“Into Thin Air”, “The Worst Hard Time”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and “The God Delusion” are all great books I read sometime in the past year. Read my opinions of them below.
Click the covers to view the books at Barnes and Noble.
Into Thin Air
By Jon Krakauer
John Krakauer has got to be one of my all-time favorite authors. He’s a journalist, with excellent research and interviewing skills but also with an uncanny gift of weaving facts and quotes into a gripping, real-life narrative. His books are often way more interesting than many novels I’ve read, and with better plots. You may know him from his first book, “Into the Wild”, which was made into an excellent movie.
“Into Thin Air” reads almost like a horror tale. It tells of Krakauer’s first-person experience during the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed during a freak snowstorm. Krakauer, a professional climber as well as writer, was sent on that expedition by “Outdoors” magazine to write about climbing Everest, and instead ended up becoming an eye-witness (and participant) in one of the deadliest expeditions in Everest’s history. You can tell this was hard for Krakauer to write, due to the tragic events he witnessed and the mistakes that were made by him and others close to him. Thanks to his memories and interviews of his (surviving) team members, Krakauer provides a harrowing account of exactly what happened that day. Even if you’re not into climbing or outdoors stories, you will love this book, because it’s more a mash-up of mystery, adventure and horror than anything else.
The Worst Hard Time
By Timothy Egan
My grandfather, of all people, recommended this book to me. It’s another true narrative, written by another journalist, but also in a way that’s interesting and never boring. This time, the subject is the Dust Bowl.
This is NOT “The Grapes of Wrath”. This is something way better: truth. Egan traveled all over the Great Plains interviewing survivors, reading old newspapers and perusing diaries and other records, and weaved them all together in this close-up look at hardiness in the face of adversity. “The Worst Hard Time” begins in the late 19th Century by detailing the appeal of the Great Plains in the first place – cheap, fertile land (meaning easy money) – and the rush of thousands of would-be farmers from across the country to this vast expanse. When all that land began to be over-farmed, killing all the natural grass and overturning all the soil, it started a chain reaction that led to horrific dust storms and extreme poverty. The book follows various families from all over the Great Plains, from No Man’s Land in Oklahoma, to Dalhart, Texas and Liberal, Kansas and beyond as they struggled to survive in what was quickly becoming a wasteland. This is a well-written, fascinating look at the extremely hard lives our grandparents and great-grandparents had to live out on the Great Plains. I think it’s a good idea for anyone from Oklahoma to read it, to see where we (and our “Okie” stereotype) came from.