Taos authors launch new books

In new releases, John Nichols and Estelle Laure make connections with nature and people


This week’s books are an unlikely pairing — a nature-oriented memoir and a young adult novel about teen angst. Both local authors will have book events in the near future in Taos.

My Heart Belongs to Nature: A Memoir in Photographs and Prose

Certainly, with his long list of books, it could be said author John Nichols has his way with words. In this volume, we also learn he’s a skilled photographer and a bit of a nut about nature.

Nichols was inspired early on by his naturalist father and grandfather, who he accompanied in the field. He writes of the wonder of finding creatures and witnessing the weather.

“Through snowflakes floating earthward in quiet air I walked, euphoric and at one with the biology that sustains us. It’s a rare privilege for any person to feel that whole.”

At age 29, Nichols, the author of two published novels, left New York City for Taos, where he, his then-wife and son lived in “a ramshackle adobe” near the natural wonders of the high desert.

Nichols, now in his mid-70s, writes about his experiences in nature, such as learning to fly-fish, observing animals and hiking the inspiring landscape of Northern New Mexico.

“About twice a week I trudged above timberline near our town, picking my way through wide boulder fields, and up tundra slopes, and along jagged ridgelines near thirteen thousand feet where mountaintops stretched away in all directions for twenty, fifty, even a hundred miles.

“That world became a drug for me.”

The book’s 9-inch-by-12-inch glossy pages offer an appropriate canvas for Nichols’ 108 color photographs.

Many contain the animals he encountered. Others show family members, friends and Nichols enjoying the great outdoors. There are dramatic images of the earth and sky.

The captions are meaty and proselike. Here is short one: “A dead juniper tree on Tres Orejas Mountain. If I keep staring at the tree, I grow dreamy from appreciation. A jagged ferocity defines its marvelous branches. ‘And death shall have no dominion.’”

Nichols will have a book reading and signing Saturday, April 1, 4 p.m. at Brodksy Bookshop, 226 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

Published by the University of New Mexico Press, “My Heart Belongs to Nature” is a 160-page hardcover that costs $29.95.

But Then I Came Back

Fans of “This Raging Light,” author Estelle Laure’s debut novel, will recognize the cast of characters in her new novel, but Eden Jones tells the story this time.

Eden is one bummed teenager from New Jersey. A promising dancer, her shot at impressing the Bolshoi Ballet was a disappointment.

So what does this 17-year-old girl do? She brings a bottle of tequila to a river. She meets up with her friend, whose name is Lucille, there during an overhyped super moon no less. She and Lucille, who dates Eden’s twin brother, have been on the outs lately. But in a split second, Eden’s life changes when she slips on ice, bashes her head and falls into the river.

The near-fatal accident thrusts her into a coma.

Eden’s prognosis is poor at the start, but she recovers slowly. She eventually returns to her home and her buds. But it’s just not the same.

For instance, Eden tells her therapist how making lists was a hopeful thing from her past.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl who had her whole life plotted out in lists. There were short lists and long lists, ones in cursive and illustrated ones, too. They were on pads of paper and napkins, on shoeboxes and toilet paper rolls and sometimes on the soles of her shoes. Lists about wall colors in future apartments and college auditions. Budgets were made, detailing the potential costs of living in New York City. There were graphs. Ambition lists. Organizational lists. Aspirational lists.

“Then she fell and hit her head.

“The end.”

After returning to the conscious world, the two people Eden connects best with are Jasmine, another coma patient, and a friend named Joe. This is where the story takes an interesting twist.

Unlike Eden, Jasmine’s chances of survival are zero. Unlike Eden’s comfortable suburban life, Jasmine’s was marked by tragedy before her accident.

I’m not going to reveal more of the storyline, but Eden develops a strong psychic bond with Jasmine that eventually sets them both free. Oh, there’s teen romance with Joe.

Admittedly, I am not part of the target readership for this novel. But I admire how Laure created a complex and realistic character in Eden, one who would certainly appeal to young adult readers.

Laure will have a book reading and signing April 8, 2 p.m. at Op. Cit. Books, 124-A Bent St., in the John Dunn Shops. For more on the author, watch the exclusive The Taos News video interview with her at,39615

“But Then I Came Back,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, is a 320-page hardcover selling for $17.99.

Joan Livingston is a writer and a reader living in Ranchos de Taos. For more information, visit