A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. —Thoreau
Reading, especially reading books, and especially reading books carefully, is a dying art. We consume information in so many ways these days that reading an entire book seems like a waste of time. There must be a consolidated version of that 1,000-page narrative, perhaps in video form, somewhere, right? Wrong. Nothing compares to laying back against a warm rock and spending the afternoon withdrawn into a text. This summer, after a quick jaunt up to Emerald Lake, pause for an hour and read. After an all-day float, before plopping onto the futon and falling asleep to reruns of Law and Order, read. Five pages here, ten pages there, and before you know it, you’ll have finished a book. Here are a few to tackle this summer.
Young Men and Fire, by Norman Maclean
The name Norman Maclean is synonymous with Montanan literature, but most people only scratch the surface of this wordsmith’s canon, stopping at A River Runs Through It. There is however, another book, Young Men and Fire, a nonfiction account of a famous 1949 forest fire that left 13 men dead in the Helena National Forest. Maclean painstakingly recreates the scene that to this day remains unsolved, leaving us with as many questions as answers, but reminding us to remember the dead.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
Quality is a characteristic many Montanans cherish, forgoing the easy way out in exchange for a more deliberate approach. But it is also harder to find these days, so this summer, remind yourself what it means by diving into Pirsig’s famous philosophical treatise on the subject. As an added bonus, recreate his climb of Mount Blackmore as described in Zen.
Inventing Montana, by Ted Leeson
Montana is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It’s a home, it’s a job, it’s a vacation, and for Ted Leeson, it’s a river: the Madison, to be specific. Leeson, like many visitors to Montana, creates a vision of what Montana means to him and how that informs his experience in the Treasure State. For him, like many of us, and particularly in the summer, Montana is trout, fly patterns, gravel bars, and hatches.