Just Read It is a regular feature in which the State Journal seeks recommendations from Wisconsin authors, literary enthusiasts and experts, focused on the contributor’s particular genre of expertise.
Candice Gaukel Andrews
specializes in environmental and
nature-travel writing. On assignment, she has traveled throughout the world, from New Zealand to Patagonia and Greenland, searching for and writing about environmental issues that express the essence of a place. A former scriptwriter for Paramount Pictures, Andrews gave up the big-city life to return to her roots in the Heartland and now lives in south-central Wisconsin. Here, she chooses three works that she has savored through the years.
1. “Blue Highways,” by William Least Heat Moon (Little, Brown and Company, 1982). This book came out the year my first son was born. I put my copy on my nightstand, thinking I’d read a bit from it every night. Motherhood has a way of eating up time, however, and when my baby boy turned 20 years of age, that book was still next to my bed! By the time he turned 25, I had finally finished the book. But lack of time wasn’t the only reason for the delay: Least Heat Moon’s turn of phrase is so well-crafted that after reading a few paragraphs, I’d have to put the book down for a few days to savor the words. This now-classic, road-trip read kept my rapt attention for a quarter of a century.
2. “Into Thin Air,” by Jon Krakauer (Villard, 1997). Jon Krakauer is a master at adventure nonfiction. I find true stories to be the most fascinating, and Krakauer has a knack for character development, slow revelations that build tension, surprising climaxes, and endings that leave you with so much more than just the story you thought you were going to read. He demonstrates that nonfiction can — and must be — as creatively written as fiction.
3. “The Sacred Earth,” edited by Jason Gardner (New World Library, 1998). The first time I traveled outside of the United States was in October 2002, when I visited Churchill, Manitoba, Canada — the Polar Bear Capital of the World. Having close encounters with wild polar bears in their natural habitat was an eye-opening experience; it seemed there was a whole, wide, wonderful world of nature “out there” that I previously didn’t know about and now craved more of. But what may have been even more soul stirring was when the tour guide pulled this little book out of his backpack and read a passage by Richard Nelson, a fellow Wisconsinite. “The Sacred Earth” is a compendium of quotations from environmental writers such as Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass, Barry Lopez, Gretel Ehrlich, Edward Abbey, and the aforementioned Nelson. While I had liked playing outside and loved animals as a child, until that moment when I first heard Nelson’s words, I didn’t think that sharing my similar, innermost feelings for nature would be welcome in a world more concerned with economics and business. These authors were not only poetic about their feelings for nature, they were celebrating them.