Max Evans’s Favorite Nature Reads

max-evan-animal-stories-life-time-collectionWestern artist and award-winning author Max Evans, best known for his novels The Rounders, Hi Lo Country, One Eyed Sky and Bluefeather Fellini, as well as nonfiction favorites Madam Millie and For the Love of Horse, is set to publish his 27th book, Animal Stories: A Lifetime Collection, with University of Oklahoma Press this September.

Wonderfully illustrated by New Mexico cowboy-artist Keith Walters, Evans’s 26 stories reflect his lifelong love affair and respect for nature. Evans reveals in the fiction and nonfiction stories of this collection that his love of nature began when he worked cattle as a young boy and hunted with his first horse, Cricket.

I spoke with him recently about the importance of good humor in life, painting (his favorite artist, Maynard Dixon), filmmaking (his favorite director, Sam Peckinpah) and writing, especially the authors who share his love of nature and the West. Here are five titles Evans believes every reader should have in their library and why.

1. The Long Valley (John Steinbeck, Penguin): I love Steinbeck’s short stories; he wrote about the people and the animals. His stories of Monterey. The tragic comedy of real life. It came from his youth, knowing regular working people, survivors and builders of the earth. He understood humor is the only way to balance the tragedy of everyday life. I think this is why I like him better than any other American author.

2. Monte Walsh (Jack Schaefer, Bison Books): I knew Jack Schaefer, and he was one of the best writers to capture the reality and hard, simple life of the working cowboy. Monte Walsh is one of the few transitional Westerns ever written. It is simply one of the best literary works of the West, by an author who innately understood life and death on the open range.

3. The Forests of the Night (J.P.S. Brown, iUniverse): Joe Brown writes about what he knows, about life as a working cowboy in the Sierra Madre, and about man, nature, the land, life and death. I don’t know anyone who writes about it better than my friend Joe Brown.

4. Good Old Boys (Elmer Kelton, Forge Books): Elmer Kelton, who I knew and respected as a friend and writer for many years before he passed away in 2009, was one of the best storytellers of the Old West. Kelton was one of the few people who wrote successfully about the contemporary West and equally about the Old West. That is a rare ability. Good Old Boys remains a favorite because he got the combination of tragedy and comedy better than he did in all of his other books.

5. Mountain Windsong: A Novel of the Trail of Tears (Robert J. Conley, University of Oklahoma Press): Robert Conley is the most respected Cherokee historian living today. His novel is one of the most beautiful, lyrical stories written about the Cherokee’s tragic odyssey of love and survival.

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