Wednesday, February 18, 2015

George Sibley's "Dragons in Paradise (Plus)" Explores Life "On the Edge in the Mountain West"





            In a departure from fiction and biography, Raspberry Creek Books has published a book of essays by long-time Coloradan George Sibley.

Those who think they want to escape the busyness of their contemporary lives to find peace and tranquility in a mountain valley might want to read Dragons in Paradise (Plus) before making that final decision.

Sibley moved to the Colorado mountains from Pittsburgh, PA, in the 1960s and discusses many aspects of mountain living, good and not so good, in 20 essays.

He asks, is “living a simple life” even possible (or responsible) these days? He explores the difference between “place” and “property” and wonders if it is heresy for a Historical District to recycle the past to create the future.  Sibley considers his own evolution from “ski bum” to a member of a community’s “economic development” committee and recounts how he came to admire a man he termed “a hardbitten, self-proclaimed hippie-hating anti-environmentalist.” 

Dragons in Paradise was initially published in 2004 by Mountain Gazette Publishing. This new edition – Dragons in Paradise (Plus) – has now been published by Raspberry Creek Books of Gunnison. It includes a few of the (updated) original essays and features many new ones.

The book is available at local and area bookstores and other retail outlets or it may be ordered from the publisher at It is also available on and other online sites.

John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War and The Magic Journey calls Sibley’s essays fun, important and insightful. “They are a wonderful history of this part of the West,” he says. “Ed Abbey, it’s time to pop another top: let’s welcome this new sheriff to town.”    

Ed Marston, publisher emeritus of The High Country News, agrees. “George is driven by the desire to understand the world,” he says, “to explain that world to people who may be interested, and to improve the world in light of that understanding. In that sense, he’s an idealist.”

Sibley’s most recent major work was Water Wranglers, a commissioned history of the Colorado River District and the development of Colorado’s share of the Colorado River, published in 2012. He is also the author of Part of a Winter (1977, Crown Publishing), a collection of essays about life in the Colorado Rockies.  He has also written numerous essays and articles that appeared in nationally distributed publications (Harper’s Magazine, Technology Illustrated, High Country News, New Age Journal and Old West), and in regional publications like Colorado Central and  Mountain Gazette. A list of his essays and other writings is available at

            “For the past four decades,” Sibley writes, “I've lived in a real estate development called ‘Colorado.’ Colorado has been a real estate development from the start back in the 1850s: four straight lines laid down on a map … unnatural laser lines attached not to geography but to the abstract concept of property, subdivisible with liberty and licenses for all.”

            With humor and insightfulness, Sibley explores life in the mountain West from the perspective of one who decades ago made it his home and committed himself to a fuller understanding of this part of the country. At the same time he became a full participant in efforts to improve life in the communities of which he was a part. The essays in Dragons in Paradise (Plus) recount his journey.

            The book is dedicated “To the mountains and valleys and those who love them” and it is subtitled “Life on the Edge in the Mountain West.”      

            He writes: “I came to the mountains to ski, but somewhere along the line, the mountains came to me.”

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