Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Welcome to the Jon Krakauer Double Feature

Well, since I'm not playing Tribal Wars and am currently not mudding our new drywall, I've got a couple of minutes so I'll update my recent reading list.

The author of late: Jon Krakauer.

First up, Into the Wild, the tragic story of Chris McCandless. It is said that some march to the beat of a different drummer. McCandless certainly did, but his drummer led him to an untimely death in the Alaskan wilderness.

Krakauer recounts a moving tale of self discovery as Chris McCandless throws off the shackles of modern convention and common sense to wander about the country and live off the land, taking the name "Alex Supertramp". For the most part a great story.

Until the part where very ill prepared he heads to the wilds of Alaska with few supplies and equipment where he ultimately looses his life.

It is not very often that I have to look up words in a book. Being a sort of a word smith, I love words. I regularly pick up a dictionary and just start looking at words. So I was actually very pleased that I had to break out the Oxford and look some unfamiliar ones up. Krakauer sprinkles some big ones throughout his stories, but that goes perfectly with his style, which is very readable, even personal. It's like Jon is sitting across the table from you telling you a story.

The author also does a great job diverting from Chris' story by giving us a brief history of other people that have disappeared into the wild, and even I think appropriately recounts his tale of man versus wild that occurred during his youth when he attempts a solo climb of the Devil's Thumb in Alaska.

This is a very well written book with a very compelling story. It does get a little dry occasionally, but definitely a must read. And if you want to watch the movie, read the book first.

Now up in the second feature, Into Thin Air. This is Jon Krakauer's personal account of the Mount Everest disaster of 1996. Of the two books, which I think are both amazing, this was my favorite.

Krakauer is sent to write a story about Everest, of which a briefer account was featured in Outside magazine. Here is a link to the story.

This one was a page turner as Krakauer weaves a suspenseful and deeply personal tale about the climbers on his team, the professionals guiding them, and how Everest is a cruel and unpredictable creature. Some may pass and stand upon the ceiling of the Earth. Some are denied and sometimes with a high price. At the very least oxygen deprivation, which renders you mentally and physically incapacitated. Some loose limbs to exposure. Some loose their life.

I would highly recommend both of these books. These were both a departure from my regular reading, which is often light and fluffy or tales of fantasy and adventure. These are both the kind of book that you go to your local bookstore and pay full price they are that good. But if you can get them at a discount...

Up next: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I want to see if he really has his main characters, who I've heard a children, trying to kill God so they can do whatever they want without consequence.

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