This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Train Dreams, Denis Johnson
This was a quick little novella that transported me to the early 20th century American West. The book follows Robert Grainier as he traverses the beauty, tragedy, and strangeness of Idaho (and of life in general). Reading it actually felt almost dreamlike in that some of Grainier’s experiences were surreal and somewhat episodic and yet the actual reading was over so quickly. Johnson does a great job of creating robust characters even if they are only present in the story for a few pages. I mentioned earlier in this series that I thought Stegner’s Angle of Repose would be better categorized as Idaho’s book than Colorado’s, and while I still think that is the case (perhaps merely for quantity of description as opposed to quality), Train Dreams was a beautifully written introduction to the land and the people of Idaho at the turn of the century.