The Alaska Seth Kantner writes about in Swallowed by the Great Land: And Other Dispatches from Alaska's Frontier isn't the one of glossy travel magazines and calendar photography. But I still love spending time in Kantner's world via his writing, where the air smells of salt and woodsmoke—when it isn't clogged with diesel fumes and Snogo exhaust—and a pleasant afternoon may be spent watching herds of caribou storm the river just beyond the front yard. (CLT)

Laura Pritchett is devoted to keen observations of people as well as place—the Rocky Mountains, wildfires and the turn of the seasons play as important a role in Red Lightning as any character. Her narrative style is a little unusual, often breaking out of traditional prose into stream-of-consciousness and poetic meanderings. In lesser hands, it might be an annoying technique, but here it helps make characters' feelings and experiences almost palpable. (KW)

In 1987, Richard "McCarthy" Coyle wrote about driving a thousand miles from Missoula to the Ozarks to find his "baby" sister's unmarked grave. "Tree Planting" is one of many pieces in The Cherry Tree is Blossoming, a newly published selection of Coyle's letters, poems, journals, fictions and dramas. It provides an intimate glimpse into an inventive character who lived his life—a good portion of it in Missoula—with desperate hope and unyielding rage, all of which comes through in his fierce prose. (EF)

In Given World, author Maria Palaia's women are the sort who are so often vilified in more traditional stories: neglectful mothers and wayward junkies, incapable of love or devotion. It's enormously refreshing to read a story that talks about complicated women with so much empathy. (KW)

If the typical novel is like a movie enjoyed from a serviceable but scratchy old VHS tape, then Shann Ray's debut novel, American Copper, is like watching a film on BluRay disc. One is pulled into the saddle or onto a train by Ray's magnificent prose and then taken on a trip through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in western Montana. (CLT)

If you're planning to sit down with David Gates' new A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me—and you definitely should—you might want to pour yourself a stiff drink first. Maybe light up a bowl. The indulgence (if you want to call it that) will probably help you feel at home among Gates' characters ... What Gates reproduces like few other writers is a state of mind, a relationship to reality, a stance toward the world that's at once real and extra-real. It's that stance that makes these potentially depressing characters and their middling issues so compelling. (BT)

In other hands, Hawthorn could be a mess as tangled as its subject. Missoula writer Bill Vaughn holds it all together, blending anecdotes, myth, folklore and scientific fact into as fun and interesting an offering of natural history as I've read. (CLT)

What Jon Krakauer has given readers like me is a remedy to blindness: a clear and undeniable picture of a broken system, which reflects the broken systems in every town across the country. Missoula is a book we all needed. If you're not going to read it because your feelings are hurt, you are definitely part of the problem. (EF)

No matter what comedic license Thomas McGuane takes with his characters, these people are treated with heart. The stories in Crow Fair are excellent meditations on the regrets that so many of us face as we muddle through middle-age, and even in the midst of laughter the messages are poignant. (CLT)

Reviews by Chris La Tray, Kate Whittle, Brad Tyer and Erika Fredrickson.

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