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House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest Hardcover – February 22, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Although less well known than the Mayans, the Anasazi, who flourished in the region now known as New Mexico, also vanished without a trace. Now, eight centuries after their thriving, 2,000-year-old civilization disappeared as though it had never existed, naturalist and adventurer Childs undertakes to find out where the Anasazi went and why. But discovering the fate of an entire race of people, 800 years after the fact, is not like tracking down a missing person. Childs' investigation relies heavily on scholarly literature, oral tradition, and lots of reading between the lines of history. There are no definitive answers here, but Childs ask plenty of tantalizing questions. The book is finally not so much about what happened to the Anasazi as it is about our own fascination with lost civilizations. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


'And adventure story, a history, and a cultural analysis all wrapped in exceptional writing.' - Pete Warzel, Rocky Mountain News 'Craig Childs succees in translating a good hunk of Southwestern archaeology while providing us with the kind of inductive visceral experience he does better than any other naturalist.' - Katharine Niles, Denver Post 'Childs excites the imagination and creates a haunting portrait of a people and a way of life that will last long after the reading is finished.' - Clay Reynolds, Dallas Morning News

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (February 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316608173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316608176
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wildness VINE VOICE on February 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Craig Childs, who has spent a lifetime exploring the hidden corners of the American Southwest for even the faintest signs of water, adventure, and discovery in his previous books such as The Secret Knowledge of Water, Soul of Nowhere, and The Way Out, has turned his keen senses and ever inquisitive spirit in search of the secrets to what happened to the ancient Anasazi (or Ancestral Puebloans) of the region.

Through his reading of scholarly sources and history, seeking out of oral histories and traditions, and hundreds of miles of walking the landscape in search of clues, Craig Childs has turned his considerable talents for reading the landscape and turning his observations into wonderful prose towards the mystery of what happened to the Anasazi of 800 to 1000 years ago. He has canvassed the region, including Northern Mexico, to find out how this ancient civilization converged on places like Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, where its culture thrived and flourished. And why these hubs of civilization dried up and its people seemingly scattered into the wind.

House of Rain isn't about finding definitive answers to the questions concerning these ancient peoples - the details we may never know; instead, this book is about the discovery and exploration of the mysteries of those who came before us on this land. We seek out these ancient civilizations because we hope, no we believe that through the journey of discovery we will find a piece of ourselves...and then maybe the answers we hope will help us in our future.


A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books written on the native peoples of the Southwest. Childs uses his travels, his inquisitiveness and imagination to write a plausable history of the Anasazi... tracing their exodus from Chaco and the Colorado Plateau south into Mexico. An academic could never leap to the conclusions that Childs postulates, however most archeological papers don't touch the soul. Child's book does. He brings the Anasazi back to life and paints their culture with a colorful brush. I'll never look at an Anasazi ruin in the same way again.
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Format: Hardcover
The fate of the "Anasazi" people is one of the Southwest's greatest mysteries. Scholars continue to debate what happened to wipe this culture from existence. Archaeological evidence points to a highly intelligent people who accomplished many great things over several centuries. So where did they go?

In HOUSE OF RAIN: TRACKING A VANISHED CIVILIZATION ACROSS THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST, Craig Childs chronicles his studies of the lost Anasazi through exploration of ruins and pottery finds.

While this may sound dry at first glance, Childs succeeds at assembling his research and adventures into readable form. Part narrative and part scholarly writing, HOUSE OF RAIN is informative without being dull, which opens it to not only students in the field, but also to people genuinely interested in history and archaeology.

Although Childs's style in engaging, the constant transitions between stories of his on-site explorations and the offering of hard fact can be confusing. Childs frequently skips between memories of various digs, walking journeys, and times when he's been allowed access to artifacts and secluded sites. It's hard to keep track of where and when he's talking about when he skips around in this manner.

Aside from the mild confusion occasionally elicited by the scattered narrative, HOUSE OF RAIN has a great deal to offer history buffs. Readers' eyes will be opened by Childs's observations and depth of knowledge. There are no set answers, but he offers salient points that may go a long way to suggesting what really happened to the mysterious Anasazi.

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer

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Format: Hardcover
It's been a long time since I was thoroughly captivated by a book but House Of Rain has managed to do just that. Craig Childs is arguably one of the finest non-fiction writers today. For those of us who live and breathe the Great Southwest, Child's descriptions will bring back vivid memories of Sleeping Ute mountain in the distance and standing where the Ancients stood at Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, and Chaco. For those reviewers who felt like they needed maps and an answer, you can get maps at the visitor centers all bound up in glossy little books with equally glossy descriptions of people and places. This is not one of those books - it's so much deeper. This book is not a souvenier, it's a vehicle that takes you to places that a relative few will ever see and even less will understand. Sometimes, there is no final answer - there's just the lingering questions. That's part of what makes it so interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
Note that I did not say "disappearance."

That said, you don't need to read Craig Childs to tell you that. A number of good modern authors, not necessarily Ph.D. anthropologists, have been writing about that for going on a decade.

That then said, Childs book has a wider geographic and chronological spread than others of these books. Starting with the rise of Chaco Canyon, he takes us through Mesa Verde, Kayenta and the Mogollon Rim down into northeastern Sonora, and runs from around 1000 CE to first Spanish contact in Sonora and the start of written history.

He uses pottery, architecture, skeletal and skeletal DNA evidence to trace the movement of the Ancestral Puebloans (the best term, rather than either Anasazi or Hisatsinom) to across all these areas.

His thought provocation includes wondering what level of culture, religious observance, etc., these peoples had at different times and places in their history. Since his beat, as a layperson, tends more toward archaeology than anthropology, he doesn't get into these issues too much, but does stimulate thought.

That said, this book isn't five-star, or even quite four-star, for a few reasons.

I was going to four-star at first, but just couldn't quite pull the trigger, especially based on what this book could have been versus what it actually is.

1. The "personal happenings" anecdotes are longer, and contribute less to the flow of the narrative, than in, say, David Roberts in "In Search of the Old Ones."

2. Without revealing too much about site locations, Childs could at least have had a few general area maps in the book. Again, compare Roberts.

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