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Desert Solitaire

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  28,054 Ratings  ·  1,703 Reviews
When Desert Solitaire was first published in 1968, it became the focus of a nationwide cult. Rude and sensitive. Thought-provoking and mystical. Angry and loving. Both Abbey and this book are all of these and more. Here, the legendary author of The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey's Road and many other critically acclaimed books vividly captures the essence of his life during thr ...more
Paperback, 337 pages
Published January 12th 1985 by Ballantine Books (first published 1968)
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Will Byrnes
Desert Solitaire seemed the right book to take along on a trip to the southwest in September 2009.

Abbey writes of the beauty of the southwest. As a ranger at Arches National Park he had a close relationship with some of our country’s most exquisite scenery. In the 18 essays that make up the book, he offers not only his appreciation for the sometimes harsh environment of Utah and Arizona, but his notions on things political. Those are not so compelling. He tells tales of people he has known and
Jul 11, 2008 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scott by: Ted Kaczynski
Shelves: nature, walks, rivers, 1960s
Part Walden, part Mein Kampf ... Desert Solitaire (1968) is to a certain extent sand-mad Edward Abbey's homage to the beauty of the American Southwest and to the necessity of wilderness ... but mostly, the book is an autobiographical paean to the sheer wonder of Abbey himself. Like the pioneers, prospectors, and developers who preceded him, Abbey lays claim to all the canyonlands and Four Corners region of southern Utah and northern Arizona: "Abbey's Country" he calls it, and he seeks to fill ev ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Rachael rated it it was amazing
This is one of the few books I don't own that I really really really wish I did. I love this book. It makes me want to pack up my Jeep and head out for Moab. I love Abbey's descriptions of the desert, the rivers, and the communion with solitude that he learns to love over the course two years as a ranger at Arches National Park.

Abbey explores environmentalism and government policies on the national parks. It wasn't my favorite part of the book, but he manages to do it in such a way that it's not
Jun 04, 2009 Marvin rated it it was amazing
Any discussion of the great Southwest regional writer Edward Abbey invariably turns to the fact that he was a pompous self-centered hypocritical womanizer. And those were his good qualities (just kidding, Michelle). He advocated birth control and railed against immigrants having children yet fathered five children himself, he fought against modern intrusion in the wilderness yet had no problem throwing beer cans out of his car window, He hated ranchers and farmers yet was a staunch supporter of ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Almost all my friends who have read this book have given it five stars but not written reviews. Hey friends. *poke*

I feel like this book has been recommended to me numerous times, enough to compel me to buy it one day from Amazon, where it has festered unread in my Kindle library for at least a year. But the universe was commanding me to read it, three mentions in 2015, so I buckled down to read it. My only wish is that I had been reading it IN Utah so I could have seen some of the places mentio
May 10, 2010 Ken-ichi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ken-ichi by: Shawn
Anyone who thinks about nature will find things to love and despise about Desert Solitaire. One moment he's waxing on about the beauty of the cliffrose or the injustice of Navajo disenfranchisement and the next he's throwing rocks at bunnies and recommending that all dogs be ground up for coyote food. He says "the personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself" (p. 6) and then proceeds to personify every rock, bird, bush, and mountain. He's loving, salty, pet ...more
Feb 06, 2014 Jamie rated it really liked it
The only problem with waiting so long to read a seminal work, by a seminal author, is that you have the idea in your head who they will be. This? I kept thinking. This is the controversial Edward Abbey? This is what’s considered polemic? What, this good-humored common sense?

More funny than it has a right to be. More alive. Also, what Abbey held up himself as his standard: interesting, original, important, and true. A deep respect for our wilderness— and more importantly, our wildness— and a deep
Jun 19, 2012 Stefani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: of-it-s-time, west
With great difficulty, I sometimes think about my own mortality, the years I have left on earth, how with each year that I get older, the years remaining disproportionately seem shorter. Admittedly, it's a depressing train of thought to entertain, and makes me want to crawl under a proverbial rock and also has a sickening domino effect with my thoughts then residing in the eternal questions of life—why am I here, what is my purpose in life, etc...and all the anxieties and regrets that g ...more
Why didn't I read this book sooner?? I asked myself.

...because I was meant to read it now.

Right now, as I am looking at the arches and canyons described - as they are so fresh in my mind just returning home.

As I can hear the canyon wren's song and feel the sun and breeze and snowflakes on my face.

With the Navajo sandstone dust still in my boots.

Now was the perfect time.
with Edward Abbey.

4|25|2008: The day I finally finished Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey.
Usually I read books very quickly and all at once. Most books don't take me longer than a few days to finish. I just love stories so much that I don't like to stop once I've started. Desert Solitaire, however, has taken me years to get through. I've started it half a dozen times, and every time I love it, but when I set it down I don't pick it back up again. Then in a month or tw
Abeer Hoque
Dec 06, 2008 Abeer Hoque rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-recommend
If I had more courage, "Desert Solitaire" would change my life. If I were to do what I felt, I would give up everything else, go outside and stay there. But because I'm too beholden, too afraid, too old? I am merely and simply renewed in my conviction that there are a million different ways to be, and a billion more ways to see.

Edward Abbey's ode (or elegy as he calls it) to the desert, specifically Arches in Moab, the canyonlands of Utah, is like they say (they, in this case, is the New Yorker
Jenna Los
Jan 18, 2008 Jenna Los rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school-mla
Edward Abbey has a wonderful love of the wild and his prose manages to actually do justice to the unique landscape of the West. That said, I don't like him. He contradicts himself quite often in this book - hatred of modern conveniences (but loves his gas stove and refrigerator), outrage at tourists destroying nature (but he steals protected rocks and throws tires off cliffs), animal sympathizer (but he callously kills a rabbit as an "experiment"), etc.

His "Monkey Wrench Gang" also upset me - h
Mar 04, 2008 Lucas rated it did not like it
I'm not sure why everyone loves this book, or Edward Abbey in general. I couldn't even finish this. He is a macho hypocritical egomaniac, hiding behind the veil of saving the earth.

totally thumbs down.
Jun 22, 2012 Emily rated it did not like it
I'm sorry, I know I should finish Book Club books. But they guy is an arrogant a**hole and I'd rather spend my little free time reading something I enjoy.
Mar 21, 2008 Myridian rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful, amazing, and has absolutely no story line. It's an amorphous, stream-of-consciousness-like series of vignettes into Abbey's mind and world (as seen by that mind) while he was Rangering in Arches National Park in the 60's(?). I've guiltily thought and felt Abbey's rabid misanthropy for many years, and was pleased that he made it sound natural and reasonable. The book also had the amazing affect of making me happy and sad at the same time. I spent many weekends throughout m ...more
Mar 07, 2007 melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves the outdoors and longs to be there instead of here
This was my first Edward Abbey book. I read it while spending a somewhat lonely and isolatory summer conducting a reasearch project at my undergraduate school. After I read this book, I proceeded to clean out the library's entire collection of Abbey books. Abbey was completely irreverant, arrogant, and self-obsessed at times, and I love him. For anyone who's ever dreamed of escaping real life for a while and living all alone in the desert, this is the book for you. Well, because that's what Abbe ...more
I wanted to like this a lot more than I was able to. Abbey includes some beautifully poetic writing about the desert landscape at times and if that remained the central focus of the book, it would be fantastic; however, the other focus of Desert Solitaire is Abbey himself and, at least based on the way he presents himself here, I just don't like Edward Abbey. He's pompous, both racist and sexist, hypocritical, and a rabbit murderer. He's not the kind of company I want to keep.
Susan Rainwater
May 24, 2016 Susan Rainwater rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Desert Solitaire is a classic of citizen naturalist writing. Despite being over 50 years old, the writing is so modern in style that it could have been written yesterday. Abbey's connection to the desert is real and alive and vivid.

I was less persuaded Abbey's anarchist-libertarian political views, which often just seemed irrational. Though Abbey wants to protect the wilderness in its natural unimproved state, he hates the only entity capable of doing the protecting. He wants the park to exist,
Mar 11, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some people are armchair historians. I'm starting to think I’m an armchair outdoorswoman (it being two years since I've been on a proper backpacking trip). At first I found myself envying Abbey. Not just his chapter-long adventures, but his human need to be "out there" - way out there. He describes the eroded country, flash floods, runaway horses, footprints, quicksand, and the panic that comes when you are miles down a canyon with a dry canteen. It's not just a memoir, but instructional and pol ...more
Feb 04, 2008 Jean rated it did not like it
This man is such a hypocrite! He is preaching respect for the wild outdoor spaces, then he has the audacity to relate how he kills a little hidden rabbit just for the fun of it! His philosophy of locking up wild places with no roads, so they are only accessible to the fit hiker is also very exclusionary. Roads are tools, allowing old and young, fit and handicapped, to view the wonders and beauty of this country. Yes teach love and respect of this beauty and of the wildlife, but allow people to p ...more
High Plains Library District
I know, I know. This is Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. The favored book of the masses and the environmentalists' bible. I feel guilty giving it only 2 stars like I'm treading on holy ground. I purposely read this while recently traveling to Arches National Park, the VERY place he lived/worked while penning these deep thoughts. So I guess I set myself up for some magical, mystical moment to occur - only compounding my disappointments.

Granted, he does write some good descriptions about being in
Daniel Villines
Jun 09, 2013 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it
There are actually two books, or two perspectives, intertwined within Desert Solitaire. The first is a vivid story of the desert, the harsh yet rich environment that is truly just as beautiful as any other natural landscape including forests, oceans, or meadows. Abbey captures the beauty and the terror of this environment in his narrative and illustrates its effects on Abbey, and by extension, on all of us. The insights and knowledge that Abbey gained while living alone within this very bleak en ...more
Apr 25, 2008 Chaz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Naturalists, ecologists...
Recommended to Chaz by: a rock and ice climber -- just from a journey
Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire" Is a deeply poetic book, ingrained with the philosophy of ragged individualism and environmental preservation. There's no doubt that Abbey is the Henry David Thoreau of the American West. I found his eloquent descriptions of the flora and fauna of Arches national Park in Utah to be both breathtaking and meditative. There is romance -- but it is the romance between man and nature. At times -- and Abbey states this as well his adventures and ruminations are contradictory ...more
Apr 23, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
This languished on my "Currently Reading" list for nearly three years, through no fault of its own. I read three knock-out chapters, was distracted, lost track of the book, and stumbled back into it a week ago. I have been living inside it since. This is an exquisite and vital and damn near flawless book. Abbey is a curmudgeon if not an asshole, and he here screams and clamors against the rising tide of industrial tourism and dam-building bastards and that German bastard who rolled up in a Porsc ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Paul rated it it was ok
For two years in the mid 1950’s Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger in the Arches National Monument Park in the state of Utah. Living in a trailer in the park he would be there for visitors, collected camping fees and would maintain the trails and walks around the park. At the time it was mostly undeveloped, there were few roads, the camping was very basic and there were few visitors.

The book is a mix of nature studies, accounts of the adventures that he had in the park and some political polemic
Dec 06, 2015 JanB rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Written in 1968, this book stands the test of time. I loved it! Written in a non-linear way, this is a compilation of Abbey's adventures, anecdotes, and philosophical musings from the time he spent as a park ranger in Utah's Arches National Park. Abbey is a grumpy old man but he’s so amusing as he waxes poetic on the dangers of civilization and tourists encroaching on the natural wonders in the American Southwest that he’s easily forgiven. It’s unclear how many of his more radical views
Mar 18, 2008 Dustin rated it it was amazing
For better or for worse, Edward Abbey become a hero of mine many years ago at the age of 17 when I first read Desert Solitaire. More than any other book, this book shaped my philosphical and political attitudes towards the environment. I must admit that I have mellowed with age, I no longer think that it would be great to blow up Glen Canyon Dam, ( I actually enjoy Lake Powell too much) but the desert soutwest is one of my favorite places on earth. Most people do not understand how anyone could ...more
Jan 23, 2008 katie rated it did not like it
Shelves: didnt-finish
I was offended in a way that I didn't think I could grow from, and so I stopped reading it.
Dec 06, 2011 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who has or plans to travel to the American West; nature lovers
Humanist/misanthrope, spiritual atheist, erudite primitive, pessimistic idealist – not that these traits are incompatible. As descriptions of the author, Edward Abbey, they hint at a complicated man struggling to reconcile the contradictions he finds in himself. He embraces an individuality that defies categorization, and that often places himself in an uncomfortably ambivalent relationship with the reader. It is a point worth confronting because DESERT SOLITAIRE is in part a memoir of Abbey's y ...more
Bonnie Jean
This book was actually pretty good for something picked up fairly randomly. In Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey writes about his time as a park ranger at Arches Naitonal Monument, and as a story of the love of a man for the solitude of the harsh but beautiful desert, it was very well written, almost poetry. However, Abbey insists on also detouring into politics and polemics, and that is not nearly so interesting of a read. I find his insistence that we need wilderness set aside in case there is a ...more
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Edward Abbey Narrative -- Ryan Latini 1 5 Jan 07, 2016 09:28AM  
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Edward Paul Abbey (1927 – 1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views.

Abbey attended college in New Mexico, and then worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest. It was during this time that he developed the relationship with the area's environm
More about Edward Abbey...

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“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” 268 likes
“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” 191 likes
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