Utah is a beautiful place. From the red rock deserts in the south to the high mountain lakes up north, it’s unparalleled in all the world. And we have a surprisingly (to some) rich literary history. Here you’ll find a list of ten great books with Utah ties, and ten places to read in our great state. Enjoy!
The Colorado River | The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey: Utah’s vast natural resources have often turned the state into a battlefield between environmentalists, lobbyists and industrialists. In this novel, eco-warrior Edward Abbey relates the tale of George Hayduke and his fight against strip miners, dam, bridge and road builders, and clear-cutters. And pretty much everyone else as well.
Big Rock Candy Mountain | Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner: Bo Mason, his wife, and his two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks his fortune in the hotel business, in new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum-running throughout the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest. Based largely on his own childhood, Stegner has created a masterful, harrowing saga of a family trying to survive during the lean years of the early twentieth century. It is the conflict between the hardscrabble existence and Bo’s pursuit of the frontier myth and of the American Dream that gives the book such resonance and power.
Southern Border of Utah | The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall: Religion plays a large part in Utah’s culture, and nowhere is a depiction of Utah’s fringe religious population as beautiful and stirring as Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist. To much of Utah’s population, polygamist groups are often unknown and misunderstood. Udall’s book is a humanizing and complex look at modern polygamist society.
Southern Utah | Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts: The biography of artist and writer, Edward Ruess, a bold explorer of the American West that disappeared in the Utah desert at the age of 20.
Northern Utah | When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams: Offers a meditation on the meaning of a strange legacy that the author’s mother left her–three shelves of the elder woman’s “journals,” all discovered by the author after her mother’s death to be empty.
Salt Lake City | The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne: At first glance, Josh Hanagame seems an improbable librarian. He stands 6’7”, competes in strongman contests, and was diagnosed in high school with Tourette Syndrome. The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability, navigate his wavering Mormon faith, spread the word about the wonder of books, and ultimately, find love and create a life worth living.
Great Basin | Basin and Range by John McPhee: McPhee’s account of geological field trips in the Great Basin, in the company of geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes, including Deffeyes’s search for recoverable silver from old mine sites
King’s English Bookstore | The King’s English: Adventures of an Independent Bookseller by Betsy Burton: In 1977, Betsy Burton opened The King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her goal was simple: “Pick good books, then pass them on.” Her nearly forty years of selling books have seen the publishing world change dramatically—and yet, her bookshop and simple goal remain successful. Here she tells the stories of owning a bookstore, mixed with tales of authors and readers and the way that books connect, transform, and bolster up lives.
The Mormon Trail | Riding in the Shadow of Saints: A Woman’s Story of Motorcycling the Mormon Trail by Jana Richman: In search of her roots and the faith and peace of past generations, Jana Richman journeys by motorcycle along the Mormon Pioneer trail.
Provo River | Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River by George B. Handley: Handley blends local history, nature writing, and history into this personal memoir about the people who found a sense of place along the banks of the Provo River.