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A delightful story of a boy, his birds, and his pursuit of knowledge in spite of society’s dictates.

How catching and training a kestrel changed the life of a young British boy.

When Hines was 11, he failed his exams for grammar school. Unable to attend with his older brother, the author was sent to the secondary modern school, “where my education didn’t matter.” That was his first introduction to the English class system in the mid-1950s. Always a naturalist at heart, Hines soon was reading all he could find regarding falconry. It was near Tankersley Old Hall that he took his first kestrel, called Kes, and began training her. Now a true autodidact, his reading led him to T.H. White, T.E. Lawrence, and J.G. Mavrogordato, author of A Falcon in the Field. In hopes of visiting countries with a history of falconry—e.g., Sudan, India, and nations in the Middle East—Hines applied to join the Voluntary Service Overseas. The author was posted to Nigeria, where he was exposed to members of the fading British Empire and their racist, classist attitudes as well as native anger against their former rulers. Hines’ return to England, where he was to begin an environmental studies program, coincided with the making of a film based on his brother’s book about his kestrel training. The author trained three kestrels and served as falconer for the film, though his brother initially took all the credit. Throughout his memoir, Hines provides captivating descriptions and explanations of training the kestrels and how to “hack” them back to the wild, and the author’s love of his subject inevitably shows through. His discovery that the upper-class world of falconry wouldn’t have welcomed him once again exposed the social divisions of his country. His love of falconry and the environment influenced his life, and that obsession drove him to learn the history of his own class and become a television producer and director.

A delightful story of a boy, his birds, and his pursuit of knowledge in spite of society’s dictates.

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-502-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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