The Promise of the Grand Canyon: John Wesley Powell’s Perilous Journey and His Vision for the American West

John F. Ross. Viking, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-42987-6
This enthralling tale by adventure writer Ross (Enduring Courage) focuses on the life of John Wesley Powell (1834–1902), an explorer, geologist, and early proponent of environmental sustainability. Ross portrays Powell as a practical visionary who challenged the status quo of the Gilded Age by encouraging people to “listen not only to their heart, pocketbook, and deep aspirations, but what the land itself and the climate would tell them.” His early life in the Midwest as a boy working on the family farm and as a schoolteacher and budding naturalist shaped his ideas about the environment. Ross displays a flair for adventure writing as he recounts Powell’s service with the Union Army during the Civil War (which cost him half an arm) and subsequent work on geological surveys of the West, and he renders Powell’s 1869 expedition of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon in breathtaking detail. That trip convinced Powell that water was the key to development in the West and led to his career in the federal government, where he fought for his vision of land and water management. Ross demonstrates a facility for both human history and natural history, clearly showing why Powell’s ideas matter today. Illus. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 07/03/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-14-312895-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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