To catch the mood of southern Utah, pick up Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, a nonfiction work based on time Abbey spent in Arches National Monument, before it gained national-park status. Zane Grey fans should pick up a copy of Riders of the Purple Sage. Set in southern Utah toward the end of the 19th century, it sheds light on the murky depths of polygamy, and the severe restraints it placed on women.
If you want to read up on the state's fascinating Mormon history you should read No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, by Fawn M. Brodie; The Mormon Hierarchy (two volumes), by D. Michael Quinn; and the controversial Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer.
Those intrigued by the history of the American West will enjoy Pearl Baker's The Wild Bunch at Robbers Roost, about the area in southeastern Utah where Butch Cassidy hung out with the Sundance Kid, among others. A fun publication for film buffs is Where God Put the West: Movie Making in the Desert, by Bette L. Stanton. It describes Hollywood's invasion of southeastern Utah to create those great John Wayne classics. The photos alone make it worth the purchase price.
Speaking of movies, of the hundreds filmed in Utah, the two that say the most about the state are Stagecoach and Wagon Master, black-and-white classics by famed director John Ford. Stagecoach, released in 1939, offers spectacular scenes of Monument Valley, and stars a young John Wayne. Wagon Master, released in 1950 and starring Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, and Ward Bond, was filmed in the Moab area, and tells a fictional but highly entertaining story of a Utah-bound Mormon wagon train. On television recently, the HBO dramatic series Big Love covers the ups and downs of a contemporary polygamist family in the Salt Lake area.
Musically speaking, the biggest acts to ever come out of Utah are the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Osmonds. But Utah's music isn't all so squeaky-clean: There are plenty of music venues in Salt Lake, Ogden, and Moab that offer a wide variety of music, from jazz and rock to country and bluegrass.
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