cover image The High Sierra: A Love Story

The High Sierra: A Love Story

Kim Stanley Robinson. Little, Brown, $40 (560p) ISBN 978-0-316-59301-4

Novelist Robinson (the Mars trilogy) vividly conveys his passion for the Sierra mountains in this enthralling blend of memoir, history, and science. Robinson first hiked in the Sierras on LSD in 1973 as a college student, an experience that sparked decades of return visits with friends and family members. His personal stories of treks there are interspersed with chapters on “Sierra People,” including Clarence King, a 19th-century geologist, and Mary Austin, “one of the first nationally known women writers to come out of the American West.” Robinson’s discussions of what he terms psychogeology—the impact geology has on the mind— are particularly memorable, as when he shares the feeling of being in a “golden zone” while walking in one of the Sierra’s basins. Fans of Robinson’s fiction will be delighted to find insights into his craft: he outlines, for example, the terrain’s impact on his efforts to imagine the lives of humans’ Paleolithic ancestors in the novel Shaman. There’s humor on offer (Robinson suggests that a book providing routes to the Sierra Crest should just be full of blank pages: “just walk the crest—can’t get higher than that!”), and his heartfelt rendering of intense emotional interactions with the natural world pulsates with life. Fans of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods will be captivated. (May)