For fans, a nostalgic stop in a celebrated oeuvre. For newcomers, a welcome introduction to a veteran of the form.

An investigative journalist’s early work portrays his enduring fascination with human daring.

Krakauer (Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, 2015) gathers essays that were published in magazines such as Smithsonian and Outside from the mid-1980s through the 1990s along with two from 2014. The majority feature awe-inspiring locales that are enlivened by the author’s naturalist eye, and robust action and suspenseful pacing enhance careful explorations of power and innovation. A handful highlight larger-than-life people, including Californian surfer Mark Foo, who drowned at Mavericks (California), “one of the world’s heaviest waves,” and mountaineer Fred Beckey (1923-2017), “the original climbing bum.” Three pieces examine death in the context of industries that include surfing, rock climbing, and wilderness therapy camps. Among the strongest essays is "Loving Them to Death," an exposé on abuse and teen deaths that happened under the neglectful watch of a camp leader. A solid mix of conversations, background, and travel adds up to cleareyed reportage that still shocks. In the reverent, often beautiful "Gates of the Arctic,” memory splices with reflections on the Alaskan Brooks Range and the damaging footprint left by locals and visitors. In two essays, Krakauer considers the future from different angles. In one, the author writes about Mount Rainier and the danger of inevitable mudflows. In the other, Krakauer chronicles his journey with scientists who study microbial life in the hope that it will spark long-term research on Mars. The author effectively balances natural drama with thoughtful reflection and fascinating facts. When the writing is cautionary, it plucks at emotional chords. When it travels wild vistas and tense excursions, it shows Krakauer at his best. A few pieces remain outliers, such as the closing essay, which was delivered as a speech and shuttles toward a reluctant conclusion. A profile of Christopher Alexander, an “iconoclastic architect of international repute,” is less hard-hitting and only mildly interesting.

For fans, a nostalgic stop in a celebrated oeuvre. For newcomers, a welcome introduction to a veteran of the form.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984897-69-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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