first part is a dispassionate biogra
Jan 16, 2012 Kerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, adventure
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny Brown
Nov 10, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it did not like it
Painfully poorly written and filled with cliches, this is a strong candidate for worst book of the year published by a major press.

The author never once presents a single fact to back up his oft repeated claims that Everett Reuss was an important writer and a lover of the wilderness who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Thoreau. That claim, repeated more than once, makes me wonder if Roberts has ever read Thoreau. Poor, lost Ruess stands in the same relationship to Thoreau as Justi
Steven Howes
Oct 03, 2011 Steven Howes rated it really liked it
This is such an incredible story. I'm not sure where to begin. Everett Ruess was a young artist/writer/explorer who disappeared in 1934 at the age of 20 while exploring along the Utah/Arizona border. His remains have never been found and speculation continues regarding the circumstances of his disappearance and death. Many have tried and failed to solve the mystery. The first part of the book is dedicated to finding Everett Ruess as a person through his writing, art, and personal letters to fami ...more
Andromeda M31
Jun 03, 2012 Andromeda M31 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Americans love to deify the lost, young wanderer. There is terrible envy in the Dave Alvin lyrics on Everett Ruess: "You give your dreams away as you get older / Oh, but I never gave up mine / And they’ll never find my body, boys / Or understand my mind."

In Finding Everett Ruess, Roberts chronicles the life of the youthful Everett Ruess, a young poet artist wanna-be, who, mooching off his parents during the Great Depression, would buy himself two burros and camping supplies and wander off into
Quinn Rollins
Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary;
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun;
Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases;
Lonely and wet and cold...but that I kept my dream!

-- Everett Ruess, "Wilderness Song"

I first heard of Everett Ruess a few years ago when I read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. His "true adventure" story about the 1992 disappearance of Christopher McCandless into the Alaska wilderness almost seemed an echo of Everett's story, separated by sixty years and thou
Sep 26, 2011 Laura rated it it was ok
If, like me, you know nothing about Everett Ruess, here's a quick intro: Everett was 17 in 1931 when he decided to travel throughout the Southwest, he made three trips and disappeared in 1934, leaving behind several diaries, paintings, woodcuts, poems and a mystery that's lasted over 70 years.

The majority of his childhood was conventional, the exception being his family's keeping of, and reading to each other, personal diaries. Given that this was the early 1910s and 20s, the family moved as Ru
Jul 03, 2011 Dee rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dee by: Won from Goodreads giveaway
I really liked this book a lot. I am huge fan of Jon Krakauer so this book was written just for me. I had only heard of Everett Ruess from the book Into the Wild and admittedly I went back and reread that section of the book. There were defintely simularities between "NEMO" and "Alexander Supertramp". There has obviously been a lot of research on the subject of ER and all the theories about his disappearance. I liked hearing all the theories and I especially liked the last one. I thought the boo ...more
Martin Moleski
Jan 10, 2014 Martin Moleski rated it really liked it
I love playing detective. That's why I got sent to Fiji in 2003 to look for the bones of Amelia Earhart.

The disappearance of Everett Ruess in 1934 is one of the great "cold cases" in American literature. This is an excellent account of Ruess' four years of solitary wanderings in the American southwest as well as a summary of how his fan base has grown in the last 80 years.

The finding of a body in a crevice raised hopes that Ruess had been found. DNA and forensic reconstruction seemed to support
Jun 30, 2011 Bea rated it it was ok
I won this book through Firstreads. Thanks!
This story was well researched, well documented and well written. I just never did feel particularly interested in or connected to this lone teen who took off traveling in the American West in the 30s. I feel sorry for his family to never know what happened to him, but I just didn't think his life or any of the many detailed letters he wrote were very profound or intriguing. I think he may have had some emotional or mental problems, some exacerbated by
Jun 03, 2016 Adrian added it
Everett Ruess was a 20 year old man who had fallen in love with the rugged terrain of the American southwest. As avid hiker, explorer and artist he had tramped through much of the Grand Canyon and surrounding area in the early 1930s. In late 1934 he left on another such trip and was never seen again. Roberts covers Reuss' early life by paying due attention to his diaries and letters and we learn of a talented but troubled guy. But half the book is devoted to the post-disappearance era. The Ruess ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Josh rated it really liked it
I love this book. The reviews here are very mixed because it seems like you are either inspired by young wilderness romantics like Everett Ruess (or Into the Wild's Chris McCandless), or you find them annoying, naive, and a waste of attention. I'm solidly in the first camp. Ruess's solo treks through the Southwest were amazing. In the early 1930s, when Ruess was 17-20, he wandered hundreds of miles through lonely canyons for months at a time, accompanied only by burros. That's awesome. As a subu ...more
Dec 09, 2011 IOSEPHVS BIBLIOTHECARIVS rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
When Everett Ruess was still in his teens in the early 1930s, he began taking long solo journeys across California and the desert Southwest. Drawn by a love of nature and an obsession with beauty, the young poet and painter led his burros up rocky mountain trails and across scorching deserts. But on one such journey that had taken him into southern Utah, Ruess disappeared forever, leaving only cryptic clues as to his fate. Author David Roberts takes us along Ruess' journeys, eventually becoming ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Derek rated it liked it
Shelves: outdoors
I liked this book. David Roberts really did his research and it shows in the details. However, the story is a bit uneven. At times it was gripping and at other times my interest waned. This, however, is not because the author is not writing an evenly paced book; it comes more from the real life ebb and flow of the story itself. The leads that are fresh and exciting then fizzle out, the wildly exciting adventures and places then the return to suburban normalcy, it is all part of the legend that i ...more
Gary Brecht
Aug 23, 2011 Gary Brecht rated it really liked it
Prior to plucking this book off the library shelf I’d never heard of Everett Ruess. Being thus unaware of this “legendary wilderness explorer” I was able to enjoy the roller coaster ride narrated by David Roberts. The ending would have been ruined had I known any of the story before reading this book

One of the interesting aspects of this tale is the process by which a 20 year old vagabond with average artistic talent becomes an icon of the southwest. It says as much about the public’s fascinati
Sep 14, 2011 DreamPacker rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Mostly interesting biography. A little slow at the beginning, where I skimmed some of the background information. Perhaps, because I have read all the other books on Ruess. Where it really took off, was the background and details surrounding the finding of the "Comb Ridge Man", believed for a while to have solved Everett's death and disappearance. It still remains a fascinating mystery, complete with erroneous DNA results, dinosaur bones on Comb Ridge, family feuds in Escalante and a ...more
Aug 19, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it
The story of the search for Everett Ruess is almost as fascinating as his brief, wandering life. Although Roberts resides in Cambridge, Mass., he knows his way around the Utah desert. I really enjoyed his book on the Anasazi a couple of years ago; IN SEARCH OF THE OLD ONES. By the way, I think the folks down in "Eskalant" know what really happened to Everett.
Aug 28, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
At only 20, Everett Ruess disappeared while out hiking on his own. His body has never been recovered....and a legend is born. If you had any interest in Chris McCandless(Into the Wild) or ever dreamed of heading off into the unknown...then check out this book.
Kim G
Nov 09, 2011 Kim G rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
The most annoying authorial voice I have run into in ages.

And for all the endless whinging that Ruess wasn't gay or mentally ill, I am now convinced (and I am brand new to Ruess lore) that he was both.
Feb 06, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, the-west
The definitive biography of the remarkable Everett Ruess. Read this and "Vagabond for Beauty" by Rusho and you'll be an expert on the beautiful, short, and remarkable life of the boy who placed nature above all else. His legacy continues to inspire people like us Southwest desert rats.
Sep 03, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing

Great read for any lover of Southwest lore....
Geoff Lucas
Jul 25, 2011 Geoff Lucas rated it it was amazing
Absolutely captivating. Sending this one to my Dad for his birthday.
Jan 22, 2017 Aaron rated it really liked it
My own fascination with this genre of stories is something I find weird. That genre is "People who fucking disappear forever"... sub-genres "romantic travelers of wilderness" & "tragic figures who were definitely murdered". Everett Ruess is from the first sub-genre and I was turned on to his story by a Goodreads recommendation after completing the *amazing* "The Last Season" last year, and was vaguely familiar with his name from Krakauer's also amazing "Into the Wild" (which has its own trag ...more
Jan 04, 2017 Christy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Christy by: Allen Ackerson
Just think, I might have waterskied over his remains, since he was last seen in Davis Gulch, which is now mostly covered by Lake Powell. He lived the life many of us would have loved (if we couldn’t be out waterskiing,) because he tramped the deserts of the southwest, writing letters and journals and painting. He also did very dangerous things, like climbing cliffs to explore Indian ruins. He usually didn’t carry enough food, he suffered from every kind of harsh weather, and his pack animals oft ...more
Grant Mccrea
Jan 19, 2017 Grant Mccrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Into the Wild, but wilder and far richer

A fascinating evocation of a young individualist cut down before his time and the mystery of his disappearance in the 1930's, still unsolved yet enduring in the imaginations of many a fascinating character. In the course of the story the author takes you to remote and beautiful American spaces that you likely have never visited and probably never will, but you will surely wish you had done, or will have the opportunity to do so.
Kiersten Lawson
Oct 20, 2013 Kiersten Lawson rated it liked it
Thoroughly researched and intriguingly laid out story of the curtailed life and mysterious disappearance of a young and daring explorer of the American Southwest in the early 1930s. Roberts weaves together a gripping tale of nature worship, urban disassociation and the struggle to understand one's place and purpose in a world of indifferent and sometimes overwhelming beauty.

"I set less and less value on human life, as I learn more about it. I admit the reality of pain in the moment, but the oppo
Nov 18, 2016 Sandy rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
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David Roberts is the author of seventeen books on mountaineering, adventure, and the history of the American Southwest. His essays and articles have appeared in National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and The Atlantic Monthly, among other publications. He lives i
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“Everett was a loner, but he liked people too damn much to stay down there and live the rest of his life in secret. A lot of us are like that [...]: We like companionship, see, but we can't stand to be around people for very long. So we get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again. Everett was strange. Kind of strange. But him and [Christopher] McCandless, at least they tried to follow their dream. They tried. Not many do. (Ken Sleight)” 1 likes
“Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty,” 0 likes
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