Review: Fire Season: Field Notes of a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors


Thanks to Words and Peace for alerting me to this book.

My Interest

Years ago my great uncle, artist Edwin Fulwider, suggested forest service fire watcher as a possible job for me. I was happy in my own company, preferred quiet, and could cope with isolation. I even looked into it. Alas, it never happened, but I’ve had the indoor equivalent most of my life: solo librarian jobs.

The Story

A man, who seems very like the fabled soulmate I’ve searched for most of my life, ditches his job with the Wall Street Journal (a tough call, but I understand it) to spend about 1/3 of his work year in a fire tower in a national forest. (His wife is so on board with this, she goes to nursing school so she can be the principal breadwinner and even lets him take the dog with him on his fire-watching stints.) Interweaving personal narrative and fire or forest service history, Connors tells a fascinating tale of life in the forest with a segue into his “Where I Was When the Towers Went Down” memory, now seemingly mandatory in any nonfiction story written by anyone in Manhattan that tragic day. I’m not belittling his experience for I understand that moment is seared on the memory of anyone there that day.  I just had a problem incorporating it into this book. True, his New York life was part of the book, but I felt the long foray into 9/11 was a bit forced and very jarring compared to the rest of his big city life memories.

My Thoughts

Aside from the odd clash of the 9/11 story’s inclusions, and truthfully even with it, this book brings the reader into the forest and up that tower. Connor’s prose and the reader’s excellent audiobook performance, caused me to fall in love with the author and to take a step back –seriously, where has this guy been all my life? And now I must wonder “what if?” —what if Uncle Ed’s job idea for me had come to fruition? No matter, I truly enjoyed every word of this book even with my small doubts about that one memory.

This book will be a classic of nature writing–I’m sure of it.

Fire Season: Field Notes of a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors

If you enjoy nonfiction nature writing check out this book:


Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook. My review is here.

6 thoughts on “Review: Fire Season: Field Notes of a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors

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