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Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  446 ratings  ·  41 reviews
When professional rock climber Steph Davis started skydiving, she discovered new love, hope, and joy in letting go.

“It’s not so surprising that on the day of my fifth wedding anniversary I would be crouched in the open door of an airplane, thirteen thousand feet above the Colorado plains, about to jump out. That coincidence of timing really wasn’t.”

Steph Davis is a superst
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Atria Books (first published February 1st 2013)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  446 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have not heard of Steph Davis nor am I familiar with the controversy that her then husband made in the media. Steph’s husband climbed the “Arches” in the Utah National Park. Although, climbing is allowed in the park it is frowned upon to climb such a famous landmark. It got so bad that it was almost like Steph’s husband was on trial in a Salem witch hunt. Of course coupled with the media and the loss of some big sponsors, the marriage crumbled. However if it was not for this, Steph may not hav ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it
A huge leap from her last athletic memoir, I found this book engaging and inspiring beginning to end. For climbers familiar with the author and her career arc, this fills out the picture of a very weird public story from a few years ago. As much as I relate to and feel thankful for getting to hear such an intense and personal story, there were a few too many distracting elements going on in the text. The extrapolation to narration ratio was too high for me, and although I loved the messages abou ...more
Gregory Crouch
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Americans love to rave about their individual freedoms. Ironically, most shackle their lives to desires and expectations other than their own and grind out their days without ever bothering to discover their genuine loves and passions. Even more tragic, many of those who do know their hearts can’t summon the courage to take the action true love requires.

Steph Davis is not one of those people. She has no place among Teddy Roosevelt’s “cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Ste
William Graney
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was very impressed with the author's humility and her willingness to credit those who helped and mentored her during her very impressive accomplishments. I've found that to be a somewhat rare trait in the Adventure genre as there is often a "Wow-look at me-I'm so amazing" component to the writing. It's so refreshing to read incredible life tales by the likes of Steph David or Bernard Moitessier, who share their lives with the reader in a way that inspires admiration and respect, not just for t ...more
Drew Holmes
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
brought back so many memories of my life on a drop zone....My brother taught claimbing with her so many years ago in Colorado.

quick fun read
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous. Inspiring. I bought an armload of rock climbing books after I visited a climbing gym for the first time. My fear of heights prevented me from getting more than 6 or 7 feet of the ground. Although my climbing feats may have been less than impressive, I haven't stopped thinking about climbing since that visit. This book was the first of that armload that I took to reading, and it did not disappoint. Steph Davis has lived a life jam packed with adventure. She has charted out a lifestyle t ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book was really good for showing the world of skydiving and BASE jumping. There is an entire culture built up around these sports, and it was a fascinating inside look into it. I didn't like the philosophical musings as much, maybe because I'm much older than she is so I didn't learn much about myself through them.

I felt like Davis sees things through her eyes but not always through others'. She complained about rules surrounding BASE jumping in Yosemite and talked about how great Switzerla
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unlikely book for me to read except that my rock-climbing daughter enthusiastically pressed it on me after she finished it and said "you need to read this book next." She was insistent enough that I did!

Although I am not a rock-climber or a base jumper and never will be (!), Steph Davis's story kept me interested. She is a world-renowned climber, skydiver, and base jumper and her rebound from a failed marriage and a crashing career comprises this story. She goes from climbing up verti
Liz Parissenti
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nyt-nonfiction
Steph Davis's accomplishments in climbing and base jumping are extraordinary, and this book felt both understated and compelling because of how she describes feats of incredible human performance as just another day in the life. She starts off her story as a professional climber in love and ends as a professional base jumper with two marriages under her belt, and all the changes that happened along the way. I also loved her passion for her dog, Fletcher, and how it tied so many things in her lif ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think I actually read a more recent edition of this book titled Learning to Fly: a Memoir of Hanging on and Letting Go. I found myself really drawn to the climbing sections. I found myself speed reading through the sky diving and BASE jumping. Then the end hit with a lot of dying. This is one tough girl who knows herself and her limits. Overall a good read and I’m glad I picked this one up. Plus I love anything set in Utah and western Colorado.
Gleicienne Fernandes
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Davis definitely has a very interesting life story. Like everyone else, it is full of ups and dows with nice surprises and empowerment. She is rad as a climber and then she learned about another sport that changed her career path. It is a very nice biography.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: outdoor, memoir
Interesting but kind of repetitive and blandly descriptive at times with regard to her own personal growth and relationships. I liked reading about her climbing and base jumping experiences because those were clear and engaging.
Rion Shupe
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Poignant. This was the most emotionally difficult read I've ever completed.
Nicholas Harvey
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing and tragic insight into the life of Steph Davis. Open and honest. I couldn't put it down until some of the tragic parts when I HAD to put it down I was so emotionally involved.
John Clark
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good insight into someone going through a life transforming couple years and their pursuit of outlier activities.
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous account on transcending: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Learning to fly is for me that type of book read at the right time. More than being just a book about the colorful world of base jumpers, it is a book about each and everyone of us. Normal people whose lifes have a lot of ups and downs and ugly moments. It is a book about the hope that in the end the things will turn well, about learning to live and enjoy every day. Even the dark ones. About learning to let things go and enjoy those 10 seconds of fly. As 10 seconds of pure happiness.
Katherine Jones
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it
After being hit by a series of crises, Steph Davis knew she had to take a giant step back and retool. And though her particular situation might not be one everyone can identify with, her general quandary is: “Whatever might happen in life,” Steph Davis writes, “whether I liked it or didn’t like it, I could know one thing for sure: it would change. There was absolute certainty in uncertainty.”

Davis writes in a spare style, which you might expect from a woman who quit law school to pursue the asce
Jun 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Reflections: me climb mountains? Hah! The closest I ever did that was Stone Mountain near Atlanta. We rode the cable car up the steep part and walked down the sloping side. I tripped, slid on my stomach several feet, and ruined my favorite pair of slacks. Didn't even skin my knees, but it was enough to turn me off climbing.

Steph Davis is completely opposite of me. That is what makes reading books so much fun --- we live adventurously through them. Davis dropped out of law school and climbed whe
Matt Pierce
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An amazing adventurous read. Steph writes an honest biographical account of how climbing, skydiving, base jumping and wingsuit flying changed her life, during a time in her life when she needed it. Along with her love of the desert, Mario and her dog Fletch she brings the reader along on an amazing emotional journey that involves climbing (often free-solo with no rope), skydiving, base jumping, wing suit flying, personal challenges with life and personal empowerment. If you want to read what it' ...more
Really a 3.5 star bk. Enjoyable, fun, sad at times. When Steph's husband makes a controversial climb- the fallout leaves her marriage and life broken into a million pieces.

Steph's story is about finding herself, learning a new sport, and finding the love in climbing again.

Through friends and Fletcher, the dog, she finds that life can be good again. And love can be found.

My review:
Traveling With T
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Yep, I'm ready to go skydiving tomorrow, and to buy a wingsuit the day after so I can try flying off of tall cliffs. Steph Davis has a way of inducing that sort of excitement in Learning to Fly. She describes her transition from being a professional rock climber whose greatest fear is falling to a skydiving addict who can't wait to find the next cliff she can jump off. Even better is climbing up the cliff first. Learning to fly is a wonderful way for an armchair athlete or skydiver wannabe to vi ...more
Nov 27, 2013 rated it liked it
LOVE her. She's one of my pedestal people. I didn't find the insights I was hoping for in 'Learning to Fly.' 'High Infatuation,' her first book, is one of my favorite title of all time, and I hoped that her most recent piece of writings would be more like that.

That's okay, own expectations don't get to dictate what a book provides for others, and I hope that 'Learning to Fly' is read and loved and savored and cherished by others. There's a lot of good stuff between the covers!
Jody Timmins
Steph Davis and I would not get along. The first section of the book irritated me because she seemed to be avoiding taking any responsibility for the controversy that engulfed her. And I still think basejumping is insane, not to mention I 100% support efforts by the National Park Service to ban it. But the storytelling itself was propulsive, to match the subject, and Davis skillfully describes the natural world as she experiences it from mountaintops and in the air.
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've thought about learning to BASE jump and skydive but after I read this book I decided to make it a goal. This was an entertaining book about the changes in life. Steph writes about fear and determination as she explores a sport that allows her to explore a part of her she never knew existed.

This is one of the best reads if had in a while.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Great memoir about Steph Davis, professional rock climber, who lost it all -- career, marriage -- in one fell swoop, and then shifted gears and learned to sky dive and base jump. While doing this, she learns more about herself, her life, her goals, and her loves. Reading about her personal transformation, for me, was more interesting than how she learned to jump.
Jessica Kelley
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book - much better than High Infatuation. I confess I stayed up way too late to finish this and **SPOILER ALERT** cried when Fletch died. So heartbreaking. The book is even more gut-wrenching because as a reader, I know what ultimately happens to her husband, Mario Richard (not in the book, but several months after the book was published).
Highly recommend. Waffled between 4 and 5 stars.
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
She is a fascinating person, professional athlete, recognized world-wide, and the memoir was good. As a not-so-good climber myself I enjoyed her descriptions of places and efforts. I guess it got a bit repetitious, and I do question whether anyone in the climbing and/or jumping community would appreciate her technical details.
Wish we could do half stars I'd go 3 1/2.
Prana Living
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved the very personal insight into Steph's life. She is an amazing extreme athlete and an equally amazing person. Learn more about her at and check out her video series at ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Connected to the climbing world via marriage, I was able to understand the need to connect to the world through climbing (free-solo) and BASE jumping, unfortunately most of the world just does not get this,
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