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Why I Came West: A Memoir
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Why I Came West: A Memoir

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  105 ratings  ·  20 reviews
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, un ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 3rd 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Caroline Cottom
I picked up this book because I love to read about places, especially wild places, then discovered that the writer and I have a few things in common. Rick Bass is a longtime environmental activist who longs to return to writing fiction and poetry, but feels called to stay in the "fight" to get the Yaak area in Montana designated as a wilderness area. He's been at it for 21 years. It's a tough call, I know. It was only after we achieved a nuclear test ban (my goal) that I could shift my focus to ...more
These essays are the parallel, the mirror, the bookend to Wild to the Heart. Not the coda— we’re still far off from that— but the counterweight, the follow-up, the cost. Wild to the Heart was pre-Montana, before the love story. These are every fighting scrap of the twenty-year toll of that love story.

Which makes it oh, so necessary. We grow, we learn, we tire, we change. We’re ten different people within the span of our lives and that’s the important part, the vital and rare part— to get to loo
I generally love Bass, and parts of this memoir were fantastic, but mostly it is repetitive and a bit conflicted in its purpose.
Sherry (sethurner)
I checked out this book at the suggestion of a friend who admired it. My problem going in was that I imagined it to be more of a memoir, when in truth it is a collection of essays. Bass, a sometimes writing of short fiction and poet, has spent much of his life as an activist in Montana, working on environmental issues. The chapter titles of the book suggest its contents: Why I Came West, Landscape and Imagination, The Community of Glaciers, Wood, Oil, The Poison of Language, Fourteen Gardens, Be ...more
Sarah Key
I agree with many of the other reviews on Goodreads concerning Rick Bass's Why I Came West: A Memoir. The book read more like a collection of essays than a memoir, and some of the essays became quickly repetitive and, sometimes, a bit contradictory. The essays could stand individually in magazines and literary journals, but once pared together, each chapter starts to gradually look like the same familiar face. I felt that a more appropriate title for the book would have been Why I Stayed West.

David Ward
Why I Came West: A Memoir by Rick Bass (Mariner Books 2009)(Biography) - I've enjoyed Rick Bass' writings for the most part, and I find his dedication to his adopted homerange in the Yaak Valley touching. Bass is at his best when writing about the animals and plants that surround him; I was hoping for more than the series of philosophical essays through which the author meanders in this aimless volume. My rating: 4/10, finished 2/25/14.
The title is somewhat misleading as most of the book focuses on Bass' advocacy work on behalf of wilderness designation in the Yaak. Great read for anyone in that line of work (conservation advocacy), as Bass makes delightful analogies that compares the work to glaciers and other natural features. Also, great reading for anyone who finds their love of the outdoors brings them to small Western towns
Bass has a great way with words, however this falls into the 'don't judge a book by it's cover' category. Picking it up, I assumed it would be about the move, enjoyment, and challenges about living in the west. However, it was mostly about his activism and fight against the logging companies in the area. Not a bad book, just don't expect it to be about hunting or anything like that.
Andy Miller
Rick Bass is an author who grew up in Houston, went to college, worked as a geologist and then moved and settled in the Yaak valley, a remote area in Northwestern Montana. This book explores why he chose to live there and of his efforts to preserve the area.
He describes the environmental issues, the political battles but most interesting to me were his descriptions of interacting with the other residents of the Yaak valley, some allies, many strongly opposed to his efforts. Later chapters descri
I enjoyed this read, especially the first chapter, which bears the name of the book. The later chapters focus deeply on Bass' environmental advocacy through the years and as such can be a little bit dry. The interesting thing, though, is that the reader really gets a sense of the toll that kind of work takes on a person. In one or two places in the manuscript, a sense of desperation comes through, as Bass looks back on his best creative years and realizes that a huge amount of his best energy ha ...more
Anneliese Marie
Beautiful, engaging language. Gets a bit dry and overly "preaching-to-the-choir" toward the end.
Maughn Gregory
In the afterward Bass writes: "I feel like apologizing to the reader who might have picked up this book hoping, perhaps, for lyrical descriptions of a fantastic and mythic landscape, only to find a disproportionate amount of caterwauling" (229). Indeed. But the first few essays are gems, especially #2: "Landscape and imagination" and the rest show the toll a life of political activism can take on an artist's creativity and personality.
Nikki Duvall
Rick Bass came to our library years back. I hadn't realized how active he was politically, but his preface that summarized his experience with the Yaak Valley and how he needed to be there really explains my relationship with Telluride and gave me permission to stay for 8 years.
Had to read this in order to edit a scanned digital version for the blind/visually impaired, but I'm glad I did. I don't think I have ever met someone this passionate as he is about the place he calls home. It's inspiring.
Excellent memoir from noted naturalist Rick Bass about his decision to live and fight for the safeguarding of the land through safe logging practices and preserving a portion of the land from development.
Dee Ann
This was a series of essays that weren't really what I was expecting from the description and reviews I had seen. Bass is undoubtedly an excellent writer, but it wasn't really for me.
I've got a lot of respect for Rick Bass and so I was glad to read about his activism. But I found many of the essays in the book somewhat repetitive and, honestly, a little dull.
Barbara Brannon
Jul 23, 2009 Barbara Brannon is currently reading it
Magnificent prose, drawing parallels between landscape and fiction; a passionate apologia for wild spaces and a plea for saving what's left.
Chad Kerchner
I think this book sucks! The writing style is hard to follow and way too wordy. That's too bad too because this subject could be very interesting.
Mar 04, 2008 Jared marked it as to-read
Well, I hope to be reading this book soon. It all depends on the HCN.
Diana marked it as to-read
Dec 26, 2014
Libby Davis
Libby Davis marked it as to-read
Dec 22, 2014
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Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Houston, the son of a geologist. He studied petroleum geology at Utah State University and while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi, began writing short stories on his lunch breaks. In 1987, he moved with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes Bass, to Montana’s remote Yaak Valley and became an active environmentalist, wo ...more
More about Rick Bass...
Winter: Notes from  Montana The Watch The Ninemile Wolves The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness The Hermit's Story: Stories

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