Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Next in Adventure.....

This week I had the pleasure of reading two new books in the non-fiction adventure category--both of which I enjoyed thoroughly. The first, Finding Everett Ruess, is a biography of a young man in search of himself in the American Southwest--reminiscent of "Into the Wild" by Krakauer. Ruess, however, was fully prepared and familiar with the area--often stopping along the way at Mormon or Native American settlements, and knew a great deal about the plants and geography of the region. Ruess was raised in a Bohemian family and quickly became enraptured by the "Bohemian lifestyle" of the artists in the Southwestern region of the States. His temperament and passion are iconicized in the letters and diary entries he kept while on his many travels and easily rival that of a young Thoreau. Ruess vanished in 1934--no remains were ever found and thus begins the mystery of his dissapearance that led to this book. Theories abound: killed by Ute Natives, fell into a crevasse, married a woman and decided to vanish, killed himself, et. al. Ruess's dissapearance has spawned many adventurers to try and "seek him out" but sadly, to no avail. This book doesn't give us many answers, but it does give us a glimpse of the life of a man who was extremely ahead of his time and whose passion for life leaps off the page.
The second, Murder in the High Himalayas, chronicles the disturbing journey of Tibetan refugess seeking religious and cultural freedom in neighboring regions. China firmly controls Tibet, and closely monitors the paths refugees take to get to freedom--which run along some of the highest and dangerous peaks in the entire world. Sadly, this book chronicles the mistreatment--and ultimately a murder--that occurs on this path to freedom, whose snow-capped ridges are not uncommonly dotted with the blood of loyal Tibetans. This book interweaves the stories of the refugees, the history of China and Tibet, and also the biographies of the mountain climbers who witness this particular event in an incredibly readable and high-anxiety manner. I was on the edge of my seat all evening and stayed up late to finish. If this book doesn't want to make you go out and buy a bumper sticker that reads "Free Tibet"....nothing will. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Foxfire Series...Still Worth a Read!

Anyone who's interested in history should know about this series. An exhaustive study conducted by a professor and his history students on the East Cost, the Foxfire series documents how rural Americans lived fifty years ago in Appalachia. This series chronicles the adventures of mountain-folk in nearly twelve volumes and ranges in topic from corn-shukin' to weed pullin'. The second book in the series chronicles local ghost stories, personal narratives, and how to schuck some corn. There are photos throughout the book, and while previously if somebody asked me what book I'd take if I had to spend eternity on a desert island I would have responded: "Hmmm....? The Tao? The Zombie Survival Guide...I don't know...something common sense." I can now honestly say I would take this tome. Because it's practical while providing excellent knowledge on how to live off the land, make moonshine in a pinch, and host a hoedown without ticking off the neighbors.

While the practical side of these volumes will no doubt appeal to many, the personal narratives are by far some of the most interesting I've ever read. One particular fable in this volume about an ol-timer running his wife out of his house after catching her in a very precarious position was one of my personal favorites. But there are others that are incredibly no-nonsense and bring forth the warmth and genuine personalities of these awesome can-do people in way no other work has so exhaustively accomplished.