My 10 Favorite Books of 2017

My 10 Favorite Books of 2017


2017 was a solid year of reading that played out even better than expected—I discovered some older titles that I should’ve read long ago, enjoyed some new releases that I’d been anxiously awaiting, and had the opportunity to meet and chat with several of my favorite authors. As usual, the books’ subjects varied widely, and I hard-headedly stuck to 100% non-fiction.

It was difficult (silly? pointless?) to try and pick the absolute best books I read last year, but below, in no particular order, is my feeble attempt at My 10 Favorite Books of 2017:


Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton – The most entertaining and comprehensive history of cattle ranching in the American West that I’ve ever read… and I’ve read a lot on this subject. (November/December list)

Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban – Interesting and new (to me) insights into the settlement of Montana’s eastern Great Plains, with an eye-opening emphasis on the role that corporations and the government played in convincing (i.e. tricking) would-be settlers to head West. (September/October list)

American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains by Dan Flores – A “biography” of North American megafauna, including pronghorn, coyotes, horses, grizzlies, bison, and wolves. A must read for anyone who loves the American West. (July/August list)

Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores – Coyotes are the most scorned large mammal in North America, yet they’re surprisingly the most human-like in their behavior. A wonderful overview of this fascinating animal and its complicated relationship with us humans. (May/June list)

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder – A short and to-the-point historical examination of how well-meaning countries fell prey to fascist rulers and tyrannical governments. Timely reading in this day and age. (July/August list)

All Waves are Water: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride by Jaimal Yogis – Part memoir, part meditation manifesto, and part surf travelogue, Yogis nails it again with his follow-up to one of my all-time favorites, Saltwater Buddha. (July/August list)

Free Will by Sam Harris – Harris argues that free will is an illusion and that no one is truly in control of themselves or their actions. I don’t want to believe this, but, despite my best efforts, it’s tough for me to poke holes in his rationale. (September/October list)

What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Scott Carney – Since reading this book, I’ve taken a freezing-cold shower every day. And even after pushing the breathing exercises a little too far, passing out, and “bumping” my face on the floor, I’m still a huge fan! (March/April list)

Hellhound on his Trail: An Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History by Hampton Sides – The true story of the nutjob loner who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing international manhunt that followed. Hampton Sides never disappoints. (January/February list)

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram – A deep dive into the mind of an obsessed, unconventional, take-no-shit-from-anybody soldier, whose commitment to his craft changed the course of US military history. (March/April list)





Cate Havstad

Cate Havstad is a hat maker and farmer based in central Oregon whose abundant curiosity, creativity, and love of place have allowed her to transform her passions into a full-time and fulfilling career. As a hat maker, Cate’s unique style and unwavering commitment to quality have attracted customers ranging from music stars like Gillian Welch and Nikki Lane to hard-working ranchers and farmers throughout the American West. As a farmer, Cate and her partner are deeply committed to regenerative agriculture and the positive impact that their local efforts can have on a global scale. It’s safe to say she’s living a life guided by purpose and passion.

Born and raised in northern California, Cate was a driven athlete in her youth, as evidenced by her desire to be the first woman to play in the NBA (that’s the NBA, not the WNBA). As a young woman, a fortuitous series of events landed her in a hat maker’s workshop, where she applied that same focus and drive toward learning the craft of hat making. After accumulating experience and confidence as an apprentice, she struck out on her own and now creates some of the most sought-after, stylish, and functional hats on the market today. Cate’s life and work are closely connected to the landscape of central Oregon, and her other job as an organic farmer has given her a deep understanding of the role that regenerative agriculture can play in conservation, community building, and reversing climate change.

As you’ll hear in our conversation, Cate is extremely curious, well-read, and and knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects. We talk about her journey as a hat maker, and how she cultivates creativity and consistent production in a world filled with an increasing number of distractions. We discuss regenerative agriculture and how many people, including well-meaning environmentalists, don’t fully understand the importance of farmers and ranchers in the conservation movement. Cate is a devoted meditator and runner, so we talk about how both of those practices have improved her creativity and outlook. We also chat about Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Steven Pressfield, and how those authors’ works have impacted her life. There’s a lot to learn in this episode.

This was a fun conversation that could have continued for hours.  Be sure the check the episode notes below for links to everything we discussed—it’s a long list! Hope you enjoy!

Cate Havstad art piece by (former podcast guest) Teal Blake

Header photo by Amanda Leigh Smith, others courtesy of Cate Havstad


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:55 – How Cate describes her work
3:45 – How Cate began making hats
6:00 – Connection to music
6:50 – Cate’s childhood and early influences
8:20 – Leaving college to go on tour
10:25 – New influences of creative people
12:30 – Cate’s parents’ opinion of her taking a break from school
13:45 – Returning to school
15:00 – Goal of becoming a trail guide in Oregon
15:40 – Working as a hat making apprentice
17:40 – Cate’s decision to strike out on her own
20:50 – Advantages of working on simple equipment
22:10 – When Cate knew she could make a full-time career of hat making
24:40 – Havstad Hat Co fans, including Lyle Lovett
28:15 – Process oriented versus goal oriented
30:00 – Cate’s methods for cultivating creativity and her business
31:40 – Thoughts on Pressfield’s “War of Art”
33:45 – Cate’s meditation practice
40:00 – How teaching workshops has influenced her work
43:20 – How Central Oregon influences her work
45:20 – Experiences running in Central Oregon
47:00 – Cate’s experience farming
48:10  – Wendell Berry discussion
50:30 – Agricultural as a vital part of conservation
57:00 – Good books on connection to land
59:30 – Balancing social media and mindful living
1:07:40 – Favorite books
1:09:15 – Favorite documentaries
1:10:15 – Surprising activity
1:11:05 – Favorite location in the West
1:12:20 – Best advice ever received
1:13:20 – Request of the listeners
1:15:20 – Connect with Cate online
Information Referenced

(Note: In the spoken podcast intro, I mistakenly said that Lyle Lovett was a customer, when in fact he’s actually a big fan of Cate’s work. Cate’s customers include Gillian Welch, Nikki Lane, and a long list of other talented musicians and actors. Sorry for any confusion!)

Sarah King (photo credit: Roni Ziemba)

Sarah King is a rancher, conservationist, wife, and mother of two who lives and works on her family’s 55,000-acre cattle ranch in southern Arizona’s Altar Valley. The King’s Anvil Ranch was established in 1895 and has operated successfully within their family for generations, setting an example of how to run a financially viable agricultural business, while simultaneously protecting the long-term ecological health of their vast desert ranch. The Kings understand that in order for their business to thrive, the land must thrive, and they are leaders in pursuing a variety of outside-the-box land stewardship techniques, including the focused use of prescribed fires.

The King family spearheaded the creation of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, a cutting-edge land conservation organization that collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders, including private landowners, ranchers, government entities, conservation non-profits, and environmental advocacy groups. Thanks to focused, diligent efforts over the course of two decades, the AVCA has managed to bring together groups that have historically been at odds, allowing them to focus on shared goals and creative solutions to complicated challenges, rather than dwelling on their differences. As you’ll hear Sarah explain, AVCA understands that open, honest, face-to-face communication has been the key to tackling the Altar Valley’s complex challenges, and their success gives me hope that other organizations throughout the West can adopt their approach and enjoy the same success.

This was a very enlightening episode for me, because I personally just don’t know enough about the landscapes and heritage of the deep southwest. We dig into many of the details of the King’s Anvil Ranch and its operation, including the unique climate and ecology of the Arizona desert. Sarah explains how the AVCA came to be, and offers some insights into exactly what they do and how they’ve managed to have such success. We discuss Sarah’s personal background, specifically how an east coast native ended up on an expansive cattle ranch in Arizona. We talk about the benefits of raising children on a ranch, and the lessons she hopes to impart as they grow up closely connected to the land. Given that the ranch is located less than 40 miles from the Mexico border, we discuss how illegal border crossings have a significant effect on the ranch’s operations. And, of course, we discuss favorite books and documentaries, with links to everything in the episode notes.

I had such a great time chatting with Sarah, and I walked away from the conversation with a much deeper understanding of ranching, conservation, and life in the American southwest. She and her colleagues at AVCA are doing important, groundbreaking conservation work, so I encourage you to follow them and learn from their efforts. Also, be sure to follow Sarah on Instagram—on top of everything else, she’s a talented photographer, too. Enjoy!

Header photo courtesy of Sarah King, other courtesy of Roni Ziemba


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:30 – How Sarah describes her work
4:10 – King’s Anvil Ranch
5:20 – History of the ranch
7:10 – Details on the ranching operation
10:30 – History of Altar Valley Conservation Alliance
13:15 – Events leading to the Alliance’s formation
16:30 – Importance of fire in the Altar Valley
20:00 – Examples of AVCA collaborative projects
25:20 – Why has AVCA been able to be successful where others have not?
28:45 – Specific reasons for AVCA’s success
31:15 – The importance of private land in the West
35:30 – How Sarah ended up in the west, working in ranching
39:00 – Sarah’s college thesis on women dude ranchers
41:15 – Realities of moving West from the east coast
42:30 – Benefits of raising children on a ranch
45:30 – Sarah’s photography
47:15 – Illegal immigration and its effects on the King’s ranch
55:50 – Favorite books
57:55 – Favorite documentaries
59:35 – Surprising activities
1:00:30 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:03:30 – Best advice ever received
1:05:00 – Sarah’s request of the listeners
1:06:00 – Connect with Sarah online
Information Referenced

Charles Post (Photo Credit: Rachel Pohl)

Charles Post is an academically trained ecologist with a gift for communicating complex and sometimes emotionally charged issues in a thoughtful manner to diverse audiences. Whether he’s discussing the intricacies of ranch management, the ecological implications of ethical hunting, or controversies surrounding the BLM’s wild mustang program, Charles has honed his ability to consider all sides of issues, then educate the public in a style that is positive, comprehensive, and intellectually honest. His academic credentials, combined with his photography, writing, filmmaking, and popular social media channels have made Charles a rising star in the world of conservation.  

Born and raised in northern California, Charles has enjoyed a deep connection with Western landscapes for as long as he can remember. He grew up hunting, fishing, and exploring the seascapes and mountain ranges of the West Coast, then earned both a Bachelors and Masters in ecology from UC Berkeley. After considering pursuing a PhD followed by a career in academia, Charles changed course and pursued a less traditional track that melded his two passions of science and storytelling. Since then, he has settled in Bozeman, Montana where he works on a wide range of projects that all tie back into conservation and stewardship in the American West.

Charles and I talked for well over an hour, and could’ve easily continued for several more. We discuss his recent work for Filson covering Ranchlands, a progressive, forward-thinking ranching operation in southern Colorado. We also chat about the ecological importance of ranching for Western landscapes and the progress that Charles has made trying to change some of the unfounded negative impressions of ranching and livestock. We talk about his recent elk hunt, and how that adventure was one of the richest, most meaningful experiences of his life. Charles speaks fondly about his relationship with Ben Masters, who helped him break into the filmmaking world.  It also turns out that we have a shared love of the American Dipper (which is a bird, for those of you out of the loop), and we nerd out on that subject for a few minutes. As usual, we discuss favorite books, films, and the best advice he’s ever received.

If you’re a long-time listener, you will love this episode… and if you’re brand new, I hope you will, too! Be sure to check out Charles on Instagram at @charles_post and check the episode notes for everything we discuss. Enjoy!

All images courtesy of Rachel Pohl


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:00 – Charles’s intro to Ben Masters
5:10 – How Charles describes his work
6:30 – Why Charles identifies as an ecologist
8:50 – Science versus communicating to the mainstream
10:30 – Charles experience with Ranchlands and thoughts on ranching
17:45 – How Charles tells the ranching story
20:45 – Resources for learning more about ranching
21:55 – Discussion about wolves’ effects on Yellowstone
24:35 – Where Charles grew up
25:50 – Charles’ connection to Gifford Pinchot
29:40 – Hunting from a conservation perspective
32:25 – Modern Huntsman
35:15 – Interplay between public and private land
41:40 – How science shaped his ability to be objective
43:40 – His approach to social media
49:45 – The importance of Charles’s sponsors and supporters
54:30 – Charles’s personal history with hunting
1:01:40 – Favorite books
1:08:10 – Weird habits and quirks
1:09:30 – American Dipper nerd-fest
1:12:20 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:16:00 – Best advice he’s ever received
1:19:25 – Charles’s request of the listeners
1:20:50 – Connect with Charles online
Information Referenced

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman


Tyler Sharp

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, then surely you’ll remember Tyler Sharp. He’s the creative director, photographer, and writer who has explored everywhere from east Africa to Montana’s Paradise Valley and has the stories and images to prove it. He currently works with some of the biggest brands in the outdoor industry, such as Filson and Yeti, helping them to tell authentic and engaging stories. Tyler’s first podcast episode has been one of my most popular—we went deep, covering everything from big-game hunting to kung fu to conservation—so I wanted to have him back to continue the conversation and discuss his latest project, Modern Huntsman.

Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication and online forum for conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. If you enjoy this podcast and my guests’ depth of thinking on topics related to the natural world, then you’re going to love Modern Huntsman. Through thoughtful writing, captivating photography, and elegant design, Tyler and his all-star team intend to improve the perception of hunting in our society by highlighting its thoughtful and conservation-focused aspects, which are often ignored by established media.

I like to hunt, although I’m not obsessed with it like I am with endurance sports. But my work in conservation and deep reading of natural history have given me a firsthand appreciation for the importance of hunting, and the vital role it plays in conserving landscapes and species around the world. Without the efforts of visionary hunters like Theodore Roosevelt, the healthy wildlife populations we enjoy here in the American West would be a mere fraction of what they are today, if they existed at all. Thanks to their deep respect for wildlife born from their love of the sport of hunting, TR and his contemporaries set in motion a conservation ethic that continues to grow and evolve. Now, over 100 years later, Modern Huntsman will carry that ethic forward.

Once again, Tyler and I had a wonderful conversation, and I was incredibly impressed with his ability to discuss complex, sometimes emotionally charged issues in a respectful, intelligent, and non-arrogant tone. Of course we discussed the details of Modern Huntsman, its origins, and why there is a need for such a publication. We chatted about Modern Huntsman’s current Kickstarter campaign, which I highly recommend you support—links are in the notes. We also talked in depth about some of the misconceptions around hunting and specifics about why hunting is so important for conservation throughout the world. And just like last time, Tyler had some excellent book recommendations.

This was a fun and enlightening conversation, so I hope you enjoy. Check out the episode notes for links to everything, and be sure the check out the Modern Huntsman Kickstarter page, watch the film, and support the project.

All images courtesy of Tyler Sharp & Modern Huntsman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:30 – How Tyler describes his work
6:10 – Modern Huntsman overview
8:40 – Improving hunting’s image
10:00 – Modern Huntsman as “new media”
12:00 – Tyler’s relationship with Simon Roosevelt
14:30 – Modern Huntsman’s target audience
16:30 – Misunderstandings surrounding hunting
20:30 – Modern Huntsman’s strategy for telling the correct story
22:00 – Importance of having a woman’s perspective
23:20 – Engaging with non-hunters
26:15 – Esthetics of the magazine
31:00 – List of the editors and contributors
34:50 – History of hunting and conservation
39:00 – Tools for connecting conservation and hunting
43:00 – How safari companies contribute to conservation in Africa
47:50 – The Kickstarter film
50:15 – Tyler’s favorite hunting books
58:10 – Best advice Tyler’s ever received
59:30 – Connect with Modern Huntsman online

Information Referenced

 

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West


Duke Beardsley

Duke Beardsley was well on his way to a career in medicine, when, just before med school, he took a hard turn onto a new path when he decided to pursue art as a full-time vocation. Since then, he has become one of the West’s most revered artists, producing paintings of cowboys, anglers, and the Western way of life in a style that is uniquely his own. His work is big, bold, and completely original, and it continues to grow and evolve in ways that surprise even Duke himself.

Thanks to a childhood spent between Denver and his family’s eastern Colorado ranch, Duke has been immersed in cowboy culture for as long as he can remember. He has been drawing non-stop since he could hold a crayon, and as a child (sometimes to the dismay of his parents) he demonstrated a proclivity for sketching western scenes on the walls of his family’s home. Duke is also a committed conservationist with a deep devotion to preserving the West’s landscapes and heritage. This eclectic mix of experiences and interests, combined with a formal art education, allows Duke to produce works that are ambitious, inspiring, and engaging.

I stopped by Duke’s Denver studio earlier this week, where we had a fun and wide-ranging conversation. We chat about his decision to change his career goal from medicine to art, and the value he gleaned from a formal art education.  He explains that life-long obsession with drawing on walls, and he tells some stories about how, as an adult, drawing on walls has led to surprising professional opportunities. We talk about his artistic process, his meditation practice, and how he managed his extroverted personality in the solitary world of creating art. He also discusses why land conservation is an issue that is so near and dear to his heart, and offers up some excellent book recommendations.

This was a lot of fun and I really appreciate Duke inviting me into his studio. Be sure to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss, and check out Duke on Instagram, Facebook, and his website.

All images courtesy of Duke Beardsley


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:40 – How Duke describes his work
3:30 – Growing up between Denver and eastern Colorado
5:15 – Artistic energy in Duke’s family
6:30 – Duke’s early path toward medicine
8:30 – Transition to art school
9:40 – Biggest lesson learned from art school
12:20 – Focusing his art on horses and the West
14:20 – Life post-art school
15:30 – How Duke’s art is different now from 20 years ago
18:30 – Drawing on the wall
20:20 – Why Duke paints big pieces
21:31 – Story behind Duke’s line ups
24:45 – Getting in “the zone” while painting line ups
26:40 – Working on multiple pieces at once
27:50 – Working with galleries
29:00 – Process for commissioned paintings
31:45 – Extrovert or Introvert?
34:30 – Duke’s artistic process
38:00 – Duke’s meditation practice
41:00 – Drawing on the wall at Las Pampas Lodge
44:00 – Working with Fishpond
45:50 – Passion for land conservation
49:30 – Favorite books
52:34 – Favorite films
54:00 – Surprising activities
54:45 – Most powerful outdoor experience
57:00 – Favorite place in the West
58:40 – Best peice of advice ever recieved
59:45 – Duke’s request of the listeners
1:00:30 – Connect with Duke online

Information Referenced

Innovators of the American West Book List

Innovators of the American West Book List


Over the past year and a half, I’ve interviewed dozens of innovators who are shaping the future of the American West—writers and ranchers, athletes and artists, conservationists and entrepreneurs, to name a few. While their vocations and backgrounds vary widely, they’re all connected by a shared love of books. All of my guests read widely and deeply, and they credit books with shaping their outlooks, work, and lives.

On each episode’s webpage, the exhaustive “episode notes” link to all books, authors, and other pertinent information discussed in the interview. So in an effort to consolidate all of this valuable information in one easy-to-access location, I compiled every book mentioned by each of my guests into this single comprehensive super-mega-list—the Innovators of the American West Book List. I’ve tried my best to organize them into logical categories, taking into account that many of the books span several genres.

As you’ll see, the books are as diverse as the guests, with topics ranging from the obvious western history and biographies, to more esoteric subjects such as military history, religion, and philosophy. Each book has played an important role in at least one of my guests’ fascinating lives, so it’s safe to say these books have been vetted and come highly recommended. rrr curious readers who love the American West, this list is a treasure trove.

I will continue to update this list after each new episode (last update: 1-5-18), adding newly mentioned books or authors to their respective categories. I hope this list directs you to some books that you would not have otherwise discovered and that you will continue to check back as the list grows. Enjoy!


Western History

Biographies & Memoirs

Western Issues

Adventure

Native American History

Land Management & Agriculture

General History & Natural History

Athletics

Personal Development

Fiction

Philosophy & Essays

Specifically Mentioned Authors

Still need more books? Sign up for Ed’s Bimonthly Book Recommendations!

JeffAnnJeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado’s most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.

The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.

For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause… I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.

If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Land Library


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Jeff describes his work
3:45 – Back story on the Land Library
4:40 – Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 – Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 – The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 – The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 – Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 – South Park, Colorado described
19:30 – Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 – Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 – Current state of the Land Library
28:10 – Cook’s House restoration – Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 – History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 – How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 – Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 – How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 – Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 – Recommended biographies
51:00 – The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 – Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!!
53:20 – Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 – Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 – Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 – Connect with the Land Library online

* Please buy these books at your local bookseller!!!

 

image3

Taylor Keen, just before an Omaha tribal war dance

Taylor Keen is a teacher, community builder, and Native American thought leader based out of Omaha, Nebraska.  His back story is as diverse as it is impressive—he’s a member of both the Omaha Tribe and the Cherokee Nation, attended Dartmouth College (BA) and Harvard University (Masters of Public Policy, MBA), and enjoyed a successful stint in corporate America before returning to Nebraska to teach entrepreneurship and management at Creighton University.  His most recent undertaking is Sacred Seed, a project with the goal of preserving Native American heritage and history through collecting, growing, and spreading the seeds of corn and other traditional Native American foods.

Just before planting…

The writer Wallace Stegner theorized that people generally fit into one of two categories—“Boomers” or “Stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run” and want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are just the opposite—they are “motivated by affection, by such a love for place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.”1  Taylor is the walking embodiment of a Sticker.  Given his drive, intelligence, and education, he could’ve followed the path of the Boomer and pursued any number of careers.  But a deep love of his Native American heritage and his community called him back home to teach, lead, and live a life devoted to service of others.  It’s an inspiring story.

…and full bloom.

I could’ve talked to Taylor for hours and I only asked about a third of the questions I had prepared, but we still managed to dig into a wide variety of fascinating topics.  We discussed the history and mission of Sacred Seed and where he sees the project going in the future.  We talked about his path from the West to the Ivy League, the decisions that led him to transition from corporate America to higher education, and some very interesting Native American history.  One of my favorite parts of our conversation was Taylor’s recounting the advice he received from his grandfather soon after graduating from Harvard Business School.

This was a very enlightening conversation for me, and I greatly appreciate Taylor taking the time to chat.  I encourage you to visit the Sacred Seed website and watch the video—you can find links to everything we discuss in the episode notes on the webpage.  Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Taylor Keen

1 Wendell Berry, It All Turns on Affection (2012)


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:55 – How Taylor describes his work
4:00 – Sacred Seed Project
5:35 – Early beginnings of Sacred Seed
9:00 – Discovering the importance of seed banking
10:00 – Threats to native seeds from large corporations
11:45 – Difference between Omahas and Cherokees
13:50 – How Taylor found his first ancient seeds
15:55 – How the plants compliment each other, Four Sisters
20:45 – How Sacred Seed has changed Taylor
22:40 – The link between elders and the ancient ways of planting
25:30 – Fall festival
26:45 – Future plans for Sacred Seed
29:20 – Taylor’s changing approach to the project—MBA to Holistic thinking
33:45 – Similarities between Sacred Seed and the reintroduction of bison
36:45 – The fight for sustainable agriculture
37:10 – Meaning of Omaha
38:10 – Where Taylor grew up
39:00 – Taylor’s journey to the Ivy League
41:15 – Biggest surprise when moving east
43:55 – Harvard graduate school and corporate America
45:35 – Taylor’s grandfather’s wise advice
49:25 – Discussing Sebastian Junger’s Tribe
51:00 – Taylor’s thoughts on the importance of tribes
53:50 – Best books for learning about Native American culture
56:45 – Taylor’s advice to his younger self
58:00 – Other favorite books
1:02:50 – Taylor’s request of the audience
1:06:00 – Connect with Taylor online

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016

My 10 Favorite Books of 2016


As you may know, I send out a brief bimonthly email in which I recommend some of the best books I’ve recently read. This year, I recommended 37 books, which is an admittedly ridiculous amount of reading. In an effort to distill it down to a more user-friendly level, here are my top ten favorite books that I read in 2016. The subject matters vary widely, but I wholeheartedly recommend them all.

I kept the descriptions as brief as possible, so click on the monthly list link to view the original email with my full review. To sign up for the future book recommendation emails, follow this link or just send me an email.


Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan – One of my favorite books of all time, and you don’t need to be a surfer to fully appreciate it. A true work of art. (Sep/Oct list)

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger – I think about this book on almost a daily basis, and I believe Junger’s ideas on community and purpose explain many of the societal challenges facing the U.S. today. (Jul/Aug list)

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport – This book reshaped the way I approach my professional and personal projects, and it made me even more skeptical of social media than I had been. (Mar/Apr list)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight – The best business memoir I’ve ever read. (Nov/Dec list)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – Extremely interesting theories on the evolution of humans, and it actually pairs well with Tribe mentioned above. (Jan/Feb list)

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko – Part history of the American West and part western water policy primer, all layered on top of a wild, exciting adventure narrative. (May/Jun list)

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde – I’ve read an absurd number of TR books, so my standards are high—this one not only explores a little known (but super-interesting) part of TR’s life, but it also details the rise of America’s natural history movement. (Jul/Aug list)

Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas – Richard Nixon was a strange, strange, strange man. (Jan/Feb list)

Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O’Brien – Conservation, bison, ranching, regenerative agriculture, emotional memoir, and a natural history lesson all rolled into one book. (Nov/Dec list)

End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K Bourne Jr. – A cautionary examination of what lies ahead if the we can’t figure out a solution to the coming global food crisis, followed hopeful examples of innovators who are attacking the challenge head on. (Sep/Oct list)