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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 passionate and poetic, Abbey reflects on the condition of our remaining wilderness and the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world as well as his own internal struggle with morality. As the world continues its rapid development, Abbey’s cry to maintain the natural beauty of the West remains just as relevant today as when this book was written.

Published: RosettaBooks on
ISBN: 9780795317484
List price: $9.99
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Availability for Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
    Abbey was a desert nature lover and outspoken curmudgeon on most other topics. He had an M.S. in philosophy and, like Thoreau, lots of time to explore and think during several years working in the deserts of the American Southwest. Some may take offense at his sarcastic wit, and while he shows his hypocritical side on occasion, Abbey is nevertheless a fierce opponent of overpopulation and recreational tourism that causes governmental destruction of our natural resources. While certainly written with more 'spice' than Leopold, speaking out on such diverse topics as organized religion and 'monopoly capitalism,' Abbey gives us a biological and philosophical tour of some of the most remote, beautiful and dangerous land in the U.S.more
    Wonderful memoir by the quintessential ecology author, Edward Abbey, of his time in the starkly beautiful Arches National Monumentmore
    I realize this won't be the most helpful review, but I couldn't get over the fact a ranger kills an animal just to see if he could survive in the wild and then rants about other peoples' lack of respect for the wilderness. He also irritated me with his arrogance about believing that he had solved some social issues through extreme means. I wish I could see beyond these things, but I just couldn't.more
    "Desert Solitaire" published in 1968 is a nonfiction work by Edward Abbey mainly describing his work as a seasonal Park Ranger at Arches National Park in Utah in the 1950's. It is considered a classic in environmental literature and one of the best books describing the deserts of the southwest. He can wax poetically about the idea of wilderness and the silence of the desert but he is a hell of a story teller as he describes some of the misadventures of the uranium miners and ranchers in the desert and some of his own adventures in the nearby Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon. He lives alone but pines for the company of a "good friendly woman."Abbey was not very politically correct and lashes out in all directions. He bashes all the major religions of world including atheism. He is a very lively writer. He is considered anarchists. He is a fellow graduate of the University of New Mexico. He was the editor on the school newspaper until he posted a quotation from Louisa May Alcott, "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." Whereupon he was fired.I give this book four stars out of five. I bought it for a quarter at the Central Library. It is a quite yellowed paperback. If you want it, you can have it. Just let me know.more
    Abbey's classic environmental work, which established him as a leader in the growing environmental movement. Abbey tells stories and reminisces about his days as a ranger in the modern American west, and rails against a society that isn't able to appreciate the world as we find it, but must bend it and twist it out of shape.more
    A love letter to the Utah desert, with some useful recommendations on wilderness policy thrown as well. I loved his musings on being able to see the snowy mountains while baking on the red sands. His eventual and inevitable climb is my favorite passage.more
    In this fascinating ecological memoir/rant, Abbey takes us along during his time as a park ranger in the heart of Utah's harsh red rock landscape to expose its beauty and contradictions. While some things have changed since the book's publication in 1968, the majority of Abbey's thoughts and experiences remain timeless. A true classic of environmental nonfiction.more
    One of my favourite books.more
    Just finished reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. I like to think of them as essays by a curmudgeon who truly celebrated the wild and being out in it. Alone but hardly lonely, here was a man who cared deeply for our wildest places and wrote about them as he lived in them: passionately. A true conservationist, we could all learn from him and his desire to keep the natural places as they are. Keep the motorized vehicles to a minimum in National Parks. Keep the paved roads out. Get out of our refrigerated boxes and breathe the fresh air and have a look around! Walk and actually see the beauty that surrounds you!Whether he was writing about rafting down the Colorado River before it changes forever due to the addition of another dam, or his "ownership" of the arches at the end of his first summer as a park ranger at Arches National Monument, you feel every bit of his fierce desire to protect the land coming through in every word. You feel his kinship with every tree, rock and tumbleweed that he comes across, every snake he brings into his camper to take care of the mouse population. I am grateful for his words, his many pilgrimages, his anger and his willingness to show it. It is the fierce protectors who are the guardians and stewards of this beautiful land. He is one minute cranky environmentalist and the next touching wordsmith. "If no one is looking for you write your will in the sand and let the wind carry your words and signature east to the borders of Colorado and south to the pillars of Monument Valley - someday, never fear, your bare elegant bones will be discovered and wondered and marveled at." This is a great collection of essays which I recommend. I look forward to reading more of his work. 4.5/5 stars on LT.more
    This was a gift from my friend Kim to give me a glimpse into some of the space she comes from. I enjoyed reading it and will reread it when I finally make it out to Moab. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the beauty of desert landscape.more
    First read: Desert Solitaire is one of those books that I've seen a million times---on other people's bookshelves, at gift shops in national parks, at library sales---but that I've never gotten around to buying or reading. When it arrived in an armchair travel bookbox and after I recently read The Secret Life of Cowboys, somehow I was "spurred" toward reading this book. And these two books (Secret Life and Desert Solitaire), in truth, have a lot in common: a common setting, the American West, and a common narrator, fellows burned out on life in the city and itching for, well, something the West has to offer. Edward Abbey is a surprising guy, happy in his summer job as a ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah, relaxing in the outdoors, ranting a bit about the encroachment of cars upon the wilderness, and then, suddenly, out of nowhere, picking up a rock, flinging it at a rabbit, and killing it (literally). I never knew what this fellow was going to do next. Abbey seemed to be an odd mixture of tree hugger and Texas good ol' boy (though he was originally from Pennsylvania, he'd have fit right in here). Every page, every paragraph, is full of Abbey's opinions and philosophizing, but it makes for a good read. Favorite Quote: (from the Introduction) "It will be objected that the book deals too much with mere appearances, with the surface of things, and fails to engage and reveal the patterns of unifying relationships which form the true underlying reality of existence. Here I must confess that I know nothing whatever about true underlying reality, having never met any."Second Read:A reread. I had to find and read this book for a very silly reason. Here’s the story: I found a green hiking hat that I had to buy when I was in Utah. On the hat were three pictures with labels: Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. We went physically to Zion and Bryce while we were in Utah, with no time for other stops, so I had to visit Arches through a book. Thus, Desert Solitaire.I liked it even better than I did last time. I was surprised to see Abbey as such a rebel; I didn’t remember that.more
    The author must have been an English major: in the first thirty pages, I encounter the following words new to me: demesne, gelid, pismires, and usufructuary. A strong condemnation of industrial tourism in "the most beautiful place on earth"--Arches National Monument in 1967.more
    If you have ever read "Walden Pond" by Throeau you need to read this book. Desert Solitaire celebrates nature in a modern world, shares stories of man communing with nature as an equal, and opens the readers eyes to environmental issues. Nature lovers will fall in love with this book.more
    I think they will let me stay in Moab now. I now have read the patron saint of Moab, Edward Abbey. Actually I read The Monkeywrench Gang a long time ago, but Desert Solitaire is about Arches, and the desert area around here.It is interesting to read something that you love and empathize with half of and strongly disagree with the other half. I love the desert, I always have. I love the red rock, the sun (though I burn horribly), the lack of people. When I was in college we came down all the time. It is one of the reasons I love living here. Just walking out my door is beautiful.But I also think that a human presence in the desert doesn't automatically ruin it. And though Abbey tries very hard to refute the inspirational feelings the landscape inspires, I welcome and cherish those thoughts. I once read something, can't remember where, that there is a reason the world's great religions came from the desert. The solitude, the clarity of the desert gives your mind an opportunity to hear all that is to faint to hear through the radio, kids, bills and worries of the indoors.Abbey was a ranger in Arches before the paved road comes through. He is unhappy about the change and equates one road into Arches with the eventual paving over of all the beauty in the west. He also wrote this book as Glen Canyon Dam was being built and Glen Canyon being drowned. I think he would be appalled about a lot of the changes, but perhaps relieved that Canyonlands, at least is still mostly accessible only on foot. The book is a lament for what he thought would soon be gone forever. It is still here, perhaps harder to find, but solitude is still possible in the desert and I love it.more
    A "must read" for anybody who loves the desert, hiking, and/or Moab. Alert to animal lovers: Abbey starts his book off with a harsh incident involving a furry friend. It may offend some, but I recommend pressing on with his story--I think you'll be glad you did.more
    I pick up this book again every 3-5 years for re-reading, and it never fails to disappoint. Wry, heart-felt, and imbued with the weathered, dry sensibility that is often picked up by those that spend any substantial time in the desert, it is a classic and should be read by all Americans before the environment that is described is eaten by developers, resource extractors, and nuclear waste repository proponents.more
    A classic by the one of the giants of environmental writing. Irreverent, funny, and beautifully written. Look for a hilarious essay on his stint with the National Park Service.more
    I only got through half of this one. Was Abbey trying to write about his experiences at Arches, tell historical cowboy stories, or write a treatise on the evils of developing national parks? I couldn’t tell. I got bored.more
    I loved this book as young man back in the 70's. I sought my adventures out of doors - many in places that would not qualify as "wilderness" by any definition.Arches National Monument as Abbey found it was not wilderness, either. It was adequately developed to permit access to the slightly adventurous visitor willing to drive an unpaved road. Development to support "industrial tourism" just creams whatever bit of magic was once found.For me "Desert Solitaire" is a lament for all of the once magical places that now seem like part of an homogeneous affluent suburb. It mourns the loss of the need for adventurism, knowledge, or skill once the wild places are tamed.There's surely elitism here - and it favors those willing and able to endure the discomfort that keeps the riffraff out. There's humor and rightful anger here - and resignation to witnessing the loss of treasures.more
    Edward Abbey is basically the sober version of Hunter S. Thompson. However, instead of drug expertise and counter-culture, Abbey understands the recreational park system and the state of Native Americans in the 1960's. He knows a great deal about the environment and his appreciation for it is powerful. Abbey's lust for life is enviable and his sense of humor is my favorite thing about this book. Abbey lives the life of a true outsider and is one of the most authentic authors I have come across. yes, he definitely does get "sanctimonious about wilderness" but I found the majority of what he said meaningful but mostly hilarious, because he admits how outlandish some of his claims are. you gotta remember, this guy was out their living it.more
    Honestly, How can you really "rate" a book of this nature? I came in with no preconceptions, and read it in a flurry over a couple of days... as a Canadian with little experience with really hot places, I was pulled in and, ironically (or not) felt the urge to go on my own Odyssey to the Arctic. So, Solitaire went far beyond its mandate -- if it ever had one-- and moved a complete stranger. In my books, that is a literary success.more
    Beautiful tribute to the desert landscape of Utah.more
    A wonderful memoir of the author's experience as a very young adult in the heart of Colorado River country.more
    This is one of those books I read back in the 1970s that was interesting to revisit as my understanding of the issues of the environment, ecology, and conservation have evolved.more
    A modern classic; Abbey describes himself as "not an atheist but an eartheist."more
    A book to be savered, again and again. Esseys on the raw beauty of Arches N.P. And a point of view that was sooo un-politically correct in 1985.more
    Read all 33 reviews

    Reviews

    Abbey was a desert nature lover and outspoken curmudgeon on most other topics. He had an M.S. in philosophy and, like Thoreau, lots of time to explore and think during several years working in the deserts of the American Southwest. Some may take offense at his sarcastic wit, and while he shows his hypocritical side on occasion, Abbey is nevertheless a fierce opponent of overpopulation and recreational tourism that causes governmental destruction of our natural resources. While certainly written with more 'spice' than Leopold, speaking out on such diverse topics as organized religion and 'monopoly capitalism,' Abbey gives us a biological and philosophical tour of some of the most remote, beautiful and dangerous land in the U.S.more
    Wonderful memoir by the quintessential ecology author, Edward Abbey, of his time in the starkly beautiful Arches National Monumentmore
    I realize this won't be the most helpful review, but I couldn't get over the fact a ranger kills an animal just to see if he could survive in the wild and then rants about other peoples' lack of respect for the wilderness. He also irritated me with his arrogance about believing that he had solved some social issues through extreme means. I wish I could see beyond these things, but I just couldn't.more
    "Desert Solitaire" published in 1968 is a nonfiction work by Edward Abbey mainly describing his work as a seasonal Park Ranger at Arches National Park in Utah in the 1950's. It is considered a classic in environmental literature and one of the best books describing the deserts of the southwest. He can wax poetically about the idea of wilderness and the silence of the desert but he is a hell of a story teller as he describes some of the misadventures of the uranium miners and ranchers in the desert and some of his own adventures in the nearby Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon. He lives alone but pines for the company of a "good friendly woman."Abbey was not very politically correct and lashes out in all directions. He bashes all the major religions of world including atheism. He is a very lively writer. He is considered anarchists. He is a fellow graduate of the University of New Mexico. He was the editor on the school newspaper until he posted a quotation from Louisa May Alcott, "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." Whereupon he was fired.I give this book four stars out of five. I bought it for a quarter at the Central Library. It is a quite yellowed paperback. If you want it, you can have it. Just let me know.more
    Abbey's classic environmental work, which established him as a leader in the growing environmental movement. Abbey tells stories and reminisces about his days as a ranger in the modern American west, and rails against a society that isn't able to appreciate the world as we find it, but must bend it and twist it out of shape.more
    A love letter to the Utah desert, with some useful recommendations on wilderness policy thrown as well. I loved his musings on being able to see the snowy mountains while baking on the red sands. His eventual and inevitable climb is my favorite passage.more
    In this fascinating ecological memoir/rant, Abbey takes us along during his time as a park ranger in the heart of Utah's harsh red rock landscape to expose its beauty and contradictions. While some things have changed since the book's publication in 1968, the majority of Abbey's thoughts and experiences remain timeless. A true classic of environmental nonfiction.more
    One of my favourite books.more
    Just finished reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. I like to think of them as essays by a curmudgeon who truly celebrated the wild and being out in it. Alone but hardly lonely, here was a man who cared deeply for our wildest places and wrote about them as he lived in them: passionately. A true conservationist, we could all learn from him and his desire to keep the natural places as they are. Keep the motorized vehicles to a minimum in National Parks. Keep the paved roads out. Get out of our refrigerated boxes and breathe the fresh air and have a look around! Walk and actually see the beauty that surrounds you!Whether he was writing about rafting down the Colorado River before it changes forever due to the addition of another dam, or his "ownership" of the arches at the end of his first summer as a park ranger at Arches National Monument, you feel every bit of his fierce desire to protect the land coming through in every word. You feel his kinship with every tree, rock and tumbleweed that he comes across, every snake he brings into his camper to take care of the mouse population. I am grateful for his words, his many pilgrimages, his anger and his willingness to show it. It is the fierce protectors who are the guardians and stewards of this beautiful land. He is one minute cranky environmentalist and the next touching wordsmith. "If no one is looking for you write your will in the sand and let the wind carry your words and signature east to the borders of Colorado and south to the pillars of Monument Valley - someday, never fear, your bare elegant bones will be discovered and wondered and marveled at." This is a great collection of essays which I recommend. I look forward to reading more of his work. 4.5/5 stars on LT.more
    This was a gift from my friend Kim to give me a glimpse into some of the space she comes from. I enjoyed reading it and will reread it when I finally make it out to Moab. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the beauty of desert landscape.more
    First read: Desert Solitaire is one of those books that I've seen a million times---on other people's bookshelves, at gift shops in national parks, at library sales---but that I've never gotten around to buying or reading. When it arrived in an armchair travel bookbox and after I recently read The Secret Life of Cowboys, somehow I was "spurred" toward reading this book. And these two books (Secret Life and Desert Solitaire), in truth, have a lot in common: a common setting, the American West, and a common narrator, fellows burned out on life in the city and itching for, well, something the West has to offer. Edward Abbey is a surprising guy, happy in his summer job as a ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah, relaxing in the outdoors, ranting a bit about the encroachment of cars upon the wilderness, and then, suddenly, out of nowhere, picking up a rock, flinging it at a rabbit, and killing it (literally). I never knew what this fellow was going to do next. Abbey seemed to be an odd mixture of tree hugger and Texas good ol' boy (though he was originally from Pennsylvania, he'd have fit right in here). Every page, every paragraph, is full of Abbey's opinions and philosophizing, but it makes for a good read. Favorite Quote: (from the Introduction) "It will be objected that the book deals too much with mere appearances, with the surface of things, and fails to engage and reveal the patterns of unifying relationships which form the true underlying reality of existence. Here I must confess that I know nothing whatever about true underlying reality, having never met any."Second Read:A reread. I had to find and read this book for a very silly reason. Here’s the story: I found a green hiking hat that I had to buy when I was in Utah. On the hat were three pictures with labels: Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. We went physically to Zion and Bryce while we were in Utah, with no time for other stops, so I had to visit Arches through a book. Thus, Desert Solitaire.I liked it even better than I did last time. I was surprised to see Abbey as such a rebel; I didn’t remember that.more
    The author must have been an English major: in the first thirty pages, I encounter the following words new to me: demesne, gelid, pismires, and usufructuary. A strong condemnation of industrial tourism in "the most beautiful place on earth"--Arches National Monument in 1967.more
    If you have ever read "Walden Pond" by Throeau you need to read this book. Desert Solitaire celebrates nature in a modern world, shares stories of man communing with nature as an equal, and opens the readers eyes to environmental issues. Nature lovers will fall in love with this book.more
    I think they will let me stay in Moab now. I now have read the patron saint of Moab, Edward Abbey. Actually I read The Monkeywrench Gang a long time ago, but Desert Solitaire is about Arches, and the desert area around here.It is interesting to read something that you love and empathize with half of and strongly disagree with the other half. I love the desert, I always have. I love the red rock, the sun (though I burn horribly), the lack of people. When I was in college we came down all the time. It is one of the reasons I love living here. Just walking out my door is beautiful.But I also think that a human presence in the desert doesn't automatically ruin it. And though Abbey tries very hard to refute the inspirational feelings the landscape inspires, I welcome and cherish those thoughts. I once read something, can't remember where, that there is a reason the world's great religions came from the desert. The solitude, the clarity of the desert gives your mind an opportunity to hear all that is to faint to hear through the radio, kids, bills and worries of the indoors.Abbey was a ranger in Arches before the paved road comes through. He is unhappy about the change and equates one road into Arches with the eventual paving over of all the beauty in the west. He also wrote this book as Glen Canyon Dam was being built and Glen Canyon being drowned. I think he would be appalled about a lot of the changes, but perhaps relieved that Canyonlands, at least is still mostly accessible only on foot. The book is a lament for what he thought would soon be gone forever. It is still here, perhaps harder to find, but solitude is still possible in the desert and I love it.more
    A "must read" for anybody who loves the desert, hiking, and/or Moab. Alert to animal lovers: Abbey starts his book off with a harsh incident involving a furry friend. It may offend some, but I recommend pressing on with his story--I think you'll be glad you did.more
    I pick up this book again every 3-5 years for re-reading, and it never fails to disappoint. Wry, heart-felt, and imbued with the weathered, dry sensibility that is often picked up by those that spend any substantial time in the desert, it is a classic and should be read by all Americans before the environment that is described is eaten by developers, resource extractors, and nuclear waste repository proponents.more
    A classic by the one of the giants of environmental writing. Irreverent, funny, and beautifully written. Look for a hilarious essay on his stint with the National Park Service.more
    I only got through half of this one. Was Abbey trying to write about his experiences at Arches, tell historical cowboy stories, or write a treatise on the evils of developing national parks? I couldn’t tell. I got bored.more
    I loved this book as young man back in the 70's. I sought my adventures out of doors - many in places that would not qualify as "wilderness" by any definition.Arches National Monument as Abbey found it was not wilderness, either. It was adequately developed to permit access to the slightly adventurous visitor willing to drive an unpaved road. Development to support "industrial tourism" just creams whatever bit of magic was once found.For me "Desert Solitaire" is a lament for all of the once magical places that now seem like part of an homogeneous affluent suburb. It mourns the loss of the need for adventurism, knowledge, or skill once the wild places are tamed.There's surely elitism here - and it favors those willing and able to endure the discomfort that keeps the riffraff out. There's humor and rightful anger here - and resignation to witnessing the loss of treasures.more
    Edward Abbey is basically the sober version of Hunter S. Thompson. However, instead of drug expertise and counter-culture, Abbey understands the recreational park system and the state of Native Americans in the 1960's. He knows a great deal about the environment and his appreciation for it is powerful. Abbey's lust for life is enviable and his sense of humor is my favorite thing about this book. Abbey lives the life of a true outsider and is one of the most authentic authors I have come across. yes, he definitely does get "sanctimonious about wilderness" but I found the majority of what he said meaningful but mostly hilarious, because he admits how outlandish some of his claims are. you gotta remember, this guy was out their living it.more
    Honestly, How can you really "rate" a book of this nature? I came in with no preconceptions, and read it in a flurry over a couple of days... as a Canadian with little experience with really hot places, I was pulled in and, ironically (or not) felt the urge to go on my own Odyssey to the Arctic. So, Solitaire went far beyond its mandate -- if it ever had one-- and moved a complete stranger. In my books, that is a literary success.more
    Beautiful tribute to the desert landscape of Utah.more
    A wonderful memoir of the author's experience as a very young adult in the heart of Colorado River country.more
    This is one of those books I read back in the 1970s that was interesting to revisit as my understanding of the issues of the environment, ecology, and conservation have evolved.more
    A modern classic; Abbey describes himself as "not an atheist but an eartheist."more
    A book to be savered, again and again. Esseys on the raw beauty of Arches N.P. And a point of view that was sooo un-politically correct in 1985.more
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