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American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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A Science Friday Best Science Book of 2017
“Blakeslee draws O-Six in novelistic... detail, using the conflicting insight and perspective of biologists, politicians, ranchers, environmentalists, lawyers, other animals, and hunters.... Seeing a wolf is exceptionally rare, and this book is as close as most readers will come.”
—The New Yorker
“American Wolf takes its place in a long lineage of wolf books.... [T]here are cherished, striking images here…testament to the ever-flowing life force that is the wolf.”
—Rick Bass, New York Times Book Review
“[American Wolf] is a startlingly intimate portrait of the intricate, loving, human-like interrelationships that govern wolves in the wild, as observed in real time by a cadre of dedicated wolf-watchers—in the end, a drama of lupine love, care, and grief.”
—Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake
“Wild, poignant, and compelling, American Wolf is an important, beautifully wrought book about animals, about values, and about living on this earth.”
—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin
“A transcendent tale of the American West."
—S. C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell
“Gripping and fascinating! Wolf versus wolf, wolf versus man, man versus man.”
—Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and Hag-Seed (via Twitter)
"The story of one wolf’s struggle to survive in the majestic Yellowstone National Park offers an ambitious look through the eyes of an endangered animal."
—New York Times Book Review
“In this vibrant work of nonfiction, a Texas Monthly writer goes into the mind—and heart—of a wolf. He tells the remarkable true story of O-Six, a wolf brought back to the Rockies by conservationists, as she fights hunters, cattle ranchers, and her own species for survival.”
“[American Wolf] reads like a novel... a testament to the genius of Blakeslee’s tautly constructed narrative.”
“Blakeslee takes readers into the snowy [Lamar Valley], and deep into a genuinely human tale told with the energy and verve of a bestselling thriller. A tight, dense narrative, American Wolf races along like a predator on the hunt.”
“A masterful and elegant tale."
“Beautiful, detailed... [American Wolf] centers on the rise, reign, and family life of O-Six, matriarch of the Lamar Canyon pack and so well-known to park visitors that the New York Times gave her an obituary.”
—Publisher's Weekly (starred)
“The fight... [over] Yellowstone’s wolves is embodied in O-Six’s story, told with great immediacy and empathy in a tale that reads like fiction. This one will grab readers and impel them into the heart of the conflict.”
“Utterly compelling.... Blakeslee’s masterly use of fiction writing techniques to ratchet up the tension will hook a wide swath of readers.”
—Library Journal (starred)
“A savory blend of hardcore journalism, biodiversity analysis, weather and terrain reporting and good old-fashioned storytelling... American Wolf is the tale of an extraordinary wolf and those absorbed with her storied life.”
“Nate Blakeslee has achieved the Jack London-like feat of creating a great story whose main character is an animal."
—Nicholas Lemann, author of The Big Test and Redemption
“There are so few wolves in the West that each one can cast a kind of enchantment. This fine book takes one animal, and uses it as a way to understand the vectors that whipsaw the last wild places. It will linger in your mind and heart.”
—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Radio Free Vermont
“American Wolf is an intimate and riveting book about America’s most iconic and embattled predator.... A wonderful and welcome addition to the pantheon of nature literature.”
—John Vaillant, author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce
“A well-rendered story... evenhanded but clearly and rightly on the side of the wolves.”
“Gorgeously written, and offering stunning insights into both animal and human nature, American Wolf is a masterly feat of science journalism.”
—Michael Finkel, author of The Stranger in the Woods
“Engaging... a must read for researchers, citizen scientists, and visitors to Yellowstone, where the story of the wolves continues to evolve.”
“As in a great novel, we are swept along in a multi-generational saga involving matters of character, courtship, and shifting social relations."
—Tom Kizzia, author of Pilgrim’s Wilderness
“Heartbreaking front-line coverage of our war on the wild.... Blakeslee hauntingly gives the victims faces, families, and stories. A quietly angry, aching, important book.”
—Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
“A compelling environmental drama of the reintroduction of wolves to the Rockies, as clear-sighted on human politics as it is on wolf politics."
—Neil Ansell, author of Deep Country
“The Game of Thrones story of modern western wolves, [unfolding] in just as riveting a fashion. It is an absolutely mesmerizing read.”
—Dan Flores, author of Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History
“American Wolf gives us true profiles of wolf lives lived in their actual families. And when humans get involved, the trajectory of their lives forever changes.”
—Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Written with heart, but not sentimentality, American Wolf is nothing less than Shakespearean tragedy played out against the backdrop of our troubled relationship with nature.”
—J.B. MacKinnon, author of The Once and Future World
"[American Wolf] is about the compatibility and clash between man and environment, heritage and the future, politics and practice, and seemingly countless nuances that demonstrate the complexity of the West."
“O-Six is the definition of an alpha—strong, cunning, and a protector through and through. Her life in the wild is constantly challenged by other wolves, cattle ranchers, and hunters. It’s a “cultural clash” that will leave you on the edge of your chair.”
“[A] rich, poignant story of wolf recovery in Yellowstone and its impacts on the surrounding countryside and communities.”
—National Parks Traveler
“Blakeslee crafts a compelling narrative that allows him to explore in a profound and intimate way the cultural, political, social and economic factors that keep the presence of wolves in the West controversial.”
About the Author
Nate Blakeslee is a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly. His first book, Tulia, won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Texas Institute of Letters nonfiction prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. The Washington Post called Tulia one of the most important books about wrongful convictions ever written. Blakeslee lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.
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The book covers the life - and yes, the death - of O-Six, a female wolf who led a very successful pack within the boundaries of Yellowstone. It covers the reintroduction of the wolves to the park, including much of the politics involved in that decision and in the years thereafter. Unusually, Blakeslee intersperses the fascinating details of the wolves with that of the hunter who killed O-Six. His real name is not given, and it is easy to understand why. There are alternating chapters throughout between what is happening with the wolves, and the thoughts and actions of the hunter. It makes for an unusually suspenseful account in a non-fiction book, but it works extremely well. Though I knew where the story was going - where it *must* be going - I still held my breath, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. I cried for all of the people who had followed this amazing wolf for so long, I cried for her pack, and I cried for the lack of understanding that led to that point.
Before I get vilified for being a snowflake - let me be clear: I grew up in a hunting family. We lived for years on the deer and the elk that we brought in, as well as the food we grew in our garden. I have no problem with those who hunt for food. I've done it, and my family does it. However, the idea of taking a life simply for the kill is abhorrent to me - as it should be to everyone. Killing just for the sake of killing is wrong, and should be condemned as such.
The only downside to the arc that I got is that it had no pictures. I do hope that the finished version will have some, because I feel that it would be a tremendously impactful addition, for readers unfamiliar with the O-Six saga to be able to see and admire the pack(s). Otherwise - Blakeslee has done an incredible job showing wolves for the amazing creatures they are, making clear the politics that gets played with these creatures' lives, and showcasing the amazing people who give their all for these animals every single day. It's an amazing book, and one that I hope will open the eyes of more people to the enduring American spirit that is our American Wolf.
American Wolf, by prize winning author Nate Blakeslee, is my choice for the best nonfiction book of 2017.
It is an entirely factual recounting of the story of 0-Six, an Alpha female wolf named for the year of her birth.
Born in Yellowstone Park, she and her mate led the Lamar Valley pack. She was a fierce protector. She was also a great hunter who was able to bring down an elk by herself to feed her family.
This isn't just a bucolic story of wolves raising their litters and caring for each other, although the reader will learn an amazing amount about the compassionate and fascinating behavior of wolves. It is a story, with 0-Six at the epicenter, of politics, lawyers, the environment, ecology, hatred, fear, love, loss, and beauty.
The descriptions of the packs in Yellowstone and what happens to them over the few short years when the government decides to allow hunters to once again hunt them (after the wolves had been protected) will anger you and leave you feeling helpless. That is not a reason to avoid this book however. American Wolf has some memorable people you will be introduced to, as remarkable as the wolves you will come to love.
It is very interesting that these people do not interfere with the natural course of things as far as the wolves' cycle of life is concerned. Only once is one wolf air dropped some meat. He is dying because he was shot by a hunter and he is caught in a crevice he can't get out of. Three days later he is dead.
You will learn as much about human behavior as you do about the wolves. We are not so very different.
Notes, extensive interviews (even with the man who killed 0-Six) and videos were used to write this book.
The author's descriptions of the wolves are amazing. He brought 0-Six and her family alive for me. If I didn't want to go see wolves in the wild before, I do now. I hope I get the chance.
Most recent customer reviews
One part a chronicle of the wolf O-Six and her pack's time in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, part memoir...Read more