Best Books of the Greater Yellowstone 2016


The publishing bounty for Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and our Tetons (not to mention nearby Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Range) tends to be feast or famine.  This is the handful of books that jumped out at me in 2016:  several photography books that bucked trends in terms of style and quality, and the best of our many local authors.  Self-publishing has happened here before "self-publishing" was a term -- that's Wyoming, I suppose: independent, do-what-you-please, confident and solitary.  So these days we're seeing perhaps even more self publishing than is sprouting up nationwide.  I'm picky, though, in separating wheat from chaff.  Similarly so with photography books, which are a dime a dozen in our world of national parks and backyard wildlife. 

Yellowstone: A Land of Wild and Wonder | by Christopher Cauble | Riverbend Publishing

This volume's cover and overall presentation are a refreshing balance to the typical technicolor tourist trap photo volumes out there.  Photographs are presented one per page.  That simple layout with white space and elegant font nicely presents a tandem of the photogrpaher's art and natural beauty in tandem.  The dramatic beauty of our landscape poses a challenge to artists, even more so, the publisher:  It's a constant feast, and there are thousands of pictures are taken here every day.  How do you stand out from the crowd?  It must be tempting to entice readers with the biggest, loudest declaration of it all on your book jacket: the Tetons at sunrise, a moose in a lily pond, 50,000 technicolor wildflowers in a meadow.  Cauble trusts that his reader already knows the obvious beauty here and he takes a subtle approach.  In a book that you might see resting on a table in Kinfolk Magazine, he shows us more, points out detail, presents breadth and depth of natural beauty in an elegant layout.  At 10x11 inches and 120 pages, this isn't an enormous coffee table book (and that's not a complaint).  I do hope to see something larger from Riverbend (and Cauble) on this theme in the future.  Like this edition, it would fit perfectly into so many homes as an object of art, rather than a flashy media show, to express our love of place.

A Place in Which to Search: Summers in the Wind Rivers | by Joe Kelsey | A Black Canyon Book

Have you ever been to the Wind River Range in Wyoming?  If you have, this book will take you back there.  If you have not, it will entice you.  If you've never heard of it, then read it for other themes: rock climbing culture and community in '60s California and Wyoming.  Seeing the small and large beauties around us, both on grand adventures and those less so.  Simple living, a passion for mountains and forests, guiding work, canine companions.  My husband, who identifies more as a climber than I do, exclaimed repeatedly through this book that Kelsey puts into words all of the things he feels about being on rock in the wilderness.  Here we have further confirmation of what Kelsey's Winds guidebooks have shown for years:  He knows more about the range than anyone, but enjoys sharing his love of it with others even more than the pleasure of that expertise.  This volume should be bookended by Jack Turner's Travels in the Greater Yellowstone and Pete Sinclair's We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans.  I imagine all of those on the same shelf as John Muir, Edward Abbey and the charming Yosemite climbing photography books Patagonia has put out in recent years.  I recommend this title to anyone who loves the mountains and appreciates quality writing in a clear voice.   


Yellowstone: A Journey Through America's Wild Heart | by David Quammen | National Geographic

This book is a nice overall package with the quality of writing and photography you'd expect from a work published by National Geographic.  It's another small but thick coffee-table-appropriate edition.  Big enough for the photos to do their job, small enough to flip through more comfortably than some.  Quammen was a good choice; he has lived in the Yellowstone Ecosystem for 30-some years and is a prolific writer.  It could be easy to look past this book to the dozen other photographic volumes alongside it in every tourist shop in town -- but don't.  Its scope, expertise, and unique perspective on the intricate system that is the habitat here is worth your while. 



Cache Creek: A Trailguide to Jackson Hole's Backyard Wilderness | by Susan Marsh | Sastrugi Press

I raised an eyebrow when I first saw this book -- Cache Creek, Jackson's dog walking trail?  Do we need a guide for that?  Marsh shows that we do.  Or rather, that everything in this corner of the world is an amazing adventure with ecology to delight.  And that there is always more to see even in your most routine or seemingly ordinary places.  Marsh has already done well with her fiction and memoir in recent years -- what will she try next?  Poetry, perhaps?  



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