Why I Came West: Book summary and reviews of Why I Came West by Rick Bass

Why I Came West

A Memoir

By Rick Bass

Why I Came West
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2008,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

A passionate memoir about the great divides in Rick Bass's beloved Yaak Valley, the West as a whole, and himself.

A poignant look at the thirty-year journey of one of our country's great naturalist writers, Why I Came West explores how Rick Bass fell in love with the mystique of the West: as a dramatic landscape, as an idea, and as a way of life. Bass grew up in the suburban sprawl of Houston, and after attending college in Utah he spent eight years working in Mississippi as a geologist, until one day he packed up and headed west in search of something visceral, true, and real. He found it in the remote Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, a unique place, neither national park nor government-sanctioned wilderness, where despite extensive logging not a single species has gone extinct since the last Ice Age.

Bass has lived in "the Yaak" ever since and in a series of moving chapters describes his own transformation into the writer, hunter, and environmental activist that he is today. He profiles how the rugged, wild landscape smoothed out his own rough edges; attempts to define the appeal of the West that so transfixed him as a boy, a place of mountains and outlaws and continual rebirth, just beyond whatever was near it; and he describes his role as a reluctant environmental activist—sometimes at odds with his own neighbors—unable and unwilling to stand idly by and watch this treasured place disappear.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The book reads best as a series of variations on the theme of how our relation to the wilderness is essential to our being human. Bass is an eloquent defender of his precious valley." - Publishers Weekly.

"A compelling writer, Bass offers a clear-eyed look at the difficulties facing environmentalists. One cannot help but be inspired by his hard work, dedication, and religious-like reverence for the Yaak Valley and its wild inhabitants." - Library Journal.

"Starred Review. A nuanced blend of autobiography and environmental advocacy by the well-known novelist and short-story writer." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Author Information

Rick Bass Author Biography

Photo: Nicole Blaisdell

Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1958. His father was a geologist who passed on his passion to his son.  Bass received a B.S. in petroleum geology at Utah State University in 1979, and then worked as a gas and oil geologist in Jackson, Mississippi.  He started writing short stories during his lunch breaks.

In 1987 he and his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes, moved to the Yaak Valley in the northern Rockies, near the Idaho-Montana-Canada border.  They have two daughters and a couple of hunting dogs.  Bass is active in working to protect the Yaak area from roads and logging, and serves on the board of the Yaak Valley Forest Council and Round River Conservation Studies.

He is the author of over twenty books. His first short story collection...

... Full Biography

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