Skip navigation

2021 Common Reader

Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living
by Karen Auvinen

Rough Beauty is a memoir that recounts Auvinen’s journey from a restrictive childhood to find her vocation in writing and her connection with the “rough beauty” in the Colorado mountains and among a community of quirky and often contrarian individualists. She chronicles her many transformations along the way: changing her name, moving to an isolated cabin, learning to live with the beautiful but brutal mountain seasons and with the animals around her, forging a place in her unusual community, coming to terms with her family and its history, earning degrees in poetry and literature, becoming a teacher, surviving disasters of fire and flood, and exploring her own evolution through the “forty seasons,” ten years living alone with her dog, Elvis, in her mountain home.

Notable Remarks

Colorado Book Award Finalist

A narrative that reads like a captivating novel. . . . Hers is a voice not found often enough in literature—a woman who eschews the prescribed role outlined for her by her family and discovers her own path. “ — Christian Science Monitor

“There are many books about seasons in the wilderness but this is one about a life in it. . . . Rough Beauty has the power to change lives. It stands as an antidote to the brittle and the electronic, the hurried way we rush through our days.” — David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains

“This breathtaking memoir honors the wildness of the Rockies and shows readers how they might come to rely on their animal companions.” — Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review

A wrenchingly evocative memoir. It is a story of loss, but it is also a story of transformation, of finding shards of hope among the ashes and moving forward with gratitude and grace and courage.” — James Campbell, author of Braving It

OUTSTANDING! [A] beautiful story of resilience perfect for readers of Terry Tempest Williams." — Kirkus, Starred Review

About Karen Auvinen

Karen Auvinen is a poet, mountain woman, lifelong westerner, writer, and the author of the memoir Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living. Her body of work, which examines what it means to live deeply and voluptuously, has appeared in The New York Times, Real Simple, LitHub, and Westword, as well as numerous literary journals. A former Artist-in-Residence for the State of Colorado, Karen is the winner of two Academy of American Poets awards and has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes in fiction. She earned her MA in poetry from the University of Colorado—Boulder, under the mentorship of Lucia Berlin, and went on to earn her PhD in fiction writing from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. Currently, she teaches film, popular culture, and storytelling at the University of Colorado—Boulder.

KarenAuvinen.com

Rougher Beauty Blog

Regents' Common Reader Awards

Chapters can receive $100 for organizing and hosting a local event or activity around the 2021 Common Reader: Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living. Chapter members do not need to attend the convention to apply for a Regents’ Common Reader Award. After the event, chapters simply apply for the award money, following the guidelines posted at english.org. Award applications should be emailed on or before February 15, 2021, to the appropriate Regent. View application guidelines.

Common Reader Convention Awards

Awards of up to $600 will be given at the international convention for critical essays or other genres of work that deal with the common reader. To be eligible, students indicate on the convention submission form that their work is in the common reader category (presentation type).