Ledgers of the Fall

The season's best page-turners. 

Whether you’re curled up in blanket beside your living-room fireplace or huddled over a campfire deep in the wilderness, these books are sure to please.

Glorious Times
Noteworthy naturalists, the Craigheads, are known best for their great curiosity, authenticity, and drive to play in and protect the natural world. Carefully and meticulously researched, Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists (University of Montana Press, $20) is an account of the Scots-Irish Craighead descendants, whose predisposition for nature shaped the conservation efforts we know today. Tom Benjey’s enlightening account reveals the wonders of what can come from instilling responsibility and curiosity for nature in young children. Although Glorious Times also speaks about older generations, this book focuses on the lives of siblings Frank Jr., John, and Jean, who spent the majority of their conservation efforts in Montana and Wyoming. Through their extraordinary lives, the Craigheads show us that the value of family and nature—especially when combined—cannot be forgotten over the generations. —EMMA NORD

Cold-Hearted River
Keith McCafferty’s sixth Sean Stranahan mystery, Cold-Hearted River (Viking, $18), takes place in the Montana backcountry when a woman freezes to death in a bear cave—with famed author Ernest Hemingway’s leather fly wallet in her possession. Stranahan, a private investigator known equally for taking up residence in a tepee as for his charm with the opposite sex, scours southwest Montana for the remainder of the author’s stolen fishing gear. The more stones he turns, the more bodies pile up. As local law enforcement parallels the investigation, Stranahan re-kindles an old flame with sheriff Martha Ettinger, “armed and beautiful,” tangling the lines of intellect and emotion. Set along our own Madison River, images of fingers floating in tequila jars and cowboys surviving the cold in horse carcasses will fill the silence of your fishing meditation for weeks. —DREW HULSE

The Stranger in the Woods
At least once a week—especially during tourist season—I wonder how long I’d last completely alone in the woods. In The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit (Alfred A. Knopf, $11), Bozemanite Michael Finkel illuminates the true story of Chris Knight, who walked into the woods of Maine and remained unseen—but not unnoticed—for nearly three decades. Although the “North Pond Hermit” lived in the same solitary camp for 27 years, he relied on the belongings of nearby camps and cabins for his survival; by leaving society, Knight became even more entrenched in it. Finkel’s exploration into the minds of historical and literary recluses and his uninvited visits with Knight reveal an un-romanticized version of solitude. This is a story that could have dwelled in the wilderness forever, but with respect and admiration, Finkel shares it with us. —EMMA NORD

For a Little While
In For a Little While (Little, Brown & Co., $11), Rick Bass, writer-in-residence at Montana State University, reveals the litany of human struggles through his masterful imagery of the American outdoors. From the Gulf of Mexico to the Yaak River, no landscape transcends his wheelhouse. In turn, no social dynamic escapes his inquiry. His characters grapple with fate in individual conflicts that parallel the overall American narrative: the swamps of poverty-stricken, post–Civil-War Mississippi and the mountains of hypothermia-inducing, elk-hunting Montana are connected by their unbreakable bond with nature—a magnetic, unforgiving bond. Laced with hunting and fishing motifs, this collection of short stories is an essential addition to any Montana library. —DREW HULSE