Lucas Bessire’s Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains is named a 2021 National Book Award Finalist

Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains by Lucas Bessire has been named as a Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Nonfiction, announced today by the National Book Foundation. There are twenty-five Finalists for the Award, including five for Nonfiction. Winners will be announced during an online ceremony on November 17.

An intimate reckoning with aquifer depletion in Americas heartland, Running Out follows anthropologist Lucas Bessire through his native western Kansas, where five generations of his family have lived, ranched, and farmed. At the center of Bessire’s urgent, lyrical account is the Ogallala aquifer, which has nourished the American Great Plains for millennia but which has, after a century of unsustainable irrigation farming, been taxed beyond repair. Searching for water across the drying High Plains, Bessire brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster and one of the defining planetary crises of our time.

Described as “haunting” (New York Times); “an intimate meditation on complicity and responsibility” (Lauren Groff); and “beautiful … and wholly original” (Rivka Galchen); Running Out is a revelatory account of environmental change, loss, family and what it means to find your way back home.

Read more about Running Out in the New York Times’ Climate Fwd newsletter.

About the Author

Lucas Bessire is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life.

Listen to Lucas Bessire discuss the water crisis on the High Plains on the PUP Ideas Podcast