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Desert Solitaire

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  40,993 ratings  ·  2,698 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 turns
Paperback, 337 pages
Published January 12th 1985 by Ballantine Books (first published 1968)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  40,993 ratings  ·  2,698 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Sep 07, 2009 rated it liked it
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: rivers, 1960s, walks, nature
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
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
Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Utah

Oh, Mr. Abbey, how do I loathe thee?

Let me count the ways:

I loathe the way you wrapped a gopher snake around your waist and stroked your “friend's” head, thinking you were “astonishing and delighting any tourists” who happened by. You were supposed to be serving as a park ranger, Mr. Abbey, not a showboating dipshit who wanted to stroke a proxy second head in front of female visitors to the park. None of these ladies were “astonished” or “delighted,” b
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
This came across my horizon through a list book - the 1000 books you should read before you die, by J. Mustich. . . never had I heard of Edward Abbey and his fierce opinions specifically captured in his book Desert Solitaire, all about the nature spilled over the earth in the Four Corners area of the southwest. I don't usually think about that area. . . I was deeply in love there once upon a time, a love that slid into a carefully catered (the most overused word these days, but accurate in many ...more
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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. ...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
Mar 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
L.G. Cullens
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine what Edward Abby would have to say if he were still alive to see what humankind has further wrought.

In not having read this particular book of Abbey's before, I've shortchanged my reading experience. To me, his narrative in Desert Solitaire is befitting the setting, at once harsh and lulling, even hauntingly poetic with discordant notes. If you discern the writing's undercurrent, you may also feel its poignancy.

In this book, the best of his writing to my mind even if a little drawn out,
Joy D
Step back in time to the 1960s and discover the Utah desert with Edward Abbey. This book is full of beautiful nature writing about his time spent working as a ranger at Arches National Park. He describes his explorations, either alone or with one person, into regions of desert, mountains, and rivers. He vividly describes his love of the desert wilderness in passages such as:

“Gusts of sand swirl before me, stinging my face. But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the world very much ali
Oct 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature, to-re-read
I agree with several of the other reviewers: Desert Solitaire is basically an Edward Abbey selfie. Not a bad looking face but it's inside that counts--not all of it bad, but enough of it to be cloying and smacking of hypocrisy. ...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
Feb 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
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: west, of-it-s-time
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
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jenna Los
Jan 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school-mla
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
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
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Whew! I read it. The entire thing.

This could be given any rating from one to 4 stars, IMHO- all with good reasons. Some of the other reviewers here on both ends of that scale did excellent reviews. Most parts of these very varying reviews; I would whole hardily agree with their parsing. BUT. How can you overlook the politico or the man's "eyes"? Or some of his actions and impulses so heartily self-heralded? Like the quick dart throw of a rock to kill a jackrabbit just to see if he could do it.
Abeer Hoque
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is one of only four or five books that I can say truly impacted my life. Many years ago my boss saw me reading "The Monkey Wrench Gang" (which did not significantly impress me). He suggested "Desert Solitaire" as a much better example of Edward Abbey's work. I took his recommendation seriously, and have been thankful to him ever since.

Having grown up in Idaho I had done a fair amount of backpacking in the mountains and forests, and I was somewhat of an outdoor enthusiast at the time. But th
Jen Bracken-Hull
Sep 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
I debated on 1 or 2 stars for this one, but I can't, in good conscience, give it 2. The more I read, the more I hated. Though it has it's good points (trying to remember what they are right now), I couldn't help but feel Abbey's memoirs are a ruthless and pathetic attempt to personify the West. He is disdainful towards almost everyone: tourists, the government, "Indians", women.

His depiction of "the Navajo" was particularly distasteful. I understand it was published in 1968, so it's outdated, b
Christine Boyer
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Southwest, outdoor enthusiasts, nature with a twist
I was going to say that readers will either love this or hate it - but that's not true. It's not black or white, and Abbey is not black or white - lots of shades of gray here. Here are some things I CAN say for certain.

Abbey is a talented and clever writer. A friend turned me on to his fiction, and to this day, "Fool's Progress" is one of my all-time favorite books. He can write a sentence and play with words like nobody's business. I often re-read lines because they were that good.

Abbey is also
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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James Mustich's 1...: Desert Solitaire - January 2021 6 16 Jan 28, 2021 05:36AM  
Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey - 4 stars 3 9 Jul 13, 2020 05:56PM  
LDS Earth Steward...: Desert Solitaire 1 11 May 06, 2019 07:21PM  
Outdoor Conservat...: Desert Solitaire (Sept 2018) 1 7 Sep 11, 2018 05:51PM  
To Be Renamed... ...: June 2017 - Desert Solitaire 1 6 May 25, 2017 04:50AM  
Edward Abbey Narrative -- Ryan Latini 1 9 Jan 07, 2016 09:28AM  

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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 environment

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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.” 388 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.” 256 likes
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