The Hot Zone

Richard Preston


The Hot Zone is the area across central Africa near the equator where most of the deadly viruses in the world come from. (Not Hanta Virus, though, which breeds out here in the desert.) Creepy accounts of deadly outbreaks and the scientists who track these viruses. Reading this book has made me never want to visit central Africa.

Into The Wild

Jon Krakauer


This is about a young man who decides to give up all his possessions and money and hits the road. He eventually end up in Alaska where he dies of starvation in a semi-remote area near Denali. Jon Krakauer identifies with the spirit of this boy and compares some of his own treks with his. I identified in some ways with both of them in their pursuit of empty untarnished lands and ideals.

The Railway Man

Eric Lomax


Eric Lomax was a Scottish radioman in WWII who was captured by the Japanese in Indonesia and put to work building a railroad. As he had always had a fascination with railroads, he started drawing a map of what they were building. The Japanese found the map and tortured him and several other prisoners. This is a remarkable story of survival and redemption at the hands of his torturers.

Into Thin Air

Jon Krakauer


Jon Krakauer was on the ill-fated expedition to Mt. Everest in the Spring of 1996 when 8 people died on the mountain. This is a matter-of-fact but gripping and engrossing presentation of the ascent, the storm, the deaths, and the descent. I now, while curious about seeing what base camp (at 17,000 feet) is like, have no desire ever to climb up to 29,028 feet.

The Perfect Storm

Sebastian Junger


Seb Junger was a couple of classes ahead of me at CA, although i didn't know him. His book is about what kind of weather forces need to exist to create "the perfect storm"-- one with waves on the open ocean of over 90 feet-- and about the crew of a fishing boat which happens to be in a storm of such magnitude as it forms and eventually engulfs the boat, taking the crew to the bottom. Lovely, huh?

The Long Walk

Slavomir Rawicz


Slav Rawicz was in the Polish army in 1939, was arrested by Russion troops after they invaded, was tortured for many months, then sentenced to 25 years in a work camp in eastern Siberia, approximately 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Along with a number of other men in the Spring of 1940, he escaped and they proceed to walk nearly 4,000 miles to India (across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas) to freedom. The human body is amazingly tough.

Point Last Seen

Hannah Nyala


A quick read (i bought it on a Wednesday and finished it on Friday) but an interesting snapshot of part of the life of Hannah. Whether that's her real name i don't know, as this caption is in the credits: "To protect the identities of everyone mentioned in this book, all names and dates, as well as many locations, have been changed." Hannah's narrative weaves together her work as a search and rescue tracker with her escape from a highly abusive husband and the subsequent battles to get her children back from him. If you're unaware of the realities of domestic violence, you should read some of this book.

Sea Change

Peter Nichols


A beautifully written account of P's trip across the Atlantic Ocean in a 27-foot engineless wooden sailboat (built in 1939) from England to somewhere off the Bahamas, intertwined with the events which led up to the voyage. There's a few memorable passages in the text and many frank insights about a person's relationship with things-- boats, nature, self, others. Reading this book has somewhat quelled my fear of the open ocean, brought about by "The Perfect Storm".

Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam

John Wheeler with Kenneth Ford


OK, i read this because, although it's an autobiography of Mr. Wheeler, most of the writing was done by my dad. The thing that fascinated me about this book was the chapters on the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Wheeler was present for the building of the first A and H bombs and influenced a host of future nobel prize-winners, many of whom were his students. John Wheeler's notable qualities were his brilliance in physics and his unwavering patriotism. And not an "America- love it or leave it" patriotism, but a real love for this country and the freedom it offers. Interesting insight into a man of a different generation.

The Worst Journey In The World

Apsley Cherry-Garrard


This is a LONG account of the last expedition of Robert F. Scott's fatal expedition to the South Pole in 1910-1913. All aspects of the journey are covered, from the exploratory expeditions to the depot-laying journeys to life during the severe Antarctic winter in a single cabin. Of course it ends with a detail of Scott reaching the Pole (one month after Roald Amundsen) and not quite making it back out. The story is told well by Cherry-Garrard, who was one of the youngest men on the expedition, and includes overviews of all of the many scientific experiments done during the time on the Antarctic continent. This is most likely why Amundsen made it and Scott didn't. Amundsen's sole purpose was to get to the Pole and back. Scott's mission was to reach the pole AND do a variety of scientific measurements while on the continent. Educational book about early sub-zero exploration.


Earnest Shackleton


To follow up "The Worst Journey In The World", i read "South". This is the story of Earnest Shackleton's ship Endeavor and its crew. The mission was to land a party of men in 1915 on one side of Antarctica who would trek across the continent and meet up with another ship on the other side (following Scott's trail from the Pole back out). Well, after the Endeavor got stuck in the ice and was eventually crushed by it, Shackleton's crew had to wander around the pack ice for a long time until they made it to an island. From there, Shackleton and three others took one of the open lifeboats that the crew had been dragging around and rowed nearly 1,000 miles to South Georgia Island. Eventually, all hands were rescued. Shackleton tells this story very matter-of-factly and it presents him in a admirable light as a great leader whom his men would follow across endless miles of unstable ice.

A Civil Action

Jonathan Harr


Good read. Makes you hate big corporations. Also makes you leery of a judicial process that hinders the presentation of incriminating evidence at every turn. It seems so OBVIOUS that these mills in Woburn, Mass. contaminated the groundwater and caused a local hotspot of leukemia victims, but proving that in court was a monumental task that nearly destroyed the lawyer (played by John Travolta in the movie (which i haven't seen)) trying to do it.