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Well Read Wednesday: The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I love to read.  I imagine most of us in the library profession can say that.  And I like to read all kinds of things.  So before I begin blogging on books for COIL, in the interests of full disclosure, you should know that I will probably write about a lot of different kinds of books.  Did I mention I love suggestions?  Please drop me a comment if you have any recommendations.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America is another great slice of American history from the author that brought us The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan.  This book chronicles the story of the brand new Forest Service and their efforts to protect Roosevelt’s public lands.  As in all good stories this book presents us with conflict, an historical conflict between the burgeoning conservation movement and massive industrial interests.  Alternating with this story line is the tale of the men who first ventured into the western lands to catalog, study and preserve the forests.

Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, was Roosevelt’s friend and shared his passion for hunting and the outdoors.  But Roosevelt’s vision was not shared by his gluttonous successor, President William Taft.  Despite Taft’s promises to Roosevelt that he would support the forest service, funding begins to dry up and the industrialists are allowed into protected lands.  Out in the field the young, idealistic rangers purchased their own equipment and tried desperately to continue fulfilling their mission.

But the drama is heightened when fire season becomes a real and intense threat.  Pinchot uses the fear of fire to demand funding from Congress while rangers begin recruiting and try to prepare for the coming fires.  The human side of this story rests in the valorous men who worked to save the west from fire.  Although Egan lacks the benefit of extensive personal accounts that were available for The Worst Hard Time, the individual stories are compelling and dramatic.

I truly enjoyed this book.  And now I have a confession to make.  I listened to this as an audio book.  Not only that, I downloaded it from the Metropolitan Library System.  Read by Robertson Dean, this was a well done performance.

So this summer take some time to read about the summer of 1910.  You’ll be glad you did.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, June 23, 2011 11:32 am

    This sounds like a great book, Nicole! Have you ever read Erik Larson? He’s an excellent historical documentarian. I’m reading In The Garden of Beasts ( right now, and loving it!

  2. Nicole Sump-Crethar permalink
    Thursday, June 23, 2011 12:46 pm

    I really like Erik Larson, too. And I haven’t read that one! I will add it to my list. Thanks! One of my favorites by him is Isaac’s Storm. 🙂

  3. Thursday, June 23, 2011 4:37 pm

    Isaac’s Storm was my favorite. 🙂 I’m adding The Big Burn to my list.

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