Flatiron Books: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear

Humans have long feared bears. But in Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear, former rancher Bryce Andrews (Badluck Way) explains why bears should be afraid of us. This beautifully written story begins with a look at Andrews's ranching days near the mountains in Montana. Raising cattle in bear country, he'd seen his fair share of grizzlies. "Such encounters were commonplace," he writes. "Bears left tracks in mud and snow, and I learned to be cautious."

His love for all animals, wild and domesticated, set him on a new career path, and today he works with the conservation group People and Carnivores. It was as a rep for that group that Andrews decided to ask farmer Greg Schock if he could try building an electric fence around his corn field to keep out bears. More than a dozen grizzlies were getting into that corn in late summer, destroying a good part of the crop--a scenario that put both the farm workers and the bears at risk of hurting each other.

As the book unfolds, it becomes much more than a tale about an ex-rancher building a fence. It's a meditation on the meaning of wildlife, the threat of human development, and the transformation of the American West. Intertwined is a story about Millie, a grizzly mother with two cubs who has a fatal run-in with a human. Well observed and deeply moving, Down from the Mountain is one of the finest works of nature writing in recent memory. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor