[at-l] what are you reading?

tom aterno nitnoid1 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 12 11:20:57 CDT 2012

That is the same Simpson.  

From: RockDancer <rockdancer97 at comcast.net>
To: 'tom aterno' <nitnoid1 at yahoo.com>; at-l at backcountry.net 
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2012 5:50 PM
Subject: RE: [at-l] what are you reading?

I read “Touching the Void”, by Simpson, about a year before the movie came out. Same guy I think. I’ll never do a big expedition but I enjoy being an armchair climber. --RD
From:tom aterno [mailto:nitnoid1 at yahoo.com] 
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2012 11:50 AM
To: RockDancer; at-l at backcountry.net
Subject: Re: [at-l] what are you reading?
"No Way Down" by Graham Bowley, about the ill fated 2008 climbing season on K2.  I could not put it down. 
Now reading "The Beckoning Silence" by Joe Simpson.  Another page turner.  
But I wish I could be hiking to these base camps instead of reading about them.
The Incredible Bulk


From:RockDancer <rockdancer97 at comcast.net>
To: at-l at backcountry.net 
Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:13 PM
Subject: [at-l] what are you reading?
Every couple of years I ask this group what you are reading, thinking that we are like-minded in a lot of things. Here are the 8 books I’ve read since Jan. 1:
The Sea Wolf (1904) by Jack London                                                                                                                                                           
The prose is tedious and flowery like a lot of Victorian novels, so it isn’t as exciting as I hoped it would be. But the topic of conversation between the speaker and the captain  is an argument of man vs. superman and who is more viable in the modern society. The character of Captain Wolf Larsen,has become an immortal touchstone for those who valued individual strength as a substitute for morality.
The Disappearing Spoon (2010) by Sam Kean
This reminded me of a lot of science that I once knew, and it taught me some things as well. I leaned about the natural nuclear fission that occurred 2 billion years ago at Oklo, Gabon, Africa (near Franceville). It also made me look up some information on mercury and what changes it to methylmercury, the toxic form.
Galore (2009) by Michael Crummy
This is a novel about the colony of Newfoundland (up to 1907) and the early Dominion period to about 1930, following the generations in a small village. The characters are quirky, just like you’d expect for Newfoundland. The defrocked priest is especially fun to follow, partly because he is more a source of comfort than the legitimate replacement that Rome sends to drive him away. Judah is the man cut from the belly of a whale, Mr. Gallery is the ghost that haunts his wife while looking for forgiveness. It has some touches of magical realism like “100 Years of Solitude”. It also reminded me of “The Shipping News” by Annie Proulx.
                                                                                                                                                            &nbs p;                                                                                            
Johnny Appleseed (2011) by Howard Means
The NY Times favorably reviewed this one but as someone who has studied John Chapman there isn’t any new information here. Still it is a good consolidation of his life & his times. The 1954 biography by Robert Price (Man & Myth) contains more of the historical paperwork trail left by Appleseed but that book is flawed as well, persisting in a glowing appraisal of Appleseed’s life.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) by Ken Kesey
I found this well-written, better than expected and more psychedelic too. Some descriptions just hum with visual imagery, like the flashing colors of waves seen from the boat on their fishing trip. This is Kesey’s first published book but I believe “Sometimes a Great Notion” was written long before and published later in 1963.
The Devil in the White City (2004) by Erik Larson
Although this reads as a novel it is written by an historian, so each paragraph has source attributions. I’d love to be able to research & write history like Larson! The story contrasts the construction of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exhibition with the perversions of America’s first serial killer: Herman Webster Mudgett, also known at Dr. Henry Holmes. He confessed to 27 murders, most taking place in his “World’s Fair” hotel less than 2 miles from the Exhibition. Frederick Law Olmstead is heavily featured, this is the same time he was creating the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
The Big Year (2004) by Mark Obmascik
The rest of the title is “A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession”. I found the writing a bit lacking but the content and pace of the book were terrific. There is a nice summary of the earlier big year efforts to help put 1998 into perspective. There are also hints of the scenes that were developed and altered to create the 2011 movie “The Big Year”. If you ever want to find an Elf Owl for your birding  Life List this book can tell you where to go. Attu is still a birding destination, birdtreks.com is offering a 2 week trip this year for $7650. 
In the end my enthusiasm for doing a big year was diminished, that feeling crept in with the pursuit of the Himalayan Snowcock in the wrenching helicopter scene. On the other hand the story of the snowcock and how it got to Utah was very interesting.
Ivorybill Hunters (2007) by Dr. Geoffrey Hill
The rest of the title is “The Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness” and summarizes the Florida panhandle investigations for 2005-2006. Another book, “The Grail Bird” focused on the search in Arkansas in 2005. Hill is an honest observer but his book raises the question of whether he was the right person to perform this investigation. His low-skill crew, and small budget meant that they made a lot of mistakes in looking for the birds. Still I appreciate his candor for showing his flaws and his insistence on sharing information. The Arkansas study was criticized for being too secretive. I’m certain that ivorybills are out there, somewhere. Hill continued his search in 2007 but I think he has gone back to his own bird evolution studies. Cornell is conducting surveys of previously dismissed watersheds in Florida and South Carolina.
Arthur D. Gaudet
RockDancer on the Appalachian Trail
Rockdancer97 at comcast.net


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