Books we love: Wilderness, adventure and history

Every night before bed, I try and get some reading time in. Even if it’s five minutes.
Generally I read nonfiction, although I do make exceptions for Cormac McCarthy,
Sherman Alexie, and author friends. I tend toward books of outdoor adventures,
usually set in cold weather.

Although not a rock climber myself, I love books about climbing expeditions. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson is one. Of course, there’s Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. And the lesser-known Forever on the Mountain by James Tabor. This one’s about a 1967 ascent of Denali in Alaska. Tabor was on the expedition. Things went horribly wrong. Not only is the story good (and tragic), the book also discusses how climbing is different today than it used to be, which I found interesting. I also really enjoyed Dark Summit by Nick Heil. Like Into Thin Air, it’s about an expedition up Everest, albeit a different year. Like Forever on the Mountain, Dark Summit gets into issues behind climbing: the complex relationship between Sherpas and Western climbers, the commercialization of Everest and the impact of that, and how technology has changed climbing.

In keeping with the theme of cold, I also read a fair amount of books set in Alaska. I did trailwork there over a season, so it’s a place dear to me. My go-to Alaska book is Tisha by Robert Sprecht; it’s the true story of a schoolteacher in rural Alaska in the 1920s (my husband laughs at me because I’ve read it at least a dozen times. But each time is a different experience). I also relish Yukon Alone by John Balzar, about an annual sled dog race that runs from Whitehorse, YT, to Fairbanks in February.

Extreme Conditions by John Strohmeyer provides a good history of oil and politics in Alaska. On the somewhat lighter side, I like Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke’s One Man’s Wilderness (sometimes aired on PBS as Alone in the Wilderness). The book is mainly a series of Proenneke’s journal entries on building a cabin in remote Alaska and living alone in rhythm with the land for years. I found it a simple and calming read.

Happy reading!

 

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