.by Anura Guruge
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To say that I am a slavishly devoted fan of Irving Stone does not still adequately capture my deep emotional connection with this magical author’s writings.
Two of my all time favorite books are by Irving: ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy‘ (Michelangelo) & ‘The Origin‘ (Charles Darwin). Both these books made such an impact on me that I could even claim that they were life influencing.
Ditto with ‘Men to Match My Mountains‘. As with books by John Irving (funny that two of my most favorite authors are both ‘Irving’), James Michener et. al. I pick up any Irving Stone books that I encounter. So I know that I have had this book for over 15 years! I was always waiting for the right time to read it. I had read Michener’s ‘Centennial‘, about Colorado, earlier in the year. Since I did not grow up in the U.S. my knowledge of U.S. history has huge gaping gaps. I really had no idea as to the history of Colorado and was fascinated by Michener’s incomparably related narrative. I wanted to learn more. So I knew that it was getting time to read ‘Men to Match my Mountains’. I started reading it, appropriately, during our April trip to the Grand Canyon (though this book only deals with California, Nevada, Colorado & Utah).
The book is mind blowing. I learnt so much. So many characters. So many well known names, Stanford, Huntington, Fremont etc. that I was not aware of the backgrounds. I never realized the epic adventure of building the ‘Central Pacific Railroad‘. Though I have a fairly good collection of books on trains I was devastated to realize I really didn’t have any decent books on the building of this railway. That has been rectified. I bought two books. I had never heard of Hubert Howe Bancroft. I can sure relate to him.
So this book was, yet again, as with the other two Stone books, life altering for me. I now have an appreciation, tentative as it may be, as to how the Far West came to be — and cowboys really don’t play a big part in that.
If you are interested in the history of the Far West you can’t go far wrong by starting with this book. Obviously, Irving does not need endorsements from me. He is a true legend. I am, yet again, in his debt.