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Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer Hardcover – July 19, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Finding Everett Ruess is easily one of [Roberts’] best….thoughtful and passionate….a compelling portrait of the Ruess myth.” -Outside Magazine

“Anyone intrigued by the Ruess phenomenon will be enthralled with Roberts’ review of the young man’s biography, the stature of his artistic achievements and unrealized potential, and efforts to find and eventually memorialize him…. This is sure to appeal to fans of wilderness wanderers.” -Booklist

"Absorbing...A [well researched], readable look at a complex personality in wilderness exploration." -Kirkus Reviews 

"Everett Lives! If not in a desert canyon, then at least among the pages where David Roberts brings the young man's life and legend all together: his writings and art, his kinship with nature, his love for adventure and beauty, and the yet-evolving mystery of his disappearance. Count me one among many inspired by a young adventurer who lived in beauty and left us too soon. May we never stop wandering."
-Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place and subject of the film 127 Hours 

 "Roberts deftly..captures the complexity of his subject."
-Publishers Weekly

“I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the street car and the star sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities. . . .
"Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary;

 That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun;
 Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases;
 Lonely and wet and cold . . . but that I kept my dream!"
-Everett Ruess

About the Author

DAVID ROBERTS is the author of more than 20 books on mountaineering, adventure, and history, including No Shortcuts to the Top, K2, and The Will to Climb, which he co-wrote with Ed Viesturs and a memoir On The Ridge Between Life and Death.  He has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Smithsonian.  Roberts lives in Massachusetts. 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030759176X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307591760
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Alan Dorfman VINE VOICE on June 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Roberts'"Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer" is an amazing amalgam of psychological jigsaw puzzle, wilderness travel writing and the best ever episode of the TV show "Cold Case."

The first part of this unfailingly fascinating study introduces us to Everett Ruess who, in 1931 at the age of sixteen, "started traveling by horse and burro and on foot through the canyons and plateaus" of the western USA, particularly the southwest. An aspiring artist and watercolor painter, the details of his traveling and his psyche are pieced together by diary entries as well as a steady stream of letters to his parents Christopher and Stella, his brother Waldo and a small assortment of friends and folks he met along the way. Described by famous American author Wallace Stegner as "one of those, a callow romantic, an adolescent aesthete, an atavistic wanderer of the wastelands" who "was after beauty, and he conceived beauty in pretty romantic terms."

Everett Ruess' wandering through vast expanses of the west, usually solo and very often the only white man to have been to certain natural wonders, continued on until his unexplained disappearance in 1935. At this point Mr. Roberts' book switches from a semi-biography of Everett into the story of his parents' and brother's attempts, with the help of a vast number of colorful real-life Western characters, to finding Everett himself or, at worst an explanation of his disappearance.

As a way of preserving his legacy after a variety of search and rescue missions all failed, the Ruess family from 1935 on tried to find a publisher for a collection of his writings and art.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Divascribe VINE VOICE on May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In November 1934, Everett Ruess, a 20-year-old hiker, disappeared into the vast wilderness of the "four corners" region where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico converge. He was on a hike by himself in southern Utah when he simply vanished. His heartbroken parents spent years searching for him, and a mystique grew up around this young man who also was a writer and artist. Was he murdered? Did he fall to his death? No one was able to find out.

Now, more than 75 years later, author David Roberts has written "Finding Everett Ruess," the chronicle of his attempt to find out what happened to Everett. During the process, he talked to current members of the Ruess family and to others who might shed light on Everett's fate, or at least his mindset at the time of his disappearance.

Everett loved the wilderness passionately and wrote about it eloquently. He describes one campsite: "The perfection of this place is one reason why I distrust ever returning to the cities. Here I wander in beauty and perfection. There one walks in the midst of ugliness and mistakes..." It's ironic that had he stayed in "the cities," he might still be alive.

While this book had interesting insights into wilderness hiking and some sections of it were moving and sad, it did not grab me as I had expected it to do. The narrative gets bogged down in too much detail -- more than I would ever want to know about the subject. But someone who has hiked the four corners region or has followed the mystery of Everett Ruess's disappearance might feel differently.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Roberts writes an interesting book about a little known wanderer - Everett Ruess. It seems as if almost no one knows his story - he is one of the many throughout the years that have explored wilderness areas and not come out...just disappeared.

What makes a book out of this is that Everett kept diaries and sent letters home. Although his descriptions do not seem to meet the high flowing praise of brilliant, legendary and remarkable. His writings that are recounted do not really present much of a picture to anyone who has not experienced these areas, his descriptions are more in the line of," I was drunk with the beauty of it". He does not win much admiration for his sense of entitlement either. During the depression expecting the support at most points from his parents who were not well off and struggled financially themselves. At one point he celebrates receiving money from them by purchasing caviar and foie gras.

After reading all these detailed descriptions it is hard to see what he accomplished except some self-absorbed wanderings supported by his parents. It is difficult to find much that is remarkable in his writings of his meanderings other than the fact he liked to be out in the wilderness area. He doesn't even seem to be aware of the honor he was given by being allowed to participate in Hopi dances. In fact many of his letters home complain of the behavior and morals of the Indians.
There are several theories described in detail at the end of the book on how he met his death and even some speculation on whether he still might be alive, none of them proved. This in total is an interesting read, only if you might enjoy reading about a young man wandering in the southwest in the 1930's.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Anthony on September 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a moderately entertaining and educational look at the very short life of Everett Ruess, an itinerant wanderer who explored and traversed large parts of the Navajo reservation in the four corners area and the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Ruess undertook his travels from the ages of 16 to 20 during the height of the Great Depression. In addition to being an explorer of sorts, he was also an artist, a poet, a diarist and a budding naturalist. Though something of a folk legend in the Southwest, he recently came to prominence through a passage included in Jon Krakauer's book, Into the Wild.

This book uses as its primary source material, letters written by Ruess to friends and family as well as several surviving diaries kept by Ruess during his travels. While Ruess was certainly a unique individual, the sum total of his existence appears to be a restlessness that resulted in several prolonged periods of lonesome wanderings which left little impression, before disappearing in 1934 while in the wilds of southern Utah.

His writings reveal him to be extremely immature and something of a prig. For example, he scolds his older brother for accepting jobs that he deems beneath his dignity, while continuously demanding funds from his cash strapped parents, at the height of the Depression. Allowances must be made for his tender age, however, at age twenty such feelings of entitlement should either be resolved or justifiably accepted as a character fault. Having read this biography, I can safely say that I don't care much for many of his affectations nor his attitude. I doubt he and I would get along well at all.
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