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Vesto Review

Requiem for America’s Best Idea at Left Bank Books

Michael J. Yochim’s friends and family celebrate his life and last work

Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri, hosted a virtual event with the friends and family of author Michael J. Yochim, celebrating his life and posthumously published Requiem for America’s Best Idea: National Parks in the Era of Climate Change. The book establishes a unique parallel between Yochim’s personal struggle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the impact climate change is having on the national parks — the treasured wilderness that he loved and to which he dedicated his life. The event was co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies program at Washington University, National Parks Conservation Association, and the St. Louis Regional Chapter of the ALS Association.

“One of the points that Mike made in the book…is that he was affected by a terminal disease and he could not stop it; the parks are threatened by a terminal disease but we could stop it.” -William Lowry

William Lowry, who wrote the forward to the book, moderated a discussion between Jim Yochim, Brian Yochim, Dr. Eric Compas, and Michelle Reynolds Gray — with Michael’s parents in attendance — as they reminisced about the incredible life that Michael led: his passion for the national parks, accompanying him on long hiking journeys with his famous backcountry cooking, and the way he navigated his ALS diagnosis. Once the effects of the disease took away his mobility, he wrote his last book using only eye-tracking software with remarkable and unwavering dedication. Viewers asked the panel questions about their favorite parts of the book, what Michael’s advice might be on wilderness stewardship, and actions he would want us to take in order to protect our national parks.

“Not only was his writing beautiful, but the cognitive challenge of holding on to these thoughts while slowly typing out each letter was an amazing accomplishment in itself” — Brian Yochim

Requiem for America’s Best Idea has received positive reviews in High Country News, Library Journal, and Foreword Reviews.

“There seemed to be a different urgency with this book…He knew his time was coming to an end but I also think he just knew this was such an important book; he just wanted to get it finished…and have something for future generations.” -Michelle Reynolds Gray



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