What the Staff at Out West Books Think You Should Be Reading Right Now

As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section – SunLit – we feature staff picks at bookstores statewide. >> Click here for more SunLit

Jthe bookstore of his week: Out West Books, 533 Main Street, Grand Junction

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Memoirs of Stockholm Sven

By Nathaniel Ian Miller
Petit, Brown and company
$28.00
October 26, 2021

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From the publisher: In 1916, Sven Ormson leaves a hectic life in Stockholm to go on an adventure to Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago where darkness reigns for four months of the year and where he could witness the splendor of the Northern Lights one night and be attacked by a polar bear the next. But his time as a miner ends when an avalanche nearly kills him, leaving him disfigured, and Sven flees even further, to an uninhabited fjord. There, in the company of a loyal dog, he builds a cabin and lives alone, testing himself against the elements.

From Marya to Out West Books: “OK, OK, I know that’s a bit far from local centrism. As I was putting a copy of this book on the shelf, a few pictures of the Arctic fell out. Looking a little closer, I discovered that the copy had been registered to me and that the author, Nathaniel Ian Miller, had fond memories of his life near Collbran and had also worked on Colorado newspapers.

“I loved the beautiful writing and acting of this novel, based on a real character, like his ‘discovery’ memoirs. We’ve all read about shipwrecks and arctic survival, but we seldom heard of anyone who chose to live there!Despite the austere isolation of the Arctic in the early 1900s, introverted Sven finds that kindness, love and connection can make even life the most perfectly fulfilling recluse. I thought about this book for days after finishing it. Highly recommended.”

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west of a man

By David Lavender
bison books
$24.95
October 31, 2007

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From the publisher: The American West of the 1930s and 1940s was still a place of prospectors, cowboys, ranchers, and mountaineers, a place that required backbreaking, lonely, and dangerous work. Yet mid-century pioneers such as David Lavender remembered “not cold and cruel fatigue, but rather the multitude of little things which, in their sum, constitute the elemental poetry of rock, ice and snow”. And as the nation drained its veins of gold and silver, as the law reached the frontier boomtowns, and as the era of great ranches and cattle ranches came to an end, Lavender felt compelled to document his experiences in the rugged southwest of Colorado to preserve this rapidly disappearing way of life.

“One Man’s West” is Lavender’s ode to his days on the Continental Divide and the story of his experiences making a living in the not-so-wild but not-yet-tamed West. Like stories told around a campfire, One Man’s West is gripping yet conversational, incredible yet realistic, and features some of the most charming characters in Western literature.

From Marya to Out West Books: “This memoir of life in western Colorado is one of my (and my grandfather’s) favorite books…..it’s been around for a while) of all time. I sell it like crazy in my store, but I’m not sure it’s well known elsewhere.

“Although best known for his books on Western history, David Lavender’s One Man’s West is his own story of life in western Colorado. David was born in Telluride when it was still a mining town. He and his brother, Dwight, climbed peaks when it was considered “reckless” to do so for fun. In fact, Lavender Peak in the Wilsons is named after Dwight.

“David’s account of his work at the Camp Bird mine as a young man is rich in descriptions of the miners, Ouray, and the long winters in the San Juans. Later, as a young married man, he managed the Star Ranch near what is now Uravan, summered at a camp just below the Lone Cone, and raised cattle on his step-in-law’s ranch. father in the valley of paradox.

“This part of Colorado’s landscape and history, so often overlooked, is beautifully conveyed. In a bizarre “tribute” to his writing, David Lavender is the person historian Stephen Ambrose has been called out for plagiarizing. I often tell clients that David Lavender is the “Wallace Stegner of Western Colorado” and I stand by that.

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pale harvest

By Braden Hepner
Torrey House Press
$16.95
September 9, 2014

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From the publisher: Jack Selvedge has a dying job in a ghost town. When Rebekah Rainsford returns on the run from her father, her dark history consumes him and she becomes the potential for his salvation, the only thing that could pull him out of his crisis of indifference. As betrayal and tragedy forever change Jack’s life, he finds new hope dawning amidst the ruggedly beautiful Western landscape that once shaped him. A deeply written and deeply felt story of love, depravity and shattered ideals, Pale Harvest examines the loss of beauty, purity and simplicity in the mindset of the rural American West.

From Marya to Out West Books: “It’s a tragic story, told in a fascinating way. There were times when I knew where it was all going (not a good place), but I couldn’t leave the story unfinished. Braden Hepner is a very good writer , and while others have drawn comparisons to Steinbeck and even Stegner, Hepner’s gripping depiction of difficult lives in an indifferent land is his own, exploring life’s dark recesses and not looking away.

“Sometimes the luge is tough, and the story and then the epilogue leave you empty – and sad. I have no doubt that the author knows about this life and this kind of isolation and what he is capable of do to human beings; and how you just can’t know which way it will go, when the tipping point will come. It takes time for erosion to show which way a person will fall and reveal who else in will suffer tragically. And the earth and the sky shrug their shoulders and hold back their rain…”

>> To buy