Book Review: The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger

Title: The Heroine’s Journey
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger LLC
Publication date: September 28, 2020
Length: 322 pages
Genre: Non-fiction – literature/writing
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Tired of the hero’s journey?
Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The heroine’s journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.

In this book you’ll learn:

* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you.
* The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative.
* A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.

What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common?
They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.

From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.

I’m not a writer… so why am I reading a book about writing? Because it’s by Gail Carriger, that’s why!

Gail Carriger is a favorite writer, and her books own prime shelf real estate in my personal library. I adore her characters, her plots, her world-building, her dialogue, and her silliness. (She’s also unfailingly welcoming and warm at book signings, which can’t be easy…)

In any case — after reading about The Heroine’s Journey through Gail’s social media and newsletters, I was intrigued enough to want to check it out. Lo and behold, it was a fascinating read, even for a non-writer like me!

In The Heroine’s Journey, Gail explains in details how a Heroine’s Journey differs from the much better-known Hero’s Journey. Surprise #1 — the heroine of a Heroine’s Journey does not have to be female! The concept of the hero and heroine, at least as Gail explains, has much more to do with the types of journeys they’re on, the obstacles they encounter, the resources they use, and their ultimate goal, than with a definition based on gender identification.

Through the use of literary and pop culture references, Gail clearly identifies the key elements of a Heroine’s Journey, and explains the tropes, characters, and beats that provide the journey’s framework. She also provides excellent examples of different techniques to use to bring characters to life, get readers involved, and provide a satisfactory payoff for devoted readers.

As an avid reader, and someone who loves genre fiction of all sorts, I found this book so interesting! It really helped me understand why certain types of stories and plots resonate, and taught me a lot about structure and underlying themes as part of understanding a writer’s craft and accomplishments.

And as for the geek in me, I adored the fact that she used Harry Potter throughout the book to explain different facets of the Heroine’s Journey. It’s fine to provide a writerly explanation of different points, but the examples are what really brought the points to life for me.

The Heroine’s Journey is a great read for anyone who enjoys learning about the craft behind the stories we love. I’ll be pushing this book into the hands of a few writer friends of mine too!

Shelf Control #254: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Published: 2018
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer. 

How and when I got it:

A family member sent me her copy after she finished reading it, over a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

True crime is not a go-to genre for me, but I’ve been hearing so much about this book ever since it came out, and I’m intrigued. My family member (who loves true crime) has been raving about this book, and thinks it’s one of the best in the genre.

The more I hear, the more fascinated I am by the topic, and want to learn more about the author’s investigative techniques, her sources, and the work she did to uncover a killer.

Have you read this book? Would you want to?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
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Have fun!

Shelf Control #247: Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Author: Gary Kamiya
Published: 2013
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land’s End.

This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco’s sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world’s most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.

This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author’s 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps of the 49 locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White’s Here is New York, Jose Saramago’s Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy last year.

Why I want to read it:

I came to San Francisco in my 20s, and while I love my adopted city, I always feel like there’s more for me to learn and explore. I’ve been familiar with this author for a while now, thanks to the weekly column he writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, Portals to the Past, in which he highlights different stories from SF’s history. They’re always surprising, sometimes very funny and/or weird, and never fail to entertain.

I first heard of this book a few years ago, and I finally decided to treat myself to a copy last year, but sadly, haven’t actually taken it off the shelf to read yet. I think this is one that could be read in small bites, maybe just a chapter here and there in between other books.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #245: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners
Author: Therese Oneill
Published: 2016
Length: 307 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era?

Ladies, welcome to the 19th century, where there’s arsenic in your face cream, a pot of cold pee sits under your bed, and all of your underwear is crotchless. (Why? Shush, dear. A lady doesn’t question.)

UNMENTIONABLE is your hilarious, illustrated, scandalously honest (yet never crass) guide to the secrets of Victorian womanhood, giving you detailed advice on:

~ What to wear
~ Where to relieve yourself
~ How to conceal your loathsome addiction to menstruating
~ What to expect on your wedding night
~ How to be the perfect Victorian wife
~ Why masturbating will kill you
~ And more

Irresistibly charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and featuring nearly 200 images from Victorian publications, UNMENTIONABLE will inspire a whole new level of respect for Elizabeth Bennett, Scarlet O’Hara, Jane Eyre, and all of our great, great grandmothers.

(And it just might leave you feeling ecstatically grateful to live in an age of pants, super absorbency tampons, epidurals, anti-depressants, and not-dying-of-the-syphilis-your-husband-brought-home.)

How and when I got it:

I picked up an e-book copy of this book in 2017.

Why I want to read it:

I really don’t remember where I first came across this book, but doesn’t it sound amazing? As a fan of Victorian era fiction, I know I’ve found myself daydreaming about an idealized version of life in those times, with all the complicated clothes and social niceties and balls and courting rituals.

But oh, the reality! Just reading the description of this book makes me cringe (and makes me super thankful for running water, modern medicine, and the freedom to dress comfortably). I’m so curious about this book, and look forward to diving in and learning about the cold heart facts of intimate Victorian life.

Have you read this book? Would you want to?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

Title: The Princes in the Tower
Author: Alison Weir
Publisher: Ballantine
Publication date: 1992
Length: 287 pages
Genre: History
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Despite five centuries of investigation by historians, the sinister deaths of the boy king Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, remain two of the most fascinating murder mysteries in English history. Did Richard III really kill “the Princes in the Tower,” as is commonly believed, or was the murderer someone else entirely? Carefully examining every shred of contemporary evidence as well as dozens of modern accounts, Alison Weir reconstructs the entire chain of events leading to the double murder. We are witnesses to the rivalry, ambition, intrigue, and struggle for power that culminated in the imprisonment of the princes and the hushed-up murders that secured Richard’s claim to the throne as Richard III. A masterpiece of historical research and a riveting story of conspiracy and deception, The Princes in the Tower at last provides a solution to this age-old puzzle.

After watching The White Queen on Starz a couple of weeks ago, I realized how little I knew about the War of the Roses and the complicated history of English royalty prior to the Tudors. And one of the things that really caught my attention was the story of the lost princes.

I’d heard about “the Princes in the Tower” before, but didn’t know the historical context at all. After learning about the missing princes through the fictionalized version of Edward IV’s reign and Richard III’s ascension, as presented in The White Queen, I was dying to know more.

I’ve had a few Alison Weir books on my shelves for years, but only those focused on Henry VIII, his children, and his court. I eagerly picked up her 1992 historical investigation into the fate of the young princes.

It’s a fascinating story, and one that’s pretty mind-boggling in terms of cruelty and tragedy. Upon the death of Edward IV, his young son Edward was the acknowledged heir. Edward IV named his brother Richard as Lord Protector for his son, but the protectorship by law would only last until the young king’s formal coronation.

Richard, seeking power for himself, brought Edward V into the Tower for protection in the months leading up to the coronation. He eventually convinced the boys’ mother, Queen Elizabeth, to send her younger son Richard to join Edward.

In a brief period of time, Richard convinced Parliament to delegitimize the boys, by declaring Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth invalid. With Edward’s heirs named as bastards, Richard was more easily able to claim the throne, and was eventually coronated himself.

Meanwhile, after a few documented months in the Tower, the young princes were never seen again.

Over the centuries, mystery has swirled around their disappearances. They are presumed to have been murdered, and the murder is most frequently attributed to Richard III, although other theories dispute this and even question whether they actually died in the Tower at all.

Author Alison Weir combs through sources from the time period as well as soon thereafter, and delves deeply into both what the written record shows as well as what details may have been omitted. She painstakingly builds her case, and by the end of The Princes in the Tower, presents a very compelling argument for her conclusion.

I found The Princes in the Tower an intriguing read, occasionally dry (especially to someone who — I admit — more frequently picks up history via historical fiction), but always full of interesting facts, sources, and speculations.

She carefully identifies which sources were contemporaneous with the events related to the princes, and which were created after the fact (such as Sir Thomas More’s chronicles), and how changing political climates could have affected the way in which events were portrayed.

Highly recommended for those interested in intricate studies of complicated times. I look forward to reading more of Alison Weir’s work.

Shelf Control #240: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
Author: John Scalzi
Published: 2008
Length: 368 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

On September 13, 1998, John Scalzi sat down in front of his computer to write the first entry in his blog “Whatever” — and changed the history of the Internet as we know it today.

What, you’re not swallowing that one? Okay, fine: He started writing the “Whatever” and amused about 15 people that first day. If that many. But he kept at it, for ten years and running. Now 40,000 people drop by on a daily basis to see what he’s got to say.

About what? Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he’s funny. Sometimes he’s serious (mostly he’s sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back. Along the way, Scalzi’s become a best-selling, award-winning author, a father, and a geek celebrity. But no matter what, there’s always another Whatever to amuse and/or enrage his readers.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded collects some of the best and most popular Whatever entries over the history of the blog, from some of the very first entries right up into 2008. It’s a decade of Whatever, presented in delightfully random form — just the way it should be. 

How and when I got it:

I’m not sure when exactly, but I bought a copy sometime in the past couple of years.

Why I want to read it:

I love John Scalzi’s novels — I think I’ve read them all! At some point after discovering how much I loved his writing style, I visited his blog, Whatever. And kept going back.

I’ve been following Whatever for several years now, but didn’t start until after the period covered in this book. I know I love his snark and intelligence and humor (and cat photos), so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this book too, although I suspect I’ll want to read it in little bits and pieces over time.

368 pages of Whatever sounds like A LOT, after all.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #212: Bleaker House by Nell Stevens

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Bleaker House
Author: Nell Stevens
Published: 2017
Length: 256 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel…and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.

Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came an irresistible opportunity: she won a fellowship to spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Did she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock off the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she imagined she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she’d have a novel, right?

It’s true that there aren’t many distractions on Bleaker, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia and the weather. But as Nell gets to work on her novel–a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House–she discovers that an excruciatingly erratic Internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humour, this memoir traces Nell’s island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, as memoir and novel start to reflect one another. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run–neither a remote island nor the pages of her notebook–to escape herself.

A whimsical, entertaining, thought-provoking blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with tongue-in-cheek writing advice, Bleaker House brilliantly captures the hopes, fears, self-torture and humour of being young and yearning to make a creative life. With winning honesty and wit, Nell’s race to finish her book emerges as a fascinating narrative in its own right.
 

How and when I got it:

I bought it a year or so ago.

Why I want to read it:

I really don’t remember how I stumbled across this book, but it sounded so quirky and charming that I just had to have it. I’m not necessarily a fan of reading about the writing process, but the idea of being so isolated in such a strange location really piqued my interest.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #207: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Lost City of Z
Author: David Grann
Published: 2009
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett & his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humans. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions inspired Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions round the globe, Fawcett embarked with his 21-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilisation–which he dubbed Z–existed. Then his expedition vanished. Fawcett’s fate, & the tantalizing clues he left behind about Z, became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness.

For decades scientists & adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party & the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes or gone mad. As Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, & the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s green hell. His quest for the truth & discoveries about Fawcett’s fate & Z form the heart of this complexly enthralling narrative.

How and when I got it:

I picked up a used copy over five years ago, I think.

Why I want to read it:

I had planned to read this book years ago! Every once in a while, I’m in the mood for a really good true-life adventure story, and I’d heard such good things about this one! I know there was a movie within the last couple of years (which I didn’t see), but I’ve always meant to read this book, and I probably should get to it already. It sounds like a great combination of action/adventure/exploration/mystery, which should keep things moving right along. Plus, I’ve read one book by this author, Killers of the Flower Moon, and thought it was so well researched and put together.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
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Have fun!

Book Review: Buried in the Sky by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

Title: Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day
Author: Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Publication date: June 11, 2012
Length: 286 pages
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: Gift
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

When Edmund Hillary first conquered Mt. Everest, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was at his side. Indeed, for as long as Westerners have been climbing the Himalaya, Sherpas have been the unsung heroes in the background. In August 2008, when eleven climbers lost their lives on K2, the world’s most dangerous peak, two Sherpas survived. They had emerged from poverty and political turmoil to become two of the most skillful mountaineers on earth. Based on unprecedented access and interviews, Buried in the Sky reveals their astonishing story for the first time.

Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan explore the intersecting lives of Chhiring Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Lama, following them from their villages high in the Himalaya to the slums of Kathmandu, across the glaciers of Pakistan to K2 Base Camp. When disaster strikes in the Death Zone, Chhiring finds Pasang stranded on an ice wall, without an axe, waiting to die. The rescue that follows has become the stuff of mountaineering legend.

At once a gripping, white-knuckled adventure and a rich exploration of Sherpa customs and culture, Buried in the Sky re-creates one of the most dramatic catastrophes in alpine history from a fascinating new perspective.
 

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day really is, well, an extraordinary story.

If you’re at all like me, the idea of climbing huge mountains seems utterly ridiculous. What drives people to need to reach the summit of these forbidding peaks, risking their lives and making enormous investment of time and money to do so?

Many mountaineering adventure books follow the climbers, their backgrounds, and their experiences. Buried in the Sky focuses instead on the Sherpas, the people who make other people’s climbs possible. The wealthy foreigners with their corporate sponsors and fancy equipment may get the spotlight, but what about the indigenous people who ascend on climb after climb, lugging gear, setting ropes, and enabling foreign climbers to pursue their dreams?

I learned so much from reading Buried in the Sky. “Sherpa” is commonly used as a word to describe the people who work on climbs and carry equipment, but the word Sherpa actually denotes an ethnicity. Among the people of Tibet, Nepal, and Pakistan, there is fierce competition and resentment among the different ethnic groups who seek the lucrative jobs that come with high altitude climbing support. 

The book clearly illustrates how attractive these jobs are, providing an income that exceeds by far anything the local villagers can expect to earn in their lifetimes, enabling the high altitude porters to support their families to such an extent that the extreme risks seems worthwhile.

The story of the 2008 K2 climb is harrowing, as we get to know the Sherpa climbers and their backstories, as well as the paying climbers who hire them. There are so many factors working against a successful climb. It’s really mind-boggling to me that anyone would even attempt this or see this type of climb as a goal, but hey, I’ve never claimed to be an outdoor adventurer!

I do wish the book had provided more details on K2 itself. While there are some photos of the sherpas and climbers from the expedition, there are only a handful of maps scattered throughout the book. Even though the focus of the books is on the sherpas and their lives, more information on the mountain itself would have been helpful. It was hard for me to fully visualize the various challenges and dangers of each step of the climb.

There seems almost to be an assumption of basic familiarity with K2 on the part of the authors, so I often felt that I was thrown in the middle and expected to understand.

This is a case where a book should perhaps have been longer. While Buried in the Sky is a relatively quick read, I feel it would have benefited by going more in-depth on the mountain itself and the climbing process.

Still, Buried in the Sky is a fascinating story, showing the mistakes and miscommunications that contributed to the 2008 disaster — and yet, even a perfectly executed climb could likely end in death. It’s a scary, interesting, engrossing read — I just wish there had been a bit more.

Shelf Control #181: The White Darkness by David Grann

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: The White Darkness
Author: David Grann
Published: 2018
Length: 160 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

By the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon , a powerful true story of adventure and obsession in the Antarctic, lavishly illustrated with color photographs

Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice. He was also a man obsessed. He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton, the nineteenth-century polar explorer, who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole, and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot. Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death, and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.

Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions. He was related to one of Shackleton’s men, Frank Worsley, and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent. He modeled his military command on Shackleton’s legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them. He would succeed where Shackleton had failed, in the most brutal landscape in the world.

In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton’s crew, battling the freezing, desolate landscape, life-threatening physical exhaustion, and hidden crevasses. Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back. On November 2015, at age 55, Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous quest: to walk across Antarctica alone.

David Grann tells Worsley’s remarkable story with the intensity and power that have led him to be called “simply the best narrative nonfiction writer working today.” Illustrated with more than fifty stunning photographs from Worsley’s and Shackleton’s journeys, The White Darkness is both a gorgeous keepsake volume and a spellbinding story of courage, love, and a man pushing himself to the extremes of human capacity.

How and when I got it:

I bought it last fall when it was released.

Why I want to read it:

David Grann is the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, which is one of those exceptional types of non-fiction books that read like a novel. Naturally, when I saw that he was releasing a new book, I had to have it. The subject matter sounds amazing. I’m definitely fascinated by Antarctica and the certain type of obsession it takes to explore there, and I always love a good survival story, so this book appeals to me in a lot of different ways. It’s a small, slim hardcover, with glossy photos, and looks like it’ll be a great read once I finally sit down with it!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

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  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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