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2017 Books

After my birthday I resolved to improve on some daily habits, one of which is reading, or more specifically, keeping track of my reading. Every year I want to keep a list of books I've read, and every year I do it for a few weeks and the habit doesn't stick. Well, this is my attempt to chisel it in stone. Or at least put it on a server somewhere. Like my painting the general trend of my reading is around landscape. The books below bear this out.

Here goes, in no particular order, what I read in 2017:

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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, 1985 (reprint 2010)

This book was a birthday gift from my friend Sean. It's one I never thought to read, but became a quick favorite within the first pages. I spent nearly six months with this almost 900-page classic (with breaks). Despite the volume, I read a little slower than normal, savoring each sentence to delay the end.

Each character is well-drawn, the setting and tone perfectly described. Like all great stories, Lonesome Dove takes a very specific setting and transcends it. The book is also hilarious at times and feels true, McMurtry writing cowboy banter like Simon, Burns, et al. wrote The Wire.

Lonesome Dove further stoked my interest in the Great Plains. I love the prairie. So much so that I replanted our front yard with native prairie grass and joined the Colorado Native Plant Society (before reading this book)! The only trip I've taken east since moving here in 2012 was to Picketwire Canyon this past Spring and it was honestly one of the coolest places I've been in Colorado. This book set a new direction for me in terms of reading material, outdoor adventure, and general thinking about the Western landscape, and that direction is East.

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Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford, 2010 (reprint)

There are some really important ideas in this book. The subject is the act of fixing things. Specifically, what it means to work on an object that was designed by someone else and (generally) doesn't belong to you. Don't be put off by the title or my simplistic summary, as the author meant to draw out, this book has a lot of deeper implications.

I read it around the same time I listened to the Frankfurt School podcasts on Philosophize This!, forming a nice synergy.

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American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains by Dan Flores, 2016

An ode to the great plains and a chapter by chapter history of the major animals found on this landscape today (in various human-adapted conditions): wolves, bison, coyotes, pronghorn, horses, grizzly bears. I liked learning about the animals, particularly the pronghorn, but wished he would have written a few more pages of poetic, philosophical descriptions of the plains. Loved those!

He finishes the book with a description of the American Prairie Reserve, which I would drive to tomorrow if I could.

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Barkskins by Annie Proulx, 2016

Found this book at the airport and so happy I did. It guided me through Spring. Wonderful density and texture and inspired me to read more fiction.

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Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 1820-1939 by John R. Stilgoe, 1990 revised edition

This book was sort of an outlier in my usual reading but here's why it fits: I used to work at the Design Trust for Public Space; we live in a historic suburb of Denver, adjacent to one of the largest urban infill sites in the country; and for work, I drive through the ever-expanding sprawl of the Front Range where I find myself thinking about urban development kinda all the time. Last but not least, I also grew up in Cleveland Heights, an inner suburb on the east side of Cleveland that borders the more famous Shaker Heights, which is featured in its own chapter in Borderlands.

Anyway, Borderlands is a surprisingly good read.

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The Beast in the Garden by David Baron, 2005 reprint

Wow, why did I read this book? It's Jaws for the Mountain West. The Beast in the Garden is a thriller, with plenty of suspence movie cliches. And geez is it effective. I avoided the foothills for several weeks after reading this book, finally braving a local open space park for an overnight camping trip with H, keeping her within reach and constantly looking around us day and night.

I don't see how you can live here and spend time on the trails and not be fascinated, or fearful, of this elusive creature. Ultimately I'm glad I read this book.

(btw Where was that cover image taken? Doesn't look like the Front Range?)

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American Eclipse by David Baron, 2017

Another David Baron book! K got me this because I was so excited for the eclipse (which was absolutely worth it). The book is a great historical tale with some science mixed in. I took this with me to Rocky Mountain National Park for a few nights this summer and all I can say is I'm glad it was this book by Baron and not the previously mentioned one.

Other notable books I'm not sure I finished in 2017 or 2016 but deserve mention:

Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art by Nancy Princenthal, 2015

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past book 1) by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu), 2016

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth's Past book 2) by Cixin Liu (translated by Joel Martinsen), 2016

Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past book 3) by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu), 2016

The Agnes Martin biography was wonderful. The Three-Body Problem, Dark Forest and Death's End were extraordinary. In 2018 I need to read more science fiction and more artist biographies!