All the Wild That Remains: A Year End Report

categories: Cocktail Hour


book in handHere is a wrap up of some of the stuff that has happened with All the Wild That Remains since its release in April.

The downside? No New York Times review. But considering how the NYTBR treated Abbey and especially Stegner, I suppose that is not a huge shock. Despite the fact that the Washington Post ended their reviewPerhaps now even Easterners will take notice,” that has not always happened.


The upside? Pretty much everything else…..




All the Wild That Remains:

Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West

By David Gessner

A New York Times Bestseller

                                              An Amazon Best Nonfiction Book of 2015                                      

A Kirkus Best Book of 2015 and Best Book about Significant Figures in the Arts and Humanities

A Christian Science Monitor’s Top Ten Nonfiction Book of the Year

A Southwest Book of the Year

A Smithsonian Best History Book

To the Best of Our Knowledge Top Ten Book


“If Stegner and Abbey are like rivers, then Gessner is the smart, funny, well-informed river guide who can tell a good story and interpret what you’re seeing.” The Los Angeles Review of Books.


As western rivers dry up and western land cracks from aridity, the voices of Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey have never been more important. Those voices can be heard, loud and clear, in All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West. The book takes the long view of the land, and of the importance of having deep conversations with our literary ancestors, and speaks to the crisis of climate and drought that is occurring right now. Stegner and Abbey put what is happening in historical perspective, but they were not detached scholars who sat back in a crisis. They both acted. They understood the land the land they loved, sure, but also fought for it. And of course they also wrote beautifully about it.


Some nice things people have said about:


W.W. Norton 2015


““David Gessner has been a font of creativity ever since the 1980s, when he published provocative political cartoons in that famous campus magazine, the Harvard Crimson. These days he’s a naturalist, a professor and a master of the art of telling humorous and thought-provoking narratives about unusual people in out-of-the way-places. To his highly original body of work, he brings a sense of awe for the untamed universe and a profound appreciation for the raucous literature of the West. “All the Wild That Remains” ought to be devoured by everyone who cares about the Earth and its future. “For me there is no wild life without a moral life,” Gessner writes with all the force that Henry David Thoreau might have expressed. All the Wild That Remains” offers a contemporary call of the wild that resonates loudly and clearly from one coast to the other ” —The San Francisco Chronicle.

“As I was reading “All the Wild That Remains,” I found myself wondering if Gessner too had not written a book that would make people act. And I wondered how this so-called biography could deliver such an emotional punch. I was expecting to be educated, but not inspired, not for the raw spirit of these two men to rise from the language into my consciousness….The loose but artful weave of the two narratives gives the book a rare creative tension. But it is deepened by a third narrative line, that of Gessner himself, the first-person storyteller, whose honest voice is full of insight and humor.”—The Chicago Tribune


“These two men are the contrasting heroes of a profoundly relevant and readable new book by David Gessner: All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West. In this artful combination of nature writing, biography, literary criticism, and cultural history, Gessner studies two fascinating characters who fought through prose and politics to defend the fragile ecologies and transcendent beauties of the West.” —The Christian Science Monitor (The CSM picked All the Wild as their number one book of April.)

Gessner’s book serves as an excellent primer to readers new to Abbey and Stegner, and an insightful explanation of their continuing relevance. Gessner, an important nature writer and editor in his own right, also uses the writers’ lives as a template for his exploration of the Western landscape they lived in and wrote about. He visits places that were important to Abbey and Stegner, and draws trenchant conclusions about the current state of affairs in a region still battling over how to best protect and exploit its fragile resources.

Gessner’s reporting, whether profiling Stegner and Abbey’s acolyte Wendell Berry or observing the consequences of Vernal, Utah’s fracking boom, is vivid and personable. In his able hands, Abbey and Stegner’s legacy is refreshed for a new generation of readers. Perhaps now even the Easterners will take notice.       The Washington Post


“If Stegner and Abbey are like rivers, then Gessner is the smart, funny, well-informed river guide who can tell a good story and interpret what you’re seeing.” Justin Wadland The Los Angeles Review of Books:

“[Gessner] never reduces either man to simplistic categories, but sees in both personalities possible life models.” –David Mason, Wall Street Journal

“They are legends, Abbey and Stegner, and bringing them together in a book like this, in the manner chosen by Gessner, was a stroke of genius. If you know and love the work of these two authors, read All the Wild That Remains and then re-read at least parts of Abbey and Stegner. If not, read Abbey and Stegner first, at least one book by each man, and then read All the Wild That Remains.” Dallas Morning News.

Gessner’s wacky sense of humor and rigorous mind, his delight in, as he calls it, “an antidote to the virtual age,” and, especially, “the lost art of lounging” — have never been more evident than in his beautifully conceived new book, All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West. This timely mash-up of environmental journalism, biography, travel writing, and literary criticism has Gessner hitting the road in search of the real story behind “two of the most effective environmental fighters of the 20th century.”

What emerges is a joyful adventure in geography and in reading — and in coming to terms with how the domestic and the wild can co-exist over time.

Joy Horowitz The Los Angeles Review of Books



“These revelations, and Gessner’s subtle humor, make for an absorbing read. Abbey’s and Stegner’s lives, Gessner says, ‘are creative possibilities for living a life both good and wild.’ That’s something that many in the West still seek–and what makes this book such a great read for anyone living there.”—Outside Magazine

“All the Wild That Remains” is a cut above all those “in search of” books. David Gessner not only walks the walk but seeks out those who knew the two icons. He gives an insightful comparison of the two and applies their ideas to today’s environmental problems.–Sandra Dallas The Denver Post


[All the Wild That Remains is] an incredibly enjoyable read. You’ll feel like a co-conspirator on a great road trip through the West with not two, but three, great nature writers, sitting in the back seat, reveling in their stories….f Gessner isn’t careful, one of these days he might just find himself in the same pantheon as Stegner, Abbey, Barry Lopez, Berry, Williams and our other invaluable chroniclers and seers of the West.”–Clay Evans, The Boulder Daily Camera


“Gessner writes with a vividness that brings the serious ecological issues and the beauty of the land into to sharp relief. This urgent and engrossing work of journalism is sure to raise ecological awareness and steer readers to books by the authors whom it references.”—Publishers’ Weekly. Starred Review. Here’s the full review:

“Stegner and Abbey ‘are two who have lighted my way,’ nature writer Wendell Berry admitted. They have lighted the way for Gessner, as well, as he conveys in this graceful, insightful homage to their work and to the region they loved.”—Kirkus Review. Starred Review.

“This engaging book provides an intimate look at Edward Abbey (1927–89) and Wallace Stegner (1909–93), two of America’s finest authors, both of whom chafed at being pigeonholed as regional writers. Certainly their fond, passionate focus was the American West, but there is much universality in their concerns. Gessner (Return of the Osprey) traveled to places they haunted, read all he could of their writings, and spoke with people who knew them well. His smooth, literate text is enhanced by photographs of Stegner and Abbey as well as chapter notes that read well. Stegner authored 46 works, including 13 novels, and won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Abbey wrote 28 books, was a Fulbright Scholar at Edinburgh University, and may be best known for his book Desert Solitaire, which is often said to be as worthy as Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Stegner, clean cut, traditional, with a PhD, and Abbey, an uncompromising anarchist and atheist with a 1960s-ish appearance and lifestyle, provide rich grist for Gessner’s mill, which he fully exploits for the benefit of any reader. Gessner himself has penned nine books. All three authors qualify as important environmentalists and writers. VERDICT Highly recommended for everyone interested in literature, environmentalism, and the American West.”—Library Journal

ATWTR is now an editor’s pick at Amazon and a staff pick at Powell’s where Shawn writes: “All the Wild That Remains is a fascinating portrait of the American West told through the lives of two of its most famous writers, Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. This book champions their unique styles and will make you want to read (or reread) all of their work. It will also inspire you to get your car and head out on an extended road trip through this beautiful western landscape.”

“Two extraordinary men, and one remarkable book. To understand how we understand the natural world, you need to read this book.” –Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth

“An excellent study of two difficult men.”

— Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove and The Last Kind Words Saloon


“A travel book, yes, a literary memoir, yes, and a profound meditation on our myths and shadows.  Anyone who loves the American west will be enraptured by this book.  It is a wonderful piece of work.”

— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America


“This book rubs Abbey and Stegner’s history in the dust and sand so beloved to them, posing these two late icons among voices, landscapes, and arguments that endure in western wilderness, deftly creating a larger geographic chronicle.” — Craig Childs, author of House of Rain and


“Praise David Gessner for reminding us that the words of our two most venerated literary grandfathers of the American West, to remind us of our wilder longings, to incite in us a fury, that we might act–even now–to defend all the wild that remains.” — Pam Houston, author of Cowboys are My Weakness and Contents May Have Shifted


“To understand the truth of the Desert West, read Stegner.  To understand one writer’s emotional response to that desert and to our thoughtless destruction of wilderness, read Abbey.  To understand the two writers as men of their times—and ours—read Gessner: for his honesty, compassion, humility, scholarship, and sensibility.”–Stephen Trimble, author of Bargaining for Eden

  1. Tommy writes:

    Congratulations, David!!

  2. Kenneth Bass writes:

    in re the NYT-“Let them that don’t want none worry about not getting any.” (Brother Dave Gardner)