A brutally sublime tale of derring-do that transports as well as teaches.

THE IMPOSSIBLE FIRST

FROM FIRE TO ICE--CROSSING ANTARCTICA ALONE

The tale of a solo trip across Antarctica, on skis and pulling a sled of supplies.

It had never been done before: to make a crossing of Antarctica alone, unsupported and unassisted, via the South Pole, a 930-mile trek in temperatures substantially below zero and wind chills doubling the cold. Undaunted, O’Brady, who experiences a “ferocious, uncontainable optimism that boils over inside me at the beginning of almost any new challenge or adventure,” has set a number of speed records in such events as climbing the tallest peaks on all seven of the continents and climbing to the highest ground in each of the 50 states. He is also a triathlete of note, so there was little doubt about his physical preparedness to take on the Antarctic adventure. When he writes about the “inspirational path of the polar pioneers before me, and what they’d taught the world about endurance, strength, and perseverance,” you know he is on solid ground. However, this adventure would take more than two months in a formidable, monotonous landscape. As we see, the mental challenges in dealing with such an environment occupied much of his time. O’Brady is a confident, crafty storyteller, and he has plenty of captivating stories to tell about his exploits and his family life, which he intertwines with his voyage. Many of his tales have an underlying theme of audacity accomplished through “grit, purpose, and a growth mindset.” He also has a charming partner in his wife, Jenna, and it is a pleasure to see them working together to get through the rough spots, whether winning over a new sponsor or talking the author through especially difficult moments. She helps to humanize O’Brady, so he is not simply a robotic master of control and discipline. This inner saga works hand in hand with the physical challenges to make for a full tapestry of remarkable experience.

A brutally sublime tale of derring-do that transports as well as teaches.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3311-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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