It is really, truly one of the highlights of my day when a patron comes in and shares that they are enjoying our little endeavor here with this blog. It makes my week, if not my whole month, when they share their own suggestions in response to some of our posts. And it seems that last week’s If/Then post inspired some of our beloved patrons to share their own picks for books about exploration…generally exploration gone wrong…and adventuring.
It was also pointed out that most of our selections last week dealt primary with tropical, or at least, extraordinarily hot, climates. Thankfully, we have some remedies for this, as well, for those of you who prefer the air conditioning to the sultry summer sun, or the alien expanses of the Arctic tundra to the otherworldly environs of the jungle. I don’t know about most of you, but I find the descriptions of these frozen terrains far more unsettling…the emptiness of these landscapes, and what that silence can do to people is often more terrifying than the constant energy of the tropics–but it is out of such material that some of the best adventures are made!
So, without further ado, here are your picks, beloved patrons, for another round of books to settle your wanderlust….
If you liked last week’s post regarding books about exploration (and disaster), Then check out…
Annihilation: The first book in a genuinely unique trilogy, Jeff Van Der Meer’s book is a very strange, but fascinating blend of sci-fi, speculative fiction, and horror that wraps the reader up and holds them captive. Set in the mysterious land known as Area X, a land beyond civilization, full of disease and unknown peril, this is the story of the twelfth expeditionary party–comprised exclusively of women–sent to map the terrain and collect specimens. However, as each member of the party documents the world around them, and the changes going on in the group itself, it grows harder and harder to tell whether the contamination lies in Area X, or in the people who have travelled there. If you enjoy this book, be sure to check out Authority and Acceptance, to find out what happens in the rest of this bizarre adventure!
River of Doubt: Candice Millard is a remarkably gifted story-teller, and this account of Theodore Roosevelt’s trip down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon following his defeat in the 1912 election is a harrowing, inspiring, and utterly gripping tale that has been hailed by library staff and patrons alike. Though there are aspects of Roosevelt’s biography and his attitudes towards contemporary issues that make him something of a problematic subject, but there is no doubt that what he accomplished on this journey, both personally and publicly is admirable and remarkable. Not only did he change the map of the Amazon forever, Roosevelt was forced to confront his own mortality during this journey–a moment that Millard is able to capture with subtlety and power, setting this story apart from many other works of popular history. For those who enjoy audiobooks, the recording of this book also comes very high recommended!
At the Mountains of Madness: This was a selection from the Main Library’s Classics Book Group several years ago that I simply adored. H.P. Lovecraft has always been a favorite of mine, but this book was something different from his usual fare. Lovecraft suffered from night terrors, and used the visions he saw as the basis for his stories. As a result, the monster and other horrors he describes are usually intense and vividly described. The terror in this book, however, lies in his manipulation of the reader’s imagination. The story is told through the eyes of Dr. William Dyer, the head of a doomed expedition to Antarctica, describing the odd buildings, strange writings, and inexplicable horrors that he and his partner witnessed–and it is that very inexplicability that makes this story so chilling. In forcing the reader the render their own nightmares, this book can be anything you want it to be–or anything you dread that it might me.
Into Thin Air: This is another recommendation from one of our patrons…In 1996, journalist Jon Krakauer was sent to cover an expedition to the top of Mount Everest, an experience he had always dreamed of accomplishing. The reality of the trip, however, was truly dreadful. Krakauer was present during the ‘Mount Everest Disaster’, when eight climbers were killed and several other stranded in the overwhelming storms that raged across the slopes. Oxygen deprivation at the time, and grief following the event colored Krakauer’s initial piece, leading to a number of tragically false errors. This book is his attempt to set the record straight in terms of what happened on Everest during that trek, as well as an explanation of the inhuman conditions of Everest, and the super-human effort it takes to climb it. This is a book that will leave you gasping, exhausted, and exhilarated; even for those with a knowledge or memory of the events described will find plenty here to learn, and plenty of moments over which to marvel.
Into the Silence : the Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest: For those of you who can’t get enough of Everest, here is another tale of heroism and disaster to read in the safety of your own armchair. On June 6, 1924, Colonel George Mallory, Britain’s premier mountain climber, and his comrade, Sandy Irvine, disappeared somewhere near the top of Mount Everest (it is for Mallory that the final approach to Everest’s summit is named). This is the story not only of this expedition, but of the world that Mallory left behind to climb the mountain–a world that had recently been ravaged by the First World War, and was desperate for hope and for heroism. Mallory’s courage and resiliency, both in the war and on Everest, captured the imagination of Great Britain, making his disappearance that much more significant. This is a book for history buffs and adventurers alike, providing a story that is both touchingly sympathetic and intellectually fascinating.
Keep those recommendations coming, and keep exploring, beloved patrons!