Kimberly Uyyek, September 26, 2011 (view all comments by Kimberly Uyyek)
Timothy Egan does it again. The Big Burn is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. The characters in both Washingtons (DC and the state) are extremely vivid. It also taught me somethings about the history of the US and the Pacific Northwest.
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Jessica Dahl, January 15, 2010 (view all comments by Jessica Dahl)
Who living in the Pacific Northwest could imagine our beautiful states without National/State Forest designations, trails, parks, protected wildlife, and camping fees? The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America is an incredible biography of how and why Teddy Roosevelt set up the forestry service with his close advisor and friend Gifford Pinchot (who the Mt. St. Helen's national Park was named after) and the mismanagement and corruption of the forestry division by William Taft (a President I didn't know anything about before reading this book) after Roosevelt's terms were up that effected towns across the Northwest, families, big and small business, and American politics.
If you want a good look at an era that isn't typically taught in US History classes and an idea of the Pacific Northwest's rich history, I highly recommend this detailed look at one event that shaped future forestry and wildfire practices, big business dealings, and what led to America's most beautiful region (in my opinion), The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America is a book that you won't be able to put down.
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lindsey b , January 12, 2010 (view all comments by lindsey b )
As good as any fiction or nonfiction I have read in recent memory. There are so many interesting themes in this book that continue today. I think the thing that made this book most interesting were the personal details included. I have camped and traveled and vacationed in and around the areas featured in the book - I remember some of the names and wondering why the cities were named the way they were - now I wanna go back and see them and reread the book. SUCH a good book. If you read and liked The Worst Hard Time, I think you won't be disappointed here. I think The Big Burn is even better.
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MarcusHorne, November 18, 2009 (view all comments by MarcusHorne)
With wildfires again in the news and raging on the west coast, this book becomes all the more timely. Telling the story of the largest forest fire ever to strike the United States, Egan looks that the ecological, political and social implications of wildfires and forest fires and the response of humans to nature's fury. At the same time, Egan profiles the uniquely American icon Theodore Roosevelt, a man of deep contradictions, yet stern beliefs in both nature and man's place within it. There is an interesting dualism between the fight that TR had to create the US Forest Service amidst the stern opposition of business and industry and today's battle between Barak Obama and the insurance interests to provide national health care. Egan writes in a thoughtful and lucid manner about both the battle on the front lines of the great fire of 1910 and the great political battles being fought in Washington. Fans of American history will find this book both interesting and illuminating.
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In this remarkable tale of the nation's largest forest fire — which burned more than three million acres in 1910 — Timothy Egan vividly narrates the heroic efforts to fight the blaze and the dramatic impact it had on the future of conservation.
by Michal D.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Egan, National Book Award winner for The Worst Hard Time, spins a tremendous tale of Progressive-era America out of the 1910 blaze that burned across Montana, Idaho and Washington and put the fledgling U.S. Forest Service through a veritable trial by fire. Underfunded, understaffed, unsupported by Congress and President Taft and challenged by the robber barons that Taft's predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, had worked so hard to oppose, the Forest Service was caught unprepared for the immense challenge. Egan shuttles back and forth between the national stage of politics and the conflicting visions of the nation's future, and the personal stories of the men and women who fought and died in the fire: rangers, soldiers, immigrant miners imported from all over the country to help the firefighting effort, prostitutes, railroad engineers and dozens others whose stories are painstakingly recreated from scraps of letters, newspaper articles, firsthand testimony, and Forest Service records. Egan brings a touching humanity to this story of valor and cowardice in the face of a national catastrophe, paying respectful attention to Roosevelt's great dream of conservation and of an America 'for the little man.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Egan's tactile dramatization of the fire in Idaho and Montana compares favorably to the best of this genre...as he depicts the climactic moments of firefighters entrapment by flames."
by Library Journal,
"Historians will enjoy Egan's well-written book, featuring sparkling and dynamic descriptions of the land and people...while general readers will find his suspenseful account of the fires mesmerizing."
In The Worst Hard Time, Egan puts the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl at the center of a rich history. Now he performs the same alchemy with The Big Burn, detailing the largest-ever forest fire in America.
A dramatic account of the worst forest fire in American history by the author of the best-selling and National Book Award-winning THE WORST HARD TIME.
On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men—college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps—to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.
Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen.
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