Dave Gaston's Reviews > The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
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Apr 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, america, bull-ya-boy-book, descriptive-prose-most-beautiful, ecology-earth-science, history, natural-disaster, smoldering, survival
Read in January, 2009

In 1910 the largest wild fire in the nation’s history tore, “faster then a horse could run,” across million’s of acres of pristine wilderness in the NW territories. At the time, the forest service was in it’s infancy championed by the conservation efforts of two dynamic best friends, Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt. Egan write’s wonderfully. His descriptions of the characteristics of the blaze were incredibly gripping. He gave the inferno a goliath personality that set my imagination afire (pun not intended). And of course this evil villain needs a stack of hero's, the Big Burn presents many big and small. Egan is one of the true masters of historical writing, effortlessly moving the story from the floor of the forests to the back rooms of Washington. The swing in perspective gives the intense action scenes a little relief and in turn Egan has created anticipation and a certain momentum. It is perhaps unfair to rank this book next to Egan’s epic “The Worst Hard Time,” in my opinion a five star classic. The Big Burn is a less complex story, still Egan’s imaginative writing is truly captivating. I’ve read several excellent books with fire as a theme. They are hard to write, without falling back on cliches or becoming incredibly redundant (...just ask Sebastian Junger). The Big Burn deserves a solid four stars. Tim Egan also deserves a huge fan base. What ever he chooses to write next, I’ll read. Other excellent fire books includes: “3,000 Degrees”, “Firestorm at Peshtigo” and select chapters from Winchester’s “Krakatoa” and “The Crack at the End of the Earth.”
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