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Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout
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Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  2,449 Ratings  ·  390 Reviews
A decade ago Philip Connors left work as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and talked his way into a job far from the streets of lower Manhattan: working as one of the last fire lookouts in America. Spending nearly half the year in a 7' x 7' tower, 10,000 feet above sea level in remote New Mexico, his tasks were simple: keep watch over one of the most fire-prone forests ...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Ecco (first published March 10th 2011)
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Petra Eggs
Five stars because I enjoyed reading the book, but for everything else, content, prose, direction, it's closer to a three-star. The book is absolutely ideal to listen to as an audio book because nothing much happens and so if you drift away, you won't miss anything. It is a bit like a day dream, you come back to reality with a pleasant, peaceful feeling and don't even give a thought to what was going on meantime.

I probably wouldn't be so hard on this book in the review if I hadn't just finished
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Kris Rabberman, Will Byrnes
”I do not so much seek anything as allow the world to come to me, allow the days to unfold as they will, the dramas of weather and wild creatures. I am most at peace not when I am thinking but when I am observing. There is so much to see, a pleasing diversity of landscapes, all of them always changing in new weather, new light, and all of them still and forever strange to a boy from the northern plains. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. ...more
Will Byrnes
Philip Connors tried his hand at a number of jobs and did pretty well. But his true love was the outdoors, particularly the remote outdoors. So, when an opportunity presented itself for him to spend half a year in a fire tower in remotest New Mexico, he dropped his reportorial gig at the Wall Street Journal and headed southwest. He knew a fair bit about the outdoors before beginning, from his Minnesota upbringing, and learned even more on the job. He kept on learning as he kept on re-upping for ...more
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
When I bought this book, I was excited to read it and hoping for insight into solitude and a different way of life. What I got instead was a steaming pile of self-absorption. Connors seems to fancy himself another Kerouac, going off into the wilderness to drink alone, be manly, and have profound experiences—none of which came through in his writing. There was a lot of hero-worship going on in the book, and I get the impression that Connors wants to see himself added to the list of great wilderne ...more
In 2002 Philip Connors quit his job as a copy editor at The Wall Street Journal to head to a lookout tower in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. His home for the summer was a small cabin, and a lookout tower topped by a 7'x 7' glass room. His job was to call in weather conditions and to scan the mountains for signs of fire. After his day in the tower was done, Connors would take his dog Alice for a long walk before cooking dinner. He often went for weeks without seeing another human, but had ple ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reported tonight on the national news, a 150,000 acre fire in New Mexico's Gila Forest is not yet under control. After reading this book, I wonder who first spotted the fire; who was in the tower. The author spends summers solo in a fire watch tower in the Gila. This book about that solitude, the beauty of the mountain, and his contentment with both is a slow read. You really have to love the mountains and wildlife to love this book. Which I do, and did. Along with his musings, he veers off into ...more
This is a beautiful book about a rare man with an even rarer summer job--he's one of the last fire spotters in existence. 5 months of the year he leaves civilization behind, drives 40 miles then hikes 5 more (sometimes having to literally crawl through snow on his first trip up in late April) to a lookout tower and a small cabin and millions of acres of trees, desert, and mountains. On a clear day he can see for 200 miles from his posting. Alice, his dog, is generally his only company other than ...more
Rebecca Foster
Oct 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
A meditation on nature and solitude fit to rival Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and, I imagine (I hate having to sheepishly admit I still haven’t read such a classic), Thoreau’s Walden.

“That thing some people call boredom, in the correct if elusive dosage, can be a form of inoculation against itself. Once you struggle through that swamp of monotony where time bogs down in excruciating ticks from your wristwatch, it becomes possible to break through to
A beautifully written memoir of Connors time in the American wilderness as a lookout for fires.

It is tinged with melancholy, because of the tragedy of his brothers suicide, but this is the place that he feels most alive in.
He writes of the wildlife that he sees, the majesty of the views and the terror and power of the amazing electrical storms.

He has a way of writing that makes you feel like you are breathing the same air, looking from the same tower, watching the same wildlife.
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The fire tower lookout (aka "the freaks on the peaks", as they are called by the Forest Service) is a dying breed and Philip Connors gives us a tantalizing glimpse into that isolated existence - which only last 3-4 months, but can feel like a year of misery depending on the hardiness of the person. This is a life that he embraces, considering he has done it for 8 seasons, and his descriptions of the joy of solitude, the contentment of watching and listening to the mountains, experiencing all the ...more
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
In the spring and summer of 2011 the mountains and prairies of the southwest United States burst into flame. Some fires were started by lightning, others were man-made. No matter what started the fires the end result was that large swaths of land became charred wilderness. While fires that started in populated areas were easily spotted the fires in more remote areas were harder to see and therefore to control. The forest service’s first line of defense in these remote areas are the fire lookouts ...more
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it
This summer I decided to tackle a bunch of fire-related books I've been meaning to get to. I figured that with the AC pumping and typhoons doing their best to aim at the island I call home they would be less threatening, and they sorta were. Next up - Fire Season.

The book covers one year of lookout duty by Connors, starting with a five mile hike up the mountain with his dog, Alice. His food and other supplies will be brought in by mule. The wet spring quickly turns dry and he spends his time rea
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
After reading a glowing review of this book, I was both pleased and surprised to find it on my local library's new book shelf. So, Philip Connors worked as an editor for the Wall Street Journal until he couldn't stand it anymore and September 11th happened. Then he moved to New Mexico where for five months out of the year he has what he considers to be the world's best job. He lives alone in the New Mexico mountains working as a fire spotter for the National Forest Service--which calls the peopl ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Grayson D
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone, especially lovers of nature
Fire Season. There's a lot for me to say about this book.

As an agriculture technology student that plans to go into Forestry. Living in Texas, close to where this book takes place. I guess it simply just struck a, common ground with me. A ground very intimate and close to my heart. As a lover of nature and the wild this book has kickstarted me on a habit for wanting to delve deeper into the literary minds of lookouts and nature loving individuals and stories in general.

This book, while it may s
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Perhaps it was a little unfair for me to turn to this book immediately after finishing Edward Abbey's DESERT SOLITAIRE. As in that book, not much really "happens" during the author's tenure as a government-appointed overseer of a stretch of Western wilderness. His love of the place--in this case, the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico--is just as palpable as Abbey's, and he has his moments as a prose stylist, especially while reflecting on the experience of solitude. But I think I expected more to "h ...more
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Philip Connors’ Fire Season, about the author’s experience as a fire lookout in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness, is a praise-song to the Gila, a memoir, a history of wilderness fire management. Connors’ writing is impeccable, beautiful yet I felt reading it a sense of easy compatibility with the author. He made me laugh and left me, in the end, feeling quite vulnerable and moved by his experiences and the way in which he shared them. I’m putting him up there with Dillard, Maclean, Abbey and other o ...more
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: real-world
Loved this book! Glad I bought it. Romanticism meets pragmatism. Should become another classic about the West. Besides being an introspective book it's also a primer on the natural world and the American West. We meet Jack Kerouac, Norman Maclean, Aldo Leopold, and the ghosts of the Apache and Buffalo Soldiers. Great prose, vivid descriptions, and lines/aphorisms that will linger with me. Now I have to visit Silver City, NM.
Nathalie Keighley Kristensen
In my humble opinion, this is a book that is best enjoyed by reading slowly. It became a ten day read for me, due to exams and other business that meant I didn't have much time - but in the end I'm glad it got slowed down, and would recommend that you do it on purpose if you read it. It almost created the feeling that you got to go back into the wild every time you picked it up again, back to the tower and the cabin and the meadow. And reading it in only a couple of days would not give you enoug ...more
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book that combines descriptions of wild fires with the history of the Forest Service; living in solitude for a third of the year with pointed criticism of the joke that is farm/ranch subsidies; and a thousand little observations that tie everything together into a lovely poem of a book. Recommended.
Kimberly Patton
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Definitely an interesting concept and experience for this guy, but the material was lacking. Not enough action.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
A good spring read as I'm thinking/planning time outside this summer.
It doesn’t take much in the way of body and mind to be a lookout…it’s mostly soul. --Norman Maclean

Perhaps it is not so strange in this day and age to want to have time alone to think about the world and one’s place in it. It may be necessary to first take that step away to appreciate the benefits of solitude. Some of us imagine we would revel in it, but surely one must also have a sense of loss—a sense of disconnectedness and of strangeness with the world. Perhaps this sense of being apart is t
Para empezar a hablar de este libro, tengo que hacer una referencia a un post anterior en el blog. Hace unos meses escribí un review sobre Firewatch, un videojuego sobre un hombre que cambia de trabajo y se va a vivir como guardaparques a una de las torres de vigilancia que hay en los parques nacionales de Estados Unidos. Tengo que confesar que el juego me gustó tanto que pedí recomendaciones sobre libros con una temática similar. Tras ver las diferentes opciones, decidí que este podría ser una ...more
Nov 22, 2011 rated it liked it
i can't help but think of this book in comparison to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which i also recently read (i wrote a review of it, then goodreads ate it before it posted. grrrr). so i shall compare, which isn't quite cricket, but too bad.

Connors' book is a memoir of sorts of his time spent as a wilderness fire lookout; Strayed's book is a memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. they have a lot of similarities--wilderness, solitude, self-reliance, joy in relatively un
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in ecology, lovers of solitude
Five miles from the nearest road, sitting on top of what is essentially a lightning rod with a roof – that's not something most of us could tolerate, much less crave. Something Mr. Connors chose to do for several summers in his job as a fire lookout. (Something that I, being a bit of a loner, would probably like. Except for the lightning. And the snakes. And the dead mice stuck to the floor when the cabin is first opened for the season.)

Despite all the vitriol we've directed at it, despite all t
Dec 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bibliocase
Aldo Leopold, the American ecologist, forester, scientist and environmentalist once remarked thus: "nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings". Philip Connors in his occupation as a 'fire look out' in the serene wilderness of the Gila mountains experienced first hand the splendid and pure salutary experience - an experience recounted in a restorative manner in this fascinating recollection.

Inspired by the experiences recounte
Richard Jr.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
A Man and His Dog in Fire Country

"Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout"
by Philip Connors is one of those relaxing airplane ride books or winter fireside reads that really lets you understand how being on a fire watchtower, miles from anyone else could be both exciting and soul refreshing. Solitude is something that many of us don’t get enough of anymore. At the same time, when the storms come in and Zeus starts throwing his bolts of fire and Thor hammers you from all sides, the Go
In this beautifully written memoir the author recounts one of the 5 month seasons he has spent as a Fire Lookout, sitting above the trees in a tower in the Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico. Connors tells us not only how he spends his days, but shares his thoughts on a variety of subjects. Among them, he talks about the history of the Forest Service, the evolving policies on fire management, and the philosophical changes, from an agency who brokered natural resources, into one whose pr ...more
Ellen Librarian
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I think I would have liked this book even if I hadn't read it in the midst of what has to be one of the worst if not THE worst fire season in NM. It's a beautiful meditation on life, wilderness and so many other things - including the role of lookout work in the lives of many fine writers such as Jack Kerouac and Norman MacLean.

Connors also has a lot to say about fire, of course, and as I read this book downwind of the Las Conchas fire, now the biggest ever recorded in NM, I found his perspecti
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Play Book Tag: Fire Season by Philip Connors - 5 stars 2 6 May 01, 2016 06:41AM  
Nature Literature: Fire Season discussion 14 23 Feb 11, 2015 11:52PM  
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Philip Connors is the author of Fire Season, which won the Banff Mountain Book Competition Grand Prize, the National Outdoor Book Award, the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, and the Reading the West Book Award. Connors's writing has also appeared in Harper's, n+1, the Paris Review, and elsewhere. He lives in New Mexico.
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“By being virtually useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.” 1 likes
“He [Aldo Leopold] recognized that industrial-age tools were incompatible with truly wild country - that roads eventually brought with them streams of tourists and settlers, hotels and gas stations, summer homes and cabins, and a diminishment of land health. He sort of invented the concept of wilderness as we now understand it in America: a stretch of country without roads, where all human movement must happen on foot or horseback. He understood that to keep a little remnant of our continent wild, we had no choice but to exercise restraint. I think it's one of the best ideas our culture ever had, not to mention our best hope for preserving the full diversity of nonhuman life in a few functioning ecosystems.” 1 likes
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