Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Going to Extremes” as Want to Read:
Going to Extremes
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Going to Extremes

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  243 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews

This is the fourth edition of a work that always has been controversial in Alaska. Yet, it is an important and highly readable classic work that captures a portrait frozen in time of a raw state in turmoil during the oil boom. McGinnis went north to find out if there was anything left of the "last frontier." He found "mind-bending contradictions," as a previous publisher p

Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 30th 1989 by Plume (first published 1980)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Going to Extremes, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Going to Extremes

The Call of the Wild by Jack LondonInto the Wild by Jon KrakauerWhite Fang by Jack LondonAlaska and Back by Dorothy May MercerAlaska by James A. Michener
Alaska Tales
17th out of 201 books — 186 voters
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-MoonThe Pine Barrens by John McPheeCoasting by Jonathan RabanThe Kingdom by the Sea by Paul TherouxBrazilian Adventure by Peter  Fleming
Best Book Pairs
8th out of 8 books — 1 voter

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 447)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Steven Z.
Jul 05, 2016 Steven Z. rated it liked it
Recently I was in a bookstore in Anchorage, Alaska and came across a book by Joe McGinniss entitled, GOING TO EXTREMES. Having read his THE SELLING OF THE PRESIDENT 1968 about the attempt to repackage Richard Nixon for the 1968 presidential campaign, and CRUEL DOUBT which centers on a society murder in a small North Carolina town in 1988, I was intrigued. After reading the introduction to the new edition written in 2010, as the original was published in 1981, I learned that McGinniss had thanked ...more
Apr 06, 2016 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The mysterious wild land of Alaska and its potential transformation as a result of the new Trans Alaska Pipeline drew two accomplished journalist/explorers in the mid-1970s to experience as much of it as they could. John McPhee, New Jersey native, gave us “Coming into the Country,” published in 1977, and Joe McGinniss, Massachussetts man, wrote “Going to Extremes,” after touring Alaska in 1975, though the book wasn’t published until 1980. I’m writing one review to cover both of them.

Coming into
Jun 26, 2011 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Alaska
Recommended to Cheryl by: Harvey on Good Reads
I found this book through a GoodReads recommendation request looking for books to read while on a recent cruise through Alaska's inside passage
(which was sadly cut short due to family illness), and it was great read. Going to Extremes was published in 1980, but as many reviewers here and elsewhere have pointed out, the book holds up well. I can't speak for it's accuracy since I barely saw much of Alaska, but the book and it's vivid descriptions of people and places there, and it's perspective of
Jan 07, 2012 Dirk rated it it was ok
This book was cheap and confused.

It was cheap because McGuiness writes so deprecatingly about so many of his subjects. He belittles them not for the sake of an argument, but rather to make the reader believe that they are in on some secret, or to show his own cleverness. He has a nose for scandal without any idea of the weight of his judgement--only the thrill of reading a torrid anecdote matters in his tale.

The story is confused because no coherent idea ties the book together. McGuiness flies t
Jan 10, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This is some very good Alaskan airchair travel. I've been really disappointed in this winter's snow output (much like last year), and so I've been reading books about Alaska (much like last year). I want to wake up and not be able to open the door b/c of all the snow. Wouldn't that be cool??? I loved reading Joe McGinniss's version of Alsaka, circa 1980, with the fresh pipeline and all the money rolling around and no place to go. My favorite chapters were Barrow (of course--sun sets on Nov.18 an ...more
Nov 11, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
it has been said of Alaskans "The Odds are good and the Goods are odd" - I think that this book meets that expectation in its characters. If you follow the last chapter, and the hallowed valley they found, you will find on Google Earth that it is now despoiled by overnight campers
Jul 25, 2011 Dan rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I found this book to be a worthy companion to John McPhee's Coming into the Country. Some overlap, but between the two, you get a pretty rounded idea of Alaska at the time. McGinniss isn't as good a writer, and gets a little repetitve on occasion, but overall, I liked the tone of the book. Wild stories, funny stories. He isn't as PC as some might hope, nor does he over-romanticize, mostly he just lets people speak for themselves, which is all it really takes. The book doesn't give off an overly ...more
Dec 27, 2013 Adrian added it
Plucked from my shelves because I was waiting for a library book I bought this in 1989. It's the author's experiences travelling in Alaska. He covers much territory including all the major cities, glaciers and mountains. He experiences frigid winters and terrific summers. The state attracts an independent caste of people not all lovable and the debate between those favouring development vs. those who are naturists is in full swing. McGinniss spends four days alone in a cabin in the wilderness to ...more
Dec 01, 2013 Nick rated it really liked it
Reading this non-fiction from decades ago, I wonder what has changed, what I'd find if I went on a similar trip now. While the "story" of this book wasn't really much (I went here, then I went here, then I went here), McGinniss provides vivid and detailed descriptions that make this book very easy and exciting to read. The Alaskan wilderness, of course, sounds beyond everything I know about the outdoors (hopefully this is still the case!). This book was set in a time when oil pipeline developmen ...more
Dec 28, 2007 Greg rated it liked it
Part travel diary, history, environmentalism, and current events in Alaska. Focuses a lot on the natural beauty and his adventures from almost every region of the state (even made it up to Barrow). It is more like an anthropological study of “Alaskans.” McGinniss obviously does have a slant against the oil companies and what he sees as the development and environmental destruction of Alaska, which in part is true. But again he fails to mention his own complicity in this “destruction” (or our own ...more
Bob Rehfeld
Jan 02, 2016 Bob Rehfeld rated it liked it
McGinnis does his best to describe all the worst of Alaska. After awhile it becomes irrelevant.
Ed Homenick
Jun 13, 2016 Ed Homenick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this years ago and loved it. A true and real look at life in Alaska, a place I lived for a year...
Nov 08, 2008 Fishercat rated it really liked it
This is one of my favorite books of all time, one of the few I keep. Except I have to keep buying new copies because I lend it to people and they never give it back..
Travel around Alaska - I must say a lot of it doesn't make me really want to go there - the account of the evening spent in Barrow sitting around in the dark with people who are getting drunker and more argumentative while they wait for the moose steaks to defrost enough to have dinner m always make me extremely grateful to be where
Jan 04, 2015 Ann rated it liked it
I liked it.
Aarin Wright
Feb 05, 2015 Aarin Wright rated it really liked it
A friend lent me this book while I was abroad, and I read it on my morning commutes from home to class. While it took me a little bit to get into it, I overall loved reading about the harshness and beauty of Alaska, a place I never thought I would have the desire to visit. But I don't know, after this book, my interest is piqued. The writing was very straightforward, but the depictions of scenery were incredible. I recommend it to anyone who's interested in stepping into some non-fiction reading ...more
Mar 19, 2014 Linda added it
This was a great book about Alaska. It opened my eyes to how important it is to preserve such a beautiful land.
Mar 13, 2012 Denise rated it really liked it
Re-reading this classic. After having visited a few parts of SE Alaska last summer, reading it now puts it in a new light for me. Also, he mentions Wasilla (now known as S. Palin's hometown)as an uninteresting, booming suburb of Anchorage (this is circa 1978 when he visits).

Would be interesting to have author go back to each village/city today and see how the Internet has changed the isolation...
Feb 07, 2014 Kari rated it really liked it
McGinniss visits and immerses himself in the life of Alaska's towns, territories and people. Fascinating and a contrast to current reality TV series about Alaskan lifestyles. the final chapter on the Brooks Range was my favorite. Pervasive alcoholism, cold and lack of resources in many villages were common factors in 1980 when this was written, as the oil industry was growing in the state.
Sep 13, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it
This book has long been on my to-read list, and I finally picked up a copy of it on my recent trip to Alaska. It offers a fascinating view of Alaska in the 1970s. Even though the state has changed immeasurably since then, it's still a fantastic wilderness. I can't wait to go back.
Jan 16, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have ever read. If I could afford to, I would buy one for everyone and hand them out. Wonderful account of Alaska as the oil boom is taking over. Great vignettes of everyday people. Believable descriptions of landscapes and weather...Loved it.
Lisa Vegan
May 30, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Alaska
For some reason, I remember liking this book more than all the others I read in preparation for a trip to Alaska that I took in 1983. It really got me in the mood and gave me a good sense of the the place, even though I was going to only a small corner of the state.
Jan 05, 2010 Leigh rated it liked it
I had a great time reading this since it is an account of Alaska at the time my parents were living there, just before my brother and I were born. A great read for anyone who has ever been to Alaska or been intrigued by the idea of Alaska.
Stacie S.
Apr 09, 2013 Stacie S. rated it really liked it
Have re-read this book several times. The people and situations seem parallel to some of my Alaska experiences when I worked in salmon canneries and the tourist trade. In the summers of 1982-85. I miss my buddy Paul..
Dec 14, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it
i read this when i went to alaska on vacation. the alaska mcginniss describes is pretty different from the alaska of today, but he's a very engaging writer, and his stories are highly entertaining.
Mar 26, 2012 Henry rated it really liked it
This book is actually very good. It is about a man who wanted to see what Alaska is really like. It covers his exploits in the capital with the locals and in the frozen small villages.
Aug 02, 2010 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book first quite a few years ago. After going on vacation to Alaska this summer, I re-read the book and really enjoyed reading about the places I visited.
May 10, 2008 Beverly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Probably dated but one of the best discussions of living in Alaska that I have found, squelching whatever desires I had to live there....
Mar 03, 2011 Scott rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable. If you liked Coming Into The Country by McPhee then you will like this, and vice versa.
Nov 30, 2008 Sonja rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, having lived in AK from 1961 to 1997. Good writing.
Feb 25, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it
Joe McGuiness is annoying for other reasons but this is a fascinating book about Alaska!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 14 15 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • I Should Have Stayed Home: The Worst Trips of Great Writers
  • An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America's Future
  • Sea Change: Alone Across the Atlantic in a Wooden Boat
  • Travelers' Tales India: True Stories
  • I See by My Outfit
  • The People's Guide to Mexico
  • The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey
  • A Life on the Road
  • The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime
  • The Secret Life of the Seine
  • As Far As You Can Go Without A Passport: The View From The End Of The Road
  • Trawler: A Journey Through the North Atlantic
  • The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2
  • Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales
  • The Portable Mark Twain
  • Family of Spies
  • The Powwow Highway
  • A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia
Joe McGinniss (born 1942) is an American author of nonfiction and novels. He first came to prominence with the best-selling The Selling of the President 1968 which described the marketing of then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and has authored 11 works since that time. His latest book is The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.
More about Joe McGinniss...

Share This Book