University of Arizona Press, 2014
Paperback, 384 pages, $19.95
It seemed like a simple plan—visit fifty-two places in fifty-two weeks. But for author Ken Lamberton, a forty-five-year veteran of life in the Sonoran Desert, the entertaining results were anything but easy. In Chasing Arizona, Lamberton takes readers on a yearlong, twenty-thousand-mile joyride across Arizona during its centennial, racking up more than two hundred points of interest along the way. In the vivid, lyrical, often humorous prose the author is known for, each destination weaves together stories of history, nature, and people, along with entertaining side adventures and excursions. Through intimate portrayals of people and place, readers deeply experience the Grand Canyon State and at the same time celebrate what makes Arizona a wonderful place to visit and live.
Bridging the Borders of Wildness
University of Arizona Press, 2011
Paperback, 86 pages, $12.95
For many, these mountains represent the Apache stronghold of Geronimo. For others, they are a birdwatcher's paradise. But the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona are more than this. On a journey undertaken in search of a pair of rare short-tailed hawks, Ken Lamberton takes readers on an excursion through these mountains, from their riparian canyons to their highest peaks. The Chiricahuas comprise the largest single range in southern Arizona, crisscrossed by more than 300 miles of trails. Lamberton is your guide along these trails, and his knowledge of the mountains and their natural history makes him a perfect hiking companion while Jeff Garton's stunning photographs enrich your visit. Lamberton shares insights about the geology, habitats, and diversity of wildlife in a place of such isolation that species must either adapt or become extinct. Gracing the text are more than a dozen black-and-white photographs by Jeff Garton that offer views of the Chiricahuas different from those usually found in tourist brochures: landscapes and riparian settings, rock formations and plant studies that give readers a lasting impression of the beauty and tranquility of this wilderness. Together words and images convey an intimate view of one of the Southwest's most exotic locations—stronghold, paradise, and everlasting island in the vast and rolling desert.
Time of Grace
Thoughts on Nature, Family, and the Politics of Crime and Punishment
University of Arizona Press, 2007
Paperback, 208 pages, $19.95
Ken Lamberton reflects on human relations as they mimic and defy those of the natural world, whose rhythms calibrate Lamberton's days and years behind bars. He writes with candor about his life while observing desert flora and fauna with the insight and enthusiasm of a professional naturalist. While he studies a tarantula digging her way out of the packed earth and observes Mexican freetail bats sailing into the evening sky, Lamberton ruminates on his crime and on the wrenching effects it has had on his wife and three daughters. He writes of his connections with his fellow inmates—some of whom he teaches in prison classes—and with the guards who control them, sometimes with inexplicable cruelty. And he unflinchingly describes a prison system that has gone horribly wrong—a system entrapped in a self-created web of secrecy, fear, and lies.
This is the final book of Lamberton's trilogy about the twelve years he spent in prison. Readers of his earlier books will savor this last volume. Those who are only now discovering Lamberton's distinctive voice—part poet, part scientist, part teacher, and always deeply, achingly human—will feel as if they are making a new friend. Gripping, sobering, and beautifully written, Lamberton's memoir is an unforgettable exploration of crime, punishment, and the power of the human spirit.
Beyond Desert Walls
Essays from Prison
University of Arizona Press, 2005
Paperback, 133 pages, $17.95
For some people, even prison cannot shut out the natural world. A teacher and family man incarcerated in Arizona State Prison—the result of a transgression that would cost him a dozen years of his life—Ken Lamberton can see beyond his desert walls. In essays that focus on the natural history of the region and on his own personal experiences with desert places, the author of the Burroughs Medal-winning book Wilderness and Razor Wire takes readers along as he revisits the Southwest he knew when he was free, and as he makes an inner journey toward self-awareness. Ranging from prehistoric ruins on the Colorado Plateau to the shores of the Sea of Cortez, these writings were begun before Wilderness and Razor Wire and serve as a prequel to it. They seamlessly interweave natural and personal history as Lamberton explores caves, canyons, and dry ponds, evoking the mysteries and rhythms of desert life that elude even the most careful observers. He offers new ways of thinking about how we relate to the natural world, and about the links between those relationships and the ones we forge with other people. With the assurance of a gifted writer, he seeks to make sense of his own place in life, crafting words to come to terms with an insanity of his own making, to look inside himself and understand his passions and flaws. Whether considering rattlesnakes of the hellish summer desert or the fellow inmates of his own personal hell, Lamberton finds meaningful connections—to his crime and his place, to the people who remained in his life and those who didn't. But what he reveals in Beyond Desert Walls ultimately arises from language itself: a deep, and perhaps even frightening, understanding of a singular human nature.
Wilderness and Razor Wire
A Naturalist's observations from Prison
Mercury House, 1999
Paperback, 240 pages, $14.95
[out of print]
"Wilderness and Razorwire is what nature writing can be, at its finest: a courageous and eloquent exploration of what nature teaches us about how to be human." - Susan Tweit
"Lamberton has written something entirely original: an edgy, ferocious, subtly complex collection of essays on the nature of freedom and the freedom of nature, whose true subject, and greatest accomplishment, may be its own narrative voice." - Mark Slouka, San Francisco Chronicle
"This is a moving and troubling book that redefines 'sense of place' as a way of seeing and valuing where one is, rather than as coordinates on a green map... a remarkable and significant work." - Alison Hawthorne Deming
"Lamberton's measured and exemplary prose follows the interactions among prisoners, their built environments, and the birds and plants they encounter there, tracing connections disturbing and consoling, ecological and metaphorical..." - Publishers Weekly
2015 Southwest Book of the Year
one man's obsession with the grand canyon state
2002 john burroughs metal for nature writing
Stories of Life, Death, and Redemption
on the Santa Cruz
University of Arizona Press, 2011
Paperback, 288 pages, $24.95
Lamberton takes us on a trek across the land of three nations—the United States, Mexico, and the Tohono O'odham Nation—as he hikes the river's path from its source and introduces us to people who draw identity from the river—dedicated professionals, hardworking locals, and the author's own family. These people each have their own stories of the river and its effect on their lives, and their narratives add immeasurable richness and depth to Lamberton's own astute observations and picturesque descriptions. Unlike books that detail only the Santa Cruz's decline, Dry River offers a more balanced, at times even optimistic, view of the river that ignites hope for reclamation and offers a call to action rather than indulging in despair and resignation. At once a fascinating cultural history lesson and an important reminder that learning from the past can help us fix what we have damaged, Dry River is both a story about the amazing complexity of this troubled desert waterway and a celebration of one man's lifelong journey with the people and places touched by it.