Book Review:

Campfire Stories, Volume II: Tales of America’s National Parks and Trails, edited by Dave Kyu & Ilyssa Kyu

By Allison De Jong

Campfire Stories is a book that feels good in your hands. The cover is woven, textured, pleasantly rough beneath the fingertips, and the color of iron-rich rock. Hardy. Rugged. You know you’re going places as soon as you pick it up.

This collection of stories, essays, and poems celebrates the richness and complexity of our national parks and trails from a well of diverse voices. Editors Dave and Ilyssa Kyu made a point of seeking out BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers, and that diversity of perspectives gives this book unusual depth and insight. Many of the stories acknowledge and name the Indigenous peoples who lived on these lands long before they were designated as national parks, reminding us of their—and our—complicated history. From these stories we also learn that the present, with its challenges of climate change and habitat loss and overpopulation, is no less complicated.

And yet in spite of these complications, our national parks remain extraordinary places, places tens of millions of people visit each year. They could tell a hundred million stories. This book gives us a few dozen: enough to provide a tantalizing taste of seven of these magical places.

Pick up Campfire Stories, and before you know it, you’re rafting the Colorado River in December, reveling in hundreds of millions of years of geologic history. Driving the rough road to Point Sublime on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. You are lost, hungry, parched in the unrelenting heat of Joshua Tree. You are biking Glacier’s stunning Going to the Sun Road amidst lingering snow. You’re dizzy from vertigo while climbing Dragon’s Tooth on the Appalachian Trail. Surrounded by humid salt air, alligators, mangroves, and rainbow-shelled snails in the mesmerizing marshlands of the Everglades. You’re following a narrow game trail, seeking out baby Roosevelt elk in the lush verdure of Olympic National Park. Craving enchiladas for days-turned-weeks while hiking the snowy Sierras on the Pacific Crest Trail. You are ecstatic, exhausted, awed, grieving, serene, challenged, renewed.

Give yourself the gift of delving into these stories. Immerse yourself in a gorgeous panoply of experiences from people who love, and let themselves be changed by, America’s wild places. You can read this book in a cozy chair, in bed, at your kitchen table…but there’s something powerful about reading it in a wild place, surrounded by birdsong, the murmur of water, the hum of insects. Read it beneath dappled sunlight, among the trees, or, yes, around a campfire, the stars bright overhead.

Come to Fact and Fiction in Missoula on Wednesday, August 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. for a reading and book signing of Campfire Stories! You’ll get to meet editors Dave and Ilyssa Kyu, and three special Montana guests and contributors: poet Sandra Alcosser, author Cassidy Randall, and writer and educator Kitty Galloway.

More details here.