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

Going to Extremes

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  192 ratings  ·  29 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
14th out of 167 books — 141 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 314)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jan 10, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Jun 26, 2011 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
Jul 25, 2011 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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...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.
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...
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.
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.
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 5 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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 5 of 5 stars
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....
Really enjoyable. If you liked Coming Into The Country by McPhee then you will like this, and vice versa.
I really enjoyed this book, having lived in AK from 1961 to 1997. Good writing.
Joe McGuiness is annoying for other reasons but this is a fascinating book about Alaska!
Chess via Email
The book was full of interesting stuff, but I didn't really like the author/narrator.

Randy Ball
Great story! Inspired both of my travels to Alaska.
May 17, 2013 Peter added it
A must companion to Alaska travle
Rena Maryann
extremely hilarious...
Really liked it!!
A fascinating portrait of Alaska in the mid 1970's, not covering the Alaskan pipeline boom so much as focusing on individual stories of how the pipeline boom changed their lives. The book is a compilation, so if you only read a chapter or two, I would recommend the chapters on the Brooks Range, Nome, and Barrow.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • An Empire Wilderness: Travels Into America's Future
  • I See by My Outfit
  • A Life on the Road
  • The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime
  • The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2
  • Trawler: A Journey Through the North Atlantic
  • The Size of the World
  • American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders
  • Fastnet, Force 10: The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing
  • Metal Cowboy: Tales from the Road Less Pedaled
  • Fresh Air Fiend: Travel Writings
  • AA Gill is Away
  • Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World
  • Rules, Britannia: An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom
  • Coming into the Country
  • My Old Man and the Sea
  • Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana Through India
  • Bad Land: An American Romance
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...
Fatal Vision Blind Faith The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy Cruel Doubt Never Enough

Share This Book