Monday, June 7, 2010

The Big Burn

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
283 pages
History; TR

Source: The library

Summary: A fire approximately the size of Connecticut broke out in Washington, Idaho, and Montana in 1910. As the rangers on the scene struggled to end this conflagration, Egan narrates how President Roosevelt had fought to create protected national lands in the face of robber barons.

Thoughts: I don't know if I've ever shared this but the 1858 of my name comes from Theodore Roosevelt's birth yeah I'm a little obsessed and I love to read about him although I am not as wide read as I'd like. I had no interest in this until I saw that it included him no matter how peripherally. I have also read Egan's previous book The Worst Hard Times about the Dust Bowl and largely liked it.

TR is not a big part of this book *sadface* but his domestic policy helped frame the conversation about conservation as being natural resources for the good and future of all Americans (because we're a democracy) instead of being there for a very few to make a profit with. And his presence permeates the book along with his alliance with noted conservationist Gifford Pinchot.

This book also inspired anger toward the anti-conservationists. What jerks they were! Although poor Taft. He just wanted to eat, sleep, and be a judge; being president was not his ambition but he of course he suffered int he shadow of the dynamic and AWESOME Roosevelt. It's also interesting to see how FDR continued many of his cousin's policies despite them being in different parties (remember there's been a big shift in the parties largely due to FDR's policies).

I feel like the subtitle might be a little hyperbolic; it says "the fire that saved America." It did lead to more funding for the Forest Service and turned public opinion more in line with TR but did it SAVE America? I don't think so.

It's also a pretty easy read with relatively short chapters, which is my preference, and I would recommend it to people with an interest in American history and even to those who aren't big fans of non-fiction.

Overall: 4/5. Enjoyable and recommended!

Cover: Kind of boring except that the jagged circle is actually a cut out-I bet it would be cool to own but it doesn't really work as a library book.

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