A CLOSER LOOK

Edward Abbey's iconic works highlight the area

The American West ends itself to adventure, and books in this genre often are set in the desert of the Southwest. Edward Abbey fell in love with the Four Corners while attempting to escape the draft in the late 1940s, and most of his works take place here.

Abbey is well-known for his anti-institution and staunchly pro-environmental stance. But beyond the political undertones of his novels are one-of-a-kind descriptions of the Colorado Plateau that had such an effect on him.

"The Monkey Wrench Gang:" The story of four characters-turned-revolutionaries reacting to dam and bridge building in the modern West. Places in the novel can be recognized specifically as real locations in San Juan County.

"Desert Solitaire:" Abbey's true account of his own time spent as a ranger in Arches National Park. Abbey is able to portray the feeling that gives the book its title, not so much through description as with details in his matter-of-fact style of writing.

DURANGO, COLO. — Summertime means vacations and trips, usually outside.

Whether you need books to take along on your warm weather adventures or you prefer to let someone else's eyes and words be your guide, there are plenty of novels geared toward outdoors enthusiasts.

Maybe you are an "armchair mountaineer," like Kathleen Costello, a bookseller at Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colo.

Costello has not hiked the Pacific Crest Trail herself — and says she likely never will travel the 2,600-mile trail along the Pacific Coast — but through Cheryl Strayed's "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," she was able to get a glimpse of the experience.

Jaime Cary, a bookseller at Maria’s Bookshop, holds one of her summer reading picks, "Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for
Jaime Cary, a bookseller at Maria's Bookshop, holds one of her summer reading picks, "Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes," on Sunday at the store in Durango, Colo. (Molly Maxwell / Special to The Daily Times)

"(Strayed) is fairly naive, and I get annoyed with her for that, but she learns a lot. ... She does a good job of describing thru-hiking (the process of hiking a trail end-to-end)," Costello said.

"Wild" is Strayed's real-life account of hiking more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from the U.S. border with Mexico to the border with Canada. With no previous hiking experience, Strayed, at age 22, decided to embark on the expedition out of desperation after her mother's death sent her on a downward spiral.

Although largely a coming-of-age novel, Strayed's account is entertaining enough for a hiker — even just as a guide for what not to do when starting a thru-hike.

The book, which is being made into a movie, is a New York Times Best Seller and was on Oprah's Book Club 2.0 list.

At Maria's Bookshop, "The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon" by Kevin Fedarko is propped up in multiple places with "Staff Picks" cards sticking out from between the pages. It's an obvious favorite of many, and, another bookseller, Clint McKnight, is eager to explain why his name is on one of those cards.

Even the interior decoration of Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colo.,  exudes an adventurous attitude, with antique snowshoes and skis on the walls and
Even the interior decoration of Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colo., exudes an adventurous attitude, with antique snowshoes and skis on the walls and a full-sized canoe hanging from the ceiling. (Molly Maxwell / Special to The Daily Times)

"It knocked me out," he said. "I thought it would just be about Gonzo river runners, but it's so much more."

As its title suggests, the book tells the story of a trio of river guides, led by Kenton Grua, who attempt the fastest boat trip down the Grand Canyon in June 1983.

In its 341 pages, Fedarko also tells the story of European explorers discovering the New World. He describes John Wesley Powell's journey down the Colorado River. He explains the Grand Canyon's and Hoover Dam's controversial histories. And he illustrates the relevance of the dory — the small oar boat used by Grua and his crew — to the Grand Canyon, all while telling Grua's story.

BOOKS SET IN FOUR CORNERS

Tony Hillerman mystery books

The author used the Four Corners, especially the Navajo Nation, as the setting for his mystery novels about the Navajo tribal police. His daughter, Anne Hillerman, furthered the series with" Spider Woman's Daughter.

Chronicling a species

Marcy Cottrell Houle's 1991 "Wings for My Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Chimney Rock" is the biologist's account of the birds when they neared extinction. The book has been recently updated and re-released.

"Just Add Water"

Written by the manager of Abe's Motel and Fly Shop in Navajo Dam, this is Jay Walden's proof he practices what he preaches. In the form of a fishing log, the book details life for a fisherman in the Quality Waters of the San Juan River.

" San Juan River Chronicle"

Also about fly-fishing in the Quality Waters, Steven Meyer's work focuses on the natural history of the San Juan River and the effects the area's popularity as a world-class fishing destination has on the region.

The winner of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Award and praised by countless outdoor and literary publications, "The Emerald Mile" is not just a fast-paced adventure narrative or a history of the Grand Canyon. It's also a beautifully written, informative book that will leave you feeling smarter than you did when you started it.

"If you were going to read one non-fiction book this year, I would recommend this one," McKnight said.

If your mind is on your own summer adventures, Maria's Bookshop bookseller Jaime Cary, also a raft guide with Mountain Waters Rafting, suggested "Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook for On-the-Go Food for Athletes" by professional chef and road cyclist Biju K. Thomas and sports physiologist Allen Lim.

While other raft guides bring pre-packaged bars on their trips down the river or end up "eating whatever they can get their hands on," Cary said she sets aside time once a week to make her meals directly out of this book.

"It's an awesome cookbook," she said. "It explains things in real stats. If you are being active, you don't necessarily need low calories, but good calories."

Cary described one snack she especially likes to make with rice, coconut milk, blueberries and chocolate chips.

"It only costs about $9 to make 40 of them — super affordable," she said.

Although the cover image of small, foil-wrapped squares labeled "sweet" and "savory" may suggest the book is for voyagers to the moon, these snack and meal ideas pertain to anyone who wants to bring along a meal anywhere.

For children with a penchant for the outdoors, Costello suggests the Superstition Mountain series by Elise Broach. The series follows the Barker brothers, whose family moves from Chicago to Arizona, which seems to offer nothing for them to do until a missing cat forces them to approach the forbidden Superstition Mountain. The three-book series is suggested for readers ages 8 to 12.

"Hatchet," by Newbery Honor author Gary Paulsen, is a classic read for both children and young adults. Published in 1988, the novel tells the story of 13-year-old Brian Robeson, who flies to visit his father when his plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. He is alone, and his only means of survival is a hatchet his mother gave him.

Farmington Public Library Director Karen McPheeters also suggests "The Incredible Journey" by Sheila Burnford as an inspiring adventure story she herself read as a child.

"I loved the idea that a cat and two dogs could find their way home despite all odds to the contrary," she said in an email.

If reading is something you enjoy, but you need structure or extra motivation, the Farmington Public Library offers Summer Reading Programs both for adults and kids.

IF YOU GO

· Maria’s Bookshop is located at 960 Main Ave., Durango, Colo. Call 970-247-1438 or go www.mariasbookshop.com for more information.

· Hastings Entertainment is located at 3020 E. 20th St., Farmington. Call 505-326-6838 or go to www.gohastings.com for more information.

· Farmington Public Library is located at 2101 Farmington Ave., Farmington. Call 505-599-1270 or go to www.infoway.org for more information.

Molly Maxwell covers the outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at mollykmaxwell@gmail.com.