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Because It Is So Beautiful

Unraveling the Mystique of the American West

List Price: $26.00

June 13, 2017 | Hardcover | 5.5 x 8.25, 320 pages | ISBN 9781619029293
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A mountaineering mathematician’s lyrical meditation on the duality of wilderness and those poets and explorers who have traversed it

Yes, every inch of the globe has been seen, mapped, photographed, and measured, but is it known? Robert Leonard Reid doesn’t think so. To draw a circle and calculate its diameter is not to know the circle. In this collection, Reid distinguishes himself from many science-based nature writers, using the natural world as a springboard for speculations and musings on the numinous and the sacred, injustice, homelessness, the treatment of Native Peoples in the United States, and what pushes mountaineers to climb. Ranging in their settings from eastern New Mexico to northern Alaska, Reid’s essays illustrate his belief that the American West is worth celebrating and caring for.

Taking its title from an affecting speech given by renowned author Barry Lopez, Because It Is So Beautiful is a response to desperate questions surrounding America’s wildlands. Lopez’s words resonated with the young mountaineer-musician-mathematician Robert Leonard Reid, who was struggling to understand his relationship to the world, to find his vision as a writer. What he learned on that long-ago evening is knit throughout the nineteen pieces in the collection, which include essays from Reid’s previous books Arctic Circle, Mountains of the Great Blue Dream, and America, New Mexico; three essays that appear here in print for the first time; as well as revised and expanded versions of essays that appeared in Touchstone, The Progressive, and elsewhere.

ROBERT LEONARD REID, author of Mountains of the Great Blue Dream, Arctic Circle: Birth and Rebirth in the Land of the Caribou, and America, New Mexico, has received grants from the Sierra Arts Foundation and the Nevada Arts Council. He has worked as a songwriter, a cabaret pianist, and a mathematics textbook writer. He lives in Carson City, Nevada, with his wife, Carol, and his son, Jake.


“If Robert Leonard Reid isn’t on your reading list of Western writers of nonfiction, you should place him on it . . . Reid writes about nature in ways that are clear-eyed, incandescent, and provocative.” —Albuquerque Journal

“These 19 selected essays by Robert Leonard Reid are stirring, witty, gorgeously written paeans to the wilderness. It’s a wonderful, must-read collection.” —Ron Hansen, author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

“Forty years in the making, this astonishing collection could not come at a more urgent time. Its title, Because It Is So Beautiful, alludes to Robert Reid’s unrelenting quest to celebrate our vulnerable, historic wilderness, but it also speaks to his prose, and to himself. With lyricism, charm, and trenchant observations, he inspires readers to meditate on the importance of being alive, of being responsible for the landscapes we inhabit.” —Sascha Feinstein, author of Wreckage: My Father’s Legacy of Art & Junk

“Imagine a Harvard-educated mathematician… Now imagine that same man as a jazz pianist, a noted Nevada lounge entertainer… Now lace up a pair of hiking boots and fly with this same nonpareil genius to remote Alaska to locate and follow a herd of caribou to their Arctic calving grounds just to see how it might be. And then imagine sitting on a back porch in Silver City, Nevada, population 60, on a crisp October afternoon and indulging in a beer summit of immaculate conversation during which three hours dissolve into a seeming fifteen minutes. Meet Robert Reid. My friend Bob, who I take great delight in introducing to you. I promise you, this is a man who can enhance, change, and vitalize your life. I also promise you he brings all that together in these pages: you’re going to love this book.” —David Lee, Pulitzer Prize nominee for News from Down to the Cafe

“…Indispensable. The pages embody the beauty they describe. We find here lightning bolts and bear, the balletic caribou, atomic weapons, legendary wolves, mountaintops where light is a territory of spirit, adventures daft and courageous. We find both the grit and sorrow of history and meditations on redemption and the sacred. But best of all, and most of all, we have the company of the writer: his clear, loving, respectful prose, his bemusement and honesty and learning, the finery of his reflections, and the integrity of his journey.” Steven Nightingale, author of The Hot Climate of Promises and Grace

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