Tomes & Tunes

Books and music to add to your queue.

It may be hard for homegrown Montanans to imagine an urbane French nobleman in the field chasing game, but author Guy de la Valdène makes it clear, in his memoir The Fragrance of Grass (Lyons Press, $25), that a love of hunting and the natural world transcends cultural boundaries. Part of Florida’s famous “Sporting Club” of the 1970s—which includes Montana residents Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, and Russell Chatham—de la Valdène relates adventures and musings from his sixty-odd years as a sportsman, from his family’s estate near Paris to the fields of Montana and everywhere in between. Contemplative and well-written, the book weaves in natural and historical facts while elegantly exploring such (seemingly) disparate themes as dogs, wildlife, food, and women. 

For avid explorers of natural phenomena, Montana Waterfalls (Riverbend Publishing, $20) outlines 52 waterfalls in western and central Montana, including directions, history, geology, and nearby camping opportunities. Full-color maps and photos illustrate the diversity and beauty of these cascading streams, while inspiring readers to get out and visit as many as possible before winter sets in. 

Good weather or no, any veteran of the Montana woods knows that it pays to be prepared. Thunderstorms, frigid temps, and snow can blow in quickly and without notice, turning your leisurely day-hike into an extreme outdoor adventure. Not to mention trying to navigate difficult terrain in low-light conditions. So take a few hours and bone up on some basic survival skills with The Encyclopedia of Survival Techniques (Lyons Press, $20). Authored by a former British soldier, this extensive volume covers everything from emergency shelters and fire-starting to river crossings and trapping animals. Well-organized, with clear writing and useful illustrations, this guide is an engaging and educational read—think SAS Survival Guide meets Freedom of the Hills, with some primitive skills thrown in. An important book for any outdoor enthusiast’s library.

Nothing completes a day outdoors like a night spent indoors, two-steppin’ around the dance floor of a genuine Montana bar. Bozeman’s own Dirty Shame has been rocking the house around Bozeman (and the Rocky Mountain West) for years, while lead singer Brandon Hale dazzles audiences with his uncanny impressions of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The band has finally released a CD, so after a long day on the Gallatin you can now tap your toes and get warmed up in the car on your way to see them live at Stacy’s. The self-titled debut album compiles nine original country songs, with everything from slow ballads to peppy, boot-scootin’ honkeytonk tunes.