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Book review: The best environmental books of 2015

Off the Beaten Path staff/For Steamboat Today
"Counting Lions"
Courtesy Photo

We are passionate about reading and sharing good books, especially when those books convey important messages. Following are a few of the best books from 2015, each of which we appreciate for their artistry and environmentalism.

“Counting Lions” by Katie Cotton; illustrated by Stephen Walton

Counting Lions is a sophisticated, thought-provoking counting book. It features charcoal drawings of 10 threatened species — lions, gorillas, giraffes, tigers, elephants, wolves, penguins, turtles, macaws and zebras — that are so detailed, they almost look like photographs.



Each illustration is accompanied by a poetic description of the animals’ habitats and behaviors. The act of literally counting animals made me consider the peril some species face due to human influences and how we must change course so we do not count the last of the lions. – Reviewed by Emily Katzman

“This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs” by Gary Paulsen



Author Gary Paulsen has written more than 200 books for adults and young readers. His latest book includes five true stories taken from different periods of his life.

Within each story he shares his amazing relationship with a variety of animals — a dog, bird, sheep, coyote and bees — highlighting the compassion, intellect and intuition exhibited by these animals. – Reviewed by Virgie DeNucci

“Colorado’s Yampa River: Free-flowing and Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green” by John Fielder and Patrick Tierney

John Fielder’s new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River,” is a celebration of the beauty as well as the the ecological, economical and educational importance of the Yampa River. Fielder and self-proclaimed “river rat” Patrick Tierney followed every mile of the Yampa. This book tells the story of their journey and so too the story of the Yampa.

Colorado’s Yampa River contains John Fielder’s stunning photographs, including his classic “then-and-now” photos. Patrick Tierney’s text is soundly researched and well written. Combined, the photos, historical and ecological information are a brilliant argument for the conservation of the Yampa River. – Reviewed by Emily Katzman

“Jimmy Bluefeather” by Kim Heacox

Winner of the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award, “Jimmy Bluefeather” is a tale of the Tlingit people of Alaska, a people chased from their homeland by the descent of the glacier onto Crystal Bay to a new place, but not home. Keb Wistig is old, maybe 94, and has outlived his wife and sons, and maybe even his body, and he yearns to return home.

“Used to be it was hard to live and easy to die… Nowadays it was the other way around,” he says.

His grandson, James, is a star basketball player, destined for the NBA, until a logging accident ruins his knee and throws him into an unrescuable despair. Keb decides that together they must carve his last canoe and make one more story if they are to save their souls.

“Jimmy Bluefeather” is filled with the life of Alaska, a life dependent on the sea, lived in grey skies, torn between preservation and exploitation. But the story rises out of the language, culture, spirituality and stories of the Tlingit people. Old Keb Zen Raven teaches us that lives are built upon sorrow and disappointment, and that happiness and peace come from living in our roots, our earth and people. In Keb, Heacox has brought us a beacon of wisdom, leading us to recognize and rally the spirit of community. – Reviewed by Ron Krall

These books are available at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and at Off the Beaten Path bookstore; e-books can be found at http://www.steamboatbooks.com.


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