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Desert Solitaire

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  21,715 ratings  ·  1,318 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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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThe Lorax by Dr. SeussDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
5th out of 510 books — 595 voters
A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldWalden by Henry David ThoreauA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie DillardSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
Best Nature Books
6th out of 372 books — 265 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jul 16, 2014 sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Desert Rats
Recommended to sckenda by: Dr. Russ Sparling
In the night season, a vision came unto me of three young men in a boat. When I awakened I was shaken, but my heart was filled with gratitude for the vision. The three men were my grandfather, my father, and me—a trio of equals in the prime of our twenties, and we rafted the Colorado River through Glen Canyon before it was dammed up to create the Lake Powell reservoir (a few years before I was even born). We navigated the rapids and the sandbars and then we climbed the rocks and stared at the An ...more
Jul 11, 2008 Scott rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scott by: Ted Kaczynski
Shelves: walks, rivers, nature, 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
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 in
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
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
May 10, 2010 Ken-ichi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
From Edward “the Thoreau of the American West” Abbey:

Exhibit A
“Well, I’m a scientist not a sportsman and we’ve got an important experiment underway here for which the rabbit has volunteered. I rear back and throw the stone with all I’ve got straight at his furry head.

To my amazement, the stone flies true (as if guided by a Higher Power) and knocks the cottontail head over tincups, clear out from under the budding blackbush. He crumples, there’s the usual gushing of blood, etc., a brief spasm, an
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
Mar 07, 2007 melissa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Abeer Hoque
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Apr 25, 2008 Chaz rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
Daniel Villines
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
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
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
Jackson Burnett
Few books have affected me as significantly as Desert Solitaire.
Based on advance press, I'd already mentally grouped this with "Desolation Angels" and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" - a guy who sees himself as a maverick confronts wilderness and eternity in the American West, tells us about it. Abbey is more specific about what he's getting away from and what he's searching for, and his cred as an inspiration for the more radical end of the modern environmentalist movement is worth noting.

He's rather inconsistent though - sneering at tourists fo
Gareth Lewis
Seems to have been almost entirely forgotten, and contains - by a long, long way - the best descriptions of the desert I have ever read. This is what I wrote on my blog about a year ago -

I’m ashamed to say I only recently discovered Edward Abbey’s phenomenal Desert Solitaire. It’s a book which charts the author’s experiences as a park ranger in the Arches National Monument near Moab, southeast Utah. The books I read usually end up littered with blank Post-Its, placeholders to return to when I h
Some people argue that the difference between infatuation and love is your attitude towards the recipients faults. In infatuation, we do our best to pretend the person is faultless; put them on a pedestal and turn a blind eye towards failings. Love, on the other hand, sees the person as a whole - and rather than ignoring the faults, acknowledges them, and loves them, too. If that is true, than Desert Solitaire is Edward Abbey's love poem to the desert of Southwestern Utah.

The book recounts a su
Dec 06, 2011 Ms.pegasus rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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One of the best books of desert life 9 95 Feb 24, 2013 10:02AM  
  • Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness
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  • Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
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  • Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West
  • The Solace of Open Spaces
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
  • The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons
  • The Land of Little Rain
  • Practice of the Wild
  • Wilderness and the American Mind
  • Winter: Notes from  Montana
  • The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky
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 environment that influenced his writing. During his service, he was in close proximity to the ruins of ancient Native American cultures and saw the expansion and destruction of modern civil ...more
More about Edward Abbey...
The Monkey Wrench Gang The Fool's Progress Hayduke Lives! The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West Down the River

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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.” 191 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.” 126 likes
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