Friday, August 19, 2011

30 More Days Book Challenge: Day 10

Day 10: Let the wild rumpus start!  Our favorite adventure books!

Gianna, who decided to pick every single book ever shelved in that section because she knows that I always list her selection first and now I'm wondering what the hell I'm going to write about:

I really think a person could have a normal life if the only education s/he ever received was gleaned from adventure books. I really think you would be okay. [No you would not.  You'd die at a Target during December.] They pretty much cover everything. Plus you would be a huge hit at parties with tales of dismemberment, cannibalism, and lots of death. [So that's why people love me--the dismemberment!]Personally after I read a good adventure book, I wont shut up about it.

The last really good adventure book I got my hands on was Blind Descent by James Tabor. This book follows two premier cave diving teams as they race to find the deepest cave. It is absolutely captivating and frankly I still can’t stop talking about it. [That is true.  Ask her about the roaches.] Cave exploring is oh so dangerous and scary and gross. For reals gross, not icky gross. There are so many ways to die cave exploring – none of them pretty--but let's just say if I had to choose I would hope to get electrocuted because that sounds like the fastest. Also please note that starvation is among the ways to die, which means your ass either got lost or stuck. Literally stuck.

A few of my other favorite adventure books:

Travels in West Africa by Mary Kingsley. I don’t know who recommended this book to me, but it was several years ago but I actually just came across it last year. I get it now, it really is fantastic and fun. [Richard Bausch wrote a great novel about Mary Kingsley called Hello to the Cannibals, which was my introduction to Mary Kingsley.  She's a bad ass.  Love her.]

Those of you who know me will agree that if there is a story of cannibalism, possible cannibalism or even hinted of cannibalism….I am sold. Alive by Piers Paul Read is a classic in this genre. It is the story of an airplane crash in the Chilean Andes in 1972. The plane was carrying the Uruguayan rugby team; 16 survived the crash and the 2 and a half months in the mountains….guess what they ate? [Andean Mountain chicken?] If you haven’t read adventure this book is a really great first read. [Also works as a cookbook.]

I don’t know if this is really considered an adventure book but I think it is and I never really get to make decisions like this, so for today, at least, Out of Africa makes this list. Anyone who is a lover of the written word should read this – it is beautiful. And you know what…that movie ain’t too bad to look at either. [Mmmm....Robert Redford in safari gear.....]

My favorite adventure book was actually an easy pick for me. It has everything that an adventure book should have. History, drama, death, thrills, more death, danger, near death, great writing and then a dude that gets mistaken as dead which is like a cherry on top. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is just stunning. This book chronicles a climbing season in 1996 when 12 people died attempting to climb Everest. There is so much packed into this book that I don’t even know where to begin but I will say this; I read this book over a decade ago, and I truly still think about it all the time. I think about how some wealthy people have an outrageous sense of entitlement, I think about the poor Sherpas who have to save, clean up after, and risk their own lives because of these fricken yahoos. When you look at photographs of Everest and see how polluted it is, well, it's just sickening. Krakauer manages to get so much into this book, you may just feel like you climb a bit of Everest yourself. [I agree--one of the best books I've ever read, and the audio version is terrific too.]

Some other favorite climbing books are:

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. This is a book about two climbers--Joe the author, and Simon. They were descending a mountain alpine style (tied together) when Simon fell and broke his leg, this led to many horrible things and at one point Simon was hanging off a cliff and Joe was on top trying to pull him back up… but the snow beneath was starting to give – Joe had to make a decision in order to survive – he cut the rope. Bye bye buddy. Joe made it back to base camp then home. Oh, it took many days but guess what? Yea, Simon made it back to camp too…he survived falling into a crevasse and walked, hopped, crawled several miles to camp with a broken leg. How awkward was that for Joe when he gets a call that his bestie survived? Pretty awkward. [This story was also made into a great documentary.]

K2: The Savage Mountain by Charles Houston and Robert Bates. K2 is not as high as Everest but more difficult. I think it has a higher body count.

K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain and No Shortcuts to the Top both by Ed Viesters (who by the way was at Everest in 1996 - he saved several people).

Maybe it's not even adventure that I like, but just a high body count?


I used to run when I played basketball in high school, but there was a point to that: the complete humiliation of short girls who had no business being within twenty feet of the basket.  There is no better fully-clothed thrill than smacking a basketball into the face of some 5'3" point guard and then cackling like a lunatic.  That is pure bliss.  My point, though, is that I need a focus in order to run.  On the other hand, there are loonies who run for fun...and run....and run..... Ultra-marathoners are insane, but the book about them, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, is terrific.  The intrepid author explores the characters who enjoy running a hundred miles in a weekend, and he chronicles the greatest long distance race ever, through the Copper Canyons in Mexico.  I love this book.

On a different note, there's a little travel narrative that has been stuck in my head for a decade, a book I think about perhaps too often.  A.L. Kennedy is one of those super-talented writers that not enough people read, particularly in the US.  She was given a magazine assignment to cover a bullfighting match in Spain.  What followed, though, was an exploration of Spanish culture and the ambiguities surrounding bullfighting as a sport.  Along with her exploration of the life-and-death battles in the ring, Kennedy takes her own internal journey, a moving rumination of on her struggle with depression.  On Bullfighting isn't a long book, but it's one that packs history, adventure, self-discovery, tragedy, and moral complexity into every single page.

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