At the beginning of this book, Krakauer makes a statement along the lines of "In beginning to write this book, I had a lot of critics tell me that itAt the beginning of this book, Krakauer makes a statement along the lines of "In beginning to write this book, I had a lot of critics tell me that it was too close to the disaster, and I should wait for my head to clear before attempting to write this book. I've decided to act in oposition to this advice." I appreciate Krakauer's willingness to defy the critics. Because of it's lack of spin (that likely would have come had Krakauer waited to write it), this book is one of the best pieces of non-fiction I've ever read.
It's the story of the devastating 1996 assent of Everest by the Rob Hall and Scott Fisher Everest expeditions. Krakauer was sent on the expedition as a client of Rob Hall. He was writing a piece for Outdoor Magazine on "The Commercialization of Everest". He got a significantly bigger story... and subsequent experience... than I think anyone ever expected.
In this PTSD-laced, guilt-ridden memoire, Krakaur does his best to simply tell the story. While never directly accusing himself for lack of action, it's clear the piece is written in an attempt to try and deal with survivor's guilt. In the process, he's able to give a fascinating picture of just how dangerous climbing the highest summit of this world is, and what a risky undertaking it is, even for the most experienced climbers. He also successfully reinstates the mystique of Everest that he proclaims in the book "was lost among avid climber's, as commercialization overtook the mountain."
Unusual to my recommendations, I am giving this book 5 stars as it is well worth the read.
Note of Caution: this book contains a significant amount of language (most prominently "f**k"), as might be expected considering the raw nature of the climbers and the content. ...more
This book was an incredibly interesting read. Ever since I was in elementary school and I ran in a "Tarahumara Race" set up each year by my philanthroThis book was an incredibly interesting read. Ever since I was in elementary school and I ran in a "Tarahumara Race" set up each year by my philanthropist principal, I've been interested in the culture of these people. When I was looking through goodreads "best non-fiction books of all times" list and saw this, it quickly piqued my interest.
McDougall has a very approachable writing style. While he touches on a lot of "scientific" things in the book and makes a lot of "arguments" you don't really realize that he's doing it. Basically, he tells a story, and it's a really good story. Its the kind of story where there is a main, underlying, biographical sketch told in memoir style, and the underlying sketch is interlaced with a bunch of interest piquing vinettes that make you want to keep reading because you're slowly seeing how he's tying everything together to paint a bigger biographical picture. In the process you learn about marathons, ultrarunners, insane people, barefoot runners, and eventually the Tarahumara.
I only had 2 main complaints about the book: 1) at times it does feel a little jumpy (but I feel like that was intended), and 2) the use of expletives and unnecessary language is a little over-the-top for me. I felt like the author could have censored a bit and it wouldn't have detracted from the story at all. ...more
In the wake of yet another tragic school shooting, whose death count included an entire classroom of kindergartners, I found it interesting - and a biIn the wake of yet another tragic school shooting, whose death count included an entire classroom of kindergartners, I found it interesting - and a bit ironic, really - that my library reservation list at the time included Dave Cullen's "Columbine". After having now read the book, and spent a few sleepless nights trying to overcome it's contents, I feel very comfortable proclaiming that this book (sadly) could easily stand as one that could easily serve to define our generation.
Absolutely, I would recommend this book as a "must-read" for anyone who even remotely thinks they can stomach it. I especially recommend it to my friends in public education - even if you don't think you can. Those of you studying gun control, politics, or psychology, I put you in the same category as the educators. It's a must read if you are to have any credibility in these areas.
That being said, there are a few things you should be aware of before picking up this book.
1) This book is incredibly graphic in it's description of the scene at Columbine High School in 1999 and some of the events that took place surrounding the real-life tragedy. You will be exposed to details such as what blood and brain matter will do after sitting exposed for long periods of time, the specific, graphic language of the tragedy's perpetrators and others involved, as well as some of the explicit graphic psychological thoughts that lead up to the event.
2) While the story is told through the lens of Mr. Cullen, a world renown expert on the events of Columbine, and he does his best to be delicate and objective in his presentation of the events, it's important to realize that because of the nature of the content he is discussing it would be almost impossible to remain completely objective and not assign blame in certain circumstances. While Cullen does his best to clear up misconceptions (and in some cases right-out lies) related to the events of the tragedy, and he does so with an explicit energy to respect and be sensitive to the emotion, character, and pain of those directly involved (including the perpetrators themselves), there are limitations to what he can do. Readers may be troubled at times with where the author 'draws the line' in certain parts of the book.
3) It's just simply a hard book to read. Think Cormac McCarthy's "the road" meets Tim Obrien's "The Things They Carried" meets Jonathan Safron Foer's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". Then realize that this is not historical fiction, it's non-fiction. It's just simply going to be a hard read - but it's worth it. ...more
Another great book by the writers of Freakonomics. All of the economics that a person could want, plenty of mind-opening thoughts, and very little neeAnother great book by the writers of Freakonomics. All of the economics that a person could want, plenty of mind-opening thoughts, and very little need to use my brain to make sense of things while reading. I find very few who can make a generally dry topic like economics as light, approachable, and fun as the Stevens' do.
I thoroghly enjoy the Stevens' take on the world and how everything happens, and that's the reason why I picked this book up in the first place. I am very fond of the efforts that they take to approach everything in a truly objective way. However, this can be to their detriment at times. By looking at the world through a truly objective economist's eyes, they open themselves up to talking about generally morally questionable topics without being subject to the moral codes of society.
There were multiple times in reading this book that I really struggled with the moral implications of what they were talking about and frankly just felt uncomfortable. On 2 or 3 occasions I thought to myself, "gosh, you should really just fast forward this part [I listen to the cd's in the car]." In reality, I found their book as almost more of a scientific proof as to why our society has no morals than anything else. It was incredibly intriguing and disturbing at the same time. ...more
As far as Biographies go, this book was very well written. What I had a problem with was the rawness of this book and the blatant disrespect of any woAs far as Biographies go, this book was very well written. What I had a problem with was the rawness of this book and the blatant disrespect of any worldview other than that held by the author and Touhy family. The book was proclaimed to be written as an objective portrayal of the events surrounding the pre-adult life and experiences of Michael Oher (NFL football player). However, after getting pretty far into the book, it became clear that there was quite a lot of bias in the book and the bias seemed to be designed as an attempt to clear the Touhy name of any wrongdoing in their association with Michael Oher and his attendance at the University if Mississippi. ...more
I'm going to start this review by saying I did not read the entire book. I read about 2 chapters and had to turn the book off (I was listening on my cI'm going to start this review by saying I did not read the entire book. I read about 2 chapters and had to turn the book off (I was listening on my commute.)
Approaching the book with sincere optimism at reading a solid non-fictional psychology based book about choices, I felt I was baited and switched.
While this book proclaimed scientific non-fiction, and painted itself as objective, I simply could not get over the fact that the author was very clearly pushing a big-bang, darwin-inspired, godless agenda. I felt that there was a sense of scientific self-righteousness about the author that I would not be able to deal with throughout an entire book.
No qualms were had in denying years of traditional psychology by applealing to arguments of neuroscience (a prepubescent science even in comparision to the often rejected non-science of psychology), and in doing so all arguments were made with a "survival of the fittest makes it obvious" tone. The text was laced with biased, unproven-scientific rhetoric that I felt detracted from the arguments that could have been quite interesting if portrayed in a more approchable way.
In the end, I don't recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn neuroscience or psychology objectively... including myself. ...more
In terms of a Non-fiction explorer novel, this book was pretty good. In terms of a curl up on the couch and get comfy to read book, I struggled at timIn terms of a Non-fiction explorer novel, this book was pretty good. In terms of a curl up on the couch and get comfy to read book, I struggled at times with this book.
To be fair, this book was very approachable for a non-fiction (I tried picking up Germs, Guns, and Steele before this and this was a great reprieve from the bore that I found myself in while reading that book). What I struggled with was how Grann jumped around. I had a hard time finding a unifying theme or message that he was going for as I was reading, and only found a loose one in "stick with it and don't give up" in the end.
In essence, this story is the story of the English Amazon Explorer Sir Percy Faucette. Grann basically tells Faucette's story by tracing the explorer's steps through each of his 19th century expeditions.
There was very little effort, in the novel to glamorize Faucette, which I appreciated. At the same time, Grann seemed to have a hard time making up his mind on whether or not he liked Faucette at all by contradicting himself in how he portrayed the explorer. In one breath he'd argue that Faucette was a religious mad-man, while a few chapters later he'd attempt to paint the explorer as a visionary who was way beyond his time. I often wondered what I was supposed to gain from Grann's ramblings.
Truthfully, in the end I felt like if another author had written this book, I would have loved it. As it is, I simply liked it... and mainly because I really appreciated the history lesson that was being taught. ...more