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Book Reviews – A Compendium of Curious Colorado Place Names

By Jim Flynn
ISBN: 978-1-46713-732-4
The History Press: 2016
$21.99; 186pp, plus index

Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel

Cannibal Plateau. Breckenridge. Westcliffe. Slumgullion Pass. Tin Cup. Saguache. Colorado is chockablock with odd and peculiar place names.

Fortunately, there are numerous books telling the varied tales of how these names came to be. (I own two other such books, myself.) But since so many of these books already exist, and many of us have at least one or two’ why bother with this one? Well, because two qualities distinguish this book from the rest. First, it’s not an alphabetic listing of Colorado place names, it’s divided into chapters. Second, Jim Flynn writes with a simpatico tone and winking sense of humor.

[InContentAdTwo] In his preface, Flynn writes, “Initially, my thought was to put the information I had gathered into something like a travel guide – just an alphabetic list of names. But the good folks at The History Press had a better idea – organize the material into chapters.” These chapters, with their historical background on railroads, Spanish explorations, mountain men and other subjects, separate Compendium from the rest of the pack. At first, I was bothered this book wasn’t laid out like the others; but I’ve become grateful for its place names being grouped by chapters. The chapters give you more bang for your book, providing synoptic overviews of various elements of Colorado’s history, and giving breadth to what could have been yet another arid, encyclopedic inventory of place names. The index alphabetically lists each place name, if you’re searching for a specific one; however, this book is a pleasurable read, cover to cover.

If I were to voice a complaint about this compendium, it’d be the same inevitable one voiced for any such book – there are places I wish were listed, but aren’t. However, at the end of his preface, Flynn tells us, “If you find a name that isn’t in this book and you think it should be (and you know where the name came from), let me know and I’ll include it in the next edition.”

So, yes, even if you already own a teetering tower of books telling the tales of Colorado place names, you will likely still want to have this one. It’s become my go-to for the stories behind the names.