Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Desert Solitaire” as Want to Read:
Desert Solitaire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Desert Solitaire

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  30,171 Ratings  ·  1,882 Reviews
First published in 1968, Desert Solitaire is one of Edward Abbey's most critically acclaimed works and marks his first foray into the world of nonfiction writing. Written while Abbey was working as a ranger at Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah, Desert Solitaire is a rare view of one man's quest to experience nature in its purest form.

Through prose that is by turn
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published (first published 1968)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
Jun 16, 2008 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
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2010 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
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
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
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.
Jun 16, 2012 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
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.
In his early 30s in the late 1950s, Edward Abbey worked as a seasonal ranger at Arches National Monument (now Arches National Park) in east Utah. He lived in a trailer from April-September; his responsibilities included maintaining trails, talking to tourists, and, at least once, had to go on a search party to find a dead body. Remember that anecdote when you're working whatever summer job you have this year and feel like complaining about it. At least you didn't have to go look for and help car ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Oct 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Abeer Hoque
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Feb 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Edward Abbey was an outspoken wilderness advocate, and his nonfiction writing falls somewhere between Thoreau and Hunter Thompson. "Desert Solitaire" is classic Abbey, written in the latter 1960s, when he was about 30, and it recounts a handful of summers spent ten years earlier in and around Arches National Monument in southeastern Utah. Here he was a park ranger, when the park was still mostly undeveloped. Living in a small trailer, keeping an eye on the campers and tourists, he mostly relishe ...more
Susan Rainwater
Mar 03, 2016 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 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
Bruce Katz
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took my sweet time reading this, leaving it in the car so I could read it whenever I was out with time to kill. A magnificent book that should be treasured. Abbey was brilliant, curmudgeonly, arch, impatient with tourists (an interesting aversion given that he was a seasonal park ranger at Utah's Arches National Monument -- before it was the National Park of today -- and thus responsible for answering their questions and explaining what they were looking at), utterly intolerant of paved highways ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edward Abbey kept appearing as a recommendation to me in the form of several of his books and I finally picked one for my 50th birthday reading celebration project and I am glad I did.

Desert Solitaire is about Abbey's time working at Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah. I have visited Arches several times as well as the other National Parks and Monuments in Utah including Zion, Bryce, Bridges, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Glen Canyon, all of which Abbey refers to here. I am in love wit
Daniel Villines
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his introduction, Edward Abbey writes, "much of the book will seem coarse, rude, bad-tempered, violently prejudiced, unconstructive - even frankly antisocial in its point of view." Haha! No kidding! He's a prick! I don't think I would have enjoyed hanging out with him. All of that made for a better book though.

He was a completely uncompromising guy. I think you have to be kind of a prick to be so clear-eyed and principled in your beliefs. Abbey loved true wilderness and was a very talented w
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked him best when he was being a grumpy curmudgeon, blasting cars for being in national parks and people for being chained to their desks or touring the national parks from inside their cars with the windows rolled up instead of getting out there and exploring on foot, and the exploitation of national parks for profit by the government. That was the interesting stuff, and I liked how he just put it out there and didn't mince words. And there were a few interesting anecdotes. But overall, I f ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Biddle's Book Club: June 2017 - Desert Solitaire 1 4 May 25, 2017 04:50AM  
Edward Abbey Narrative -- Ryan Latini 1 7 Jan 07, 2016 09:28AM  
One of the best books of desert life 10 132 Dec 08, 2015 08:18AM  
  • Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness
  • A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There
  • The Secret Knowledge of Water
  • Encounters with the Archdruid
  • My First Summer in the Sierra
  • The Solace of Open Spaces
  • Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
  • Arctic Dreams
  • Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
  • Wilderness and the American Mind
  • The Land of Little Rain
  • Practice of the Wild
  • Winter: Notes from  Montana
  • Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty & Wilderness Journals
  • The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons
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...
“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.” 302 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.” 210 likes
More quotes…