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The Monkey Wrench Gang (Monkey Wrench Gang #1)

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,065 Ratings  ·  999 Reviews
Ed Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang, his 1975 novel, a "comic extravaganza." Some readers have remarked that the book is more a comic book than a real novel, and it's true that reading this incendiary call to protect the American wilderness requires more than a little of the old willing suspension of disbelief. The story centers on Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayd ...more
Paperback, 421 pages
Published December 12th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 1975)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldThe Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
10th out of 561 books — 745 voters
A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldWalden by Henry David ThoreauA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie DillardDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Nature Books
17th out of 417 books — 370 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This tale of four "goldamn envirn-meddlers" is one of the least compelling stories I've ever read. I put off picking up the book until just before bedtime, and that one or two paragraphs I managed to read sure did wonders for lulling me into unconsciousness. The parts I did stay awake for only served to piss me off. The hypocrisy of these eco-terrorists is laughable. They motor up and down the very highways they rage against, burning massive amounts of fossil fuels in the commission of their pro ...more
May 22, 2007 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: environmentalists, disillusioned activists
Shelves: fiction
Yes, it's an iconic work of anarchy and environmentalism, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth the read. This book is hilarious. Like most other American nature writers, Abbey was a bit of a self-important pig (I can't stand Farley Mowat, though maybe he's Canadian); unlike most other American nature writers, he has a sense of humor about it.

The characters are grizzled and absurd, their actions are grandiose and delusional, and I felt a strong sense of solidarity and sympathy the whole way that
Mar 30, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it
In recent times, Al Gore has credited Rachel Carson (The Silent Spring) for introducing environmental concerns into his nascent consciousness, but it is a work of fiction not fact, Edward Abbey's "Monkey Wrench Gang", published first in 1975, which is regarded as having inspired a new generation of angry young environmental activists to the practice of extreme sabotage, sometimes called terrorism, for the sake of protecting the earth. For this reason, I recently reread this novel. I was interest ...more
Jun 18, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Giving this book 5 stars would probably put me on some sort of a list, but let's be honest: I'm already on that list. If you're at all concerned about the environment, this is a pretty good book to read. It was the inspiration for Earth First! (The exclamation point is part of the name of the organization, the real end of the sentence follows this parenthetical). But the great part about this book is that it isn't a boring didactic screed. Instead, it's a hilarious comedy/adventure novel. To giv ...more
Apr 12, 2011 Mykle rated it liked it
This novel has all the same elements that make Edward Abbey's non-fiction so compelling: the depth of his knowledge and emotions about the desert landscapes of Utah and Colorado, his poetic descriptions of same, and his eloquent condemnation of the loss of this wilderness for the sake of city-dwelling, industrial man.

This book has all of that on display in droves, but also it highlights some of his weaknesses: smart-assey movie dialogue, rampant sexism and a love of bad puns. His four protagonis
Mar 07, 2007 meredith rated it did not like it
I blame reading this book at an inappropriately young age (9 or 10?) for the violent gag reflex that occurs whenever I smell patchouli, as well as the involuntary "NOOOOOOO" that I surprise myself with every time a ratty college do-gooder accosts me with a clipboard and a jaunty, "do you have a minute for the environment?"

Also, the surfeit of clunky, unshaven, back-of-the-VW-with-a-dog-looking-on-from-the-front-seat sex that occurs every second or third chapter couldn't have been good for my ove
Oct 05, 2009 Stacy rated it really liked it
When I was about 12 years old, my dad took my sister and me camping in Southeast Utah. We took my dad's Ford truck with four wheel drive to Canyonlands National Park and went on various roads, back roads, dirt roads, and roads that were barely roads at all. We bumped around the slick rock of Ernies Country, and went up a narrow and twisty dirt road with a sheer cliff on one side. It terrified my sister and I so that we buckled into the middle seat together and sang hymns the whole way down. We c ...more
May 24, 2007 Nate rated it really liked it
Ed Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang, his 1975 novel, a "comic extravaganza." Some readers have remarked that the book is more a comic book than a real novel, and it's true that reading this incendiary call to protect the American wilderness requires more than a little of the old willing suspension of disbelief. The story centers on Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III, who returns to the desert to find his beloved canyons and rivers threatened by industrial development. On
Aug 08, 2008 Jason rated it liked it
OK I'll try not to say what other reviewers have said. First of all, I loved the drama, the ideas, the characters, but I didn't buy the ending at all so I deducted a star. The other star was deducted because of the at times clunky writing and I think the character's histories merited further discussion.

First what I liked: The plot is riveting, to the point of agonizing. You just want them to call it quits and save themselves! It can get a little bogged down in technical descriptions. Stylistica
Jul 27, 2007 Nadine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of our few remaining natural treasures
Shelves: environment
Edward Abbey was my dad's favorite author. We once stayed at a place near Moab, Utah called Pack Creek Ranch. Our cabin butted up against Abbey's former shack, where he did his writing. Somehow it has taken me 10 years to pick up one of his books, and I'm so glad I did. The Monkey Wrench Gang makes even the most law abiding citizen (such as myself, haha) want to pour sand into the gas tank of a bulldozer. The book revolves around a plot to blow up Glen Canyon Dam, the travesty that drowned the c ...more
A modern day classic and still capable of stirring up people on both sides of the issue. Provocative,descriptive,sarcastic, humorous, engrossing and angry are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Edward Abbey's most well known book. I do not consider myself a radical or hardcore environmentalist. I'm too much a product of the modern era for that. I ,and those I love, have benefited from the modern world and "evil" technology (modern medicine, computers and so on). However I ...more
Pat Loughery
Feb 27, 2011 Pat Loughery rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
There are two ways to review this book.

One, as a novel. Edwards Abbey writes a blazing, funny, madcap zany story of a group of four anarchist friends, hell-bent to stop the development of the southwest wilderness by crushing dams, bridges, power plants and anything else they can. On the run from the local Mormon do-gooder Search&Rescue crew, the FBI, the National Park Service and anybody else they run into, the quartet is likeable, entertaining and extremely enjoyable.

The dialogue is massive
Katrina V.
Sep 14, 2010 Katrina V. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
The summer after I graduated from college I spent a lot of time out west, roaming the country between Salt Lake City, Utah and the beautiful park land nearby; Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and a personal childhood favorite of mine, Goblin Valley, where the shadows cast by the rocks in the twilight evoke ghoulish figures creeping up on you from all sides. I love these landscapes, so different from the Connecticut hills I grew up in – the colors, smells, and emotions of the American West are somethin ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Alison rated it really liked it
I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina in a small city notable for its hippies and weirdos and just a hop, skip and jump away from a university where Edward Abbey taught English and raged against machines for a minute or two. My dad was pretty environmentally motivated. And I'm pretty sure "The Monkey Wrench Gang" made its way into dinner conversation several times in my youth. This may have been why I never read it as a teenager* like the rest of my friends did.

I remember when a b
Apr 13, 2010 Elaine rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: dirty hippies that are rebels to be rebels
Recommended to Elaine by: bookclub
We are reading this in my book club. So far I want to punch myself in the face. Hard. As hard as I possible can. Cartoon-like storyboard, self-important hippies that drive cars that use gas and miss the irony of that act, sexist men, hippies that talk about saving the environment as a "I care about stuff more than you, look at me I am such 'rebel' and everyone who disagrees is the Man" masturbation technique, annoying tense shifts, hippies, 7th grade creative writing descriptions of scenery, and ...more
LeeAnn Heringer
I put this on my reading list because it's ground zero of the Earth First! environmentalist movement, the vandalism as civil disobedience. And I am not an Earth Firster, tree spiker, SUV dealership destructor, rescuer of bunnies from cosmetic labs, kind of girl. But how who doesn't not love virgin stands of redwoods and the wide, wide, endless sky of the American west and the watersheds of the Colorado? There was no doubt that this author loved the American west, knew the plateaus and cliffs, th ...more
Sep 12, 2007 Jessica rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: readers who like action/adventure, and those who normally read non-fiction
Shelves: readit
Genteel Doc Sarvis, solid and faithful (though patently unfaithful in marriage) Seldom Seen Smith, wild George Hayduke and breathtakingly pretty if directionless Bonnie Abbzug make an unlikely band of eco-activists/bandits with questionable motives in this book perhaps loosely based on an actual group of bandits running around blowing up things they thought ecologically unsound in the 1970s.

Despite lots of action-packed sequences, this book really took me forever to get through. I started it in
May 07, 2009 Erica rated it it was ok
Kind of disappointing after reading Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire' (a nice piece of nature writing) This book was recommended to me by several friends who are avid cyclists and environmentalists. I thought i would enjoy the tale of these four 'eco-avengers' blowing up bridges and sabotaging construction sites. Instead I was bored by the writing and upset by Abbey's unabashed sexism and racism.
Stewart Mitchell
Mar 16, 2016 Stewart Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the story of four memorable characters- a foul-mouthed Vietnam vet, a redneck, a doctor, and a nurse (I think?)- who decide to travel the country and blow things up. Specifically, things like bridges, railroads, and dams; anything that they believe to be harmful to nature has to go. So essentially what we have here is Fight Club for hippies, which is exactly what I expected, being that I first heard about this one from Chuck Palahniuk himself in one of his essays. What makes The Mon ...more
Pep Bonet
Let me start by stating that I have been hesitating quite a while between granting this book the fourth star or not. Eventually I leave it at three, because I have found it somewhat irritating, tiring, maybe boring. On the other hand it has great qualities. A bit of story: I come to this book thanks to a review of books with ecologists in action only to discover that it was written in 1975 and has served to add a new phrase to the English vocabulary: monkey wrench --just as the French word sabot ...more
Ned Mozier
Sep 20, 2014 Ned Mozier rated it it was amazing
Here's where my reading practice paid off: By avoiding the hype of what others say and have said about the author, I enjoyed his art in what I can only hope is how he originally had hoped it would hit his readers. Having read Desert Solitaire and a couple of brief interviews with the man, I was still shocked by the skillful quality of literature this book represents. It is not conventional in any way, in fact the four "protagonists" are all deeply flawed in many moral dimensions, including crimi ...more
I took this one on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. It was the perfect read for the setting -- or would have been if I'd have been able to read more than 2 - 3 pages each night before the sun set (headlamp batteries must be saved for emergencies). And if I were a guy. And it were still the 70s or maybe 80s. I love Abbey's Desert Solitaire so much, but something about this novel rubbed me the wrong way at times. Mostly the childish, objectified Bonnie. Also, the radical "save the earth by ...more
Brian R. Mcdonald
Aug 27, 2010 Brian R. Mcdonald rated it it was amazing
One of my three favorite books of all time, or at least one of the three that I tend to push on any of my friends who read. It is first and foremost a flat out fun book to read. Though I had little in common with the characters, and wasn't necessarily predisposed toward their political views [I probably share most of their viewpoints and values, but their issues aren't necessarily my priorities:], I liked and identified with them all and became immensely caught up in the plot. In addiion to bein ...more
Virginia Arthur
Jul 15, 2013 Virginia Arthur rated it it was amazing
This book is a great American Classic. It is impossible to fully describe its influence.

I love reading the comments about Abbey. He just pissed off everybody. This was when the so-called "environmental" movement in this country had balls and snark. Now, it's pot-lucks and social events, getting anything done as an afterthought. It's "being professional"=lobotomy.

Ed walked the land and knew the land. He knew the critters like they were his friends. He read the sky. He was about our AMERICAN LAND
Aug 05, 2012 Sean rated it it was amazing
I finally read this iconic novel and I was surprised at how damned funny and inspiring it is.

It's not to be taken too seriously and it demands tremendous suspension of disbelief. But Abbey's erudition and clever wordplay are extraordinary. So is his ability to convey – and inspire – a conservationist ethic that completely sidesteps the sort of whiney, preachy, schmaltzy, vapid, anti-individualistic and ultimately ineffective schlock-talk that cripples too many modern-day "environmentalists."

Max Nemtsov
Jul 17, 2014 Max Nemtsov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Это не сопротивленье, а война. И все мы прекрасно знаем, кто враг. Не мужчины, не женщины и не дети.
Великолепный, музыкальный, пронзительный роман (и при этом натуральный кинематографичный триллер) о человеческом братстве, об истинном прайде перед отвратительной безликой массой Системы. Абсолютно необходим для жизни.
Sep 08, 2015 Cora rated it liked it
this book was fine, not great. the characters are really static and represent extremes of personality mostly, which wasn't very realistic and got a bit annoying by the end. the action throughout the book was always the same since the mission was to basically destroy stuff to help save the environment. i couldn't help but be critical of that approach to "solving" environmental problems since it has no lasting, meaningful effect besides pissing people off. there were some funny/witty parts and abb ...more
Nov 28, 2014 MaryJo rated it really liked it
I saw a reference to The Monkey Wrench Gang in the annual book review edition of the High Country News. Over the summer I read several books about the high plains and the Rocky Mountain West. I had never read Edward Albee, although I had heard about him. I was getting ready to go to the Black Earth Institute meeting. Preparing for the meetings I been talking with a friend about the workshop we were leading on performance, politics and art. It was the perfect time to try the book. I did not expec ...more
Juan Hidalgo
Oct 04, 2014 Juan Hidalgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
La sinopsis de este libro señala que se trata de una hilarante joya cómica, y aunque yo no me atrevería a poner el listón de las risas tan alto, sí es indudable que la historia no deja de provocar constantes sonrisas y que es imposible no simpatizar con sus cuatro alocados y peculiares protagonistas.

Por otro lado, cualquiera que ame la naturaleza y su conservación, deseará unirse de inmediato a la banda de la tenaza :)
Bob Schnell
"The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey is the classic environmental activist tale of sabotaging industrial progress in the American Southwest. Written in exuberant, almost train-of-thought style it captures the rebellious spirit of "sticking it to the man" while getting back to nature. Had this book been published 8 or 9 years earlier it could have inspired the love generation to focus their attention and action against the corporate takeover of public lands. Instead, by 1975 most of the yippi ...more
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where to read 7 85 Dec 08, 2015 02:20PM  
  • Encounters with the Archdruid
  • Wilderness and the American Mind
  • Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization
  • Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness
  • A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There
  • Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty & Wilderness Journals
  • Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
  • The Secret Knowledge of Water
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
  • Field Notes: The Grace Note of the Canyon Wren
  • The Lost Grizzlies: A Search for Survivors in the Colorado Wilderness
  • The Mountains of California
  • Confessions of an Eco-Warrior
  • The Land of Little Rain
  • Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World
  • The River Why
  • Days of War, Nights of Love: Crimethink for Beginners
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...

Other Books in the Series

Monkey Wrench Gang (2 books)
  • Hayduke Lives! (Monkey Wrench Gang, #2)

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“Somewhere in the depths of solitude, beyond wilderness and freedom, lay the trap of madness.” 39 likes
“There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.” 11 likes
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