What is it about adventure stories that draws you in?
It’s facing and overcoming adversity. The choices made. The sacrifices made. What the human body can endure. Giving up versus pressing on.
The thing about true stories is you know, generally, how they’re going to turn out. But, the draw is finding out how they got there.
True adventure stories are inspiring.
Reading or hearing someone’s story creates hope within us that we can also survive, endure and triumph.
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The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
The pathos of the story draws you in. Joe Rantz is an almost Dickensonian hero.
Tracing the background of some others on the champion rowing team puts you in the boat with the rowers and has you cheering with the crowds on the shore.
I love the real life lessons of leadership and teamwork, and wonder how to transfer these lessons to other teams.
The up close and behind the scenes glimpses of history are instructive and sobering. So much to glean from this book.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
It’s little hard to put my finger on what I like about the book so much.
It’s a good study in leadership and teamwork. It’s an amazing triumph over the elements, even though the primary mission wasn’t accomplished. The feat was bringing back everyone home alive.
The decisions that had to be made; the feats of survival; the human interaction; the challenges that they faced. These are the elements of the story that draw you in and keep you turning pages.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner World War II soldier.
Zamperini faces so many incredible circumstances in his life before he turns 30. The perseverance and resilience he displayed in the face the multiple titanic challenges is an inspiration.
Knowing his background and family intensifies the story.
The final resolution is satisfying and heart warming.
Aside from the story, the writing is a work of art.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
In 1996, eight mountain climbers lost their lives while attempting to summit Everest. Jon Krakauer is a journalist and climber who survived and wrote about it.
To me, one of the most interesting dynamics is the role of leadership and teamwork in summiting as well as personal, individual responsibility.
One of the critical factors in the deaths of those on the mountain in 1996 was the enforcement of the turn around time.
Hall, the team leader, had been so strict about that for other teams, but with this one, he wasn’t. He didn’t communicate clearly whether the turn around time was one o clock or two clock. On the actual summit day, people were summiting at 4 and 5 o clock.
No one seemed to know that there was a storm blowing in.
There’s a lot of competing forces at play: people who spent a lot of money to summit, the commercialization of summiting, magazines that would pay a lot for the story, advertisers looking for heroes.
There’s also different teams that were summiting and the different philosophies of the team leaders.
Should a leader be making decisions that are unquestioned? Does that actually put his team at greater risk because they don’t follow their own wisdom? Actually, the genius of Hall’s leadership was to make the decisions ahead of time, not in the heat of the moment. And the actual breakdown came in not following through with those wise decisions.
The safety net wasn’t there when it needed to be.
The bottom line is, it impossible to erase all the risk. That’s one factor that makes the challenge so attractive: there is an element of risk involved. Defying death is part of the victory.
“The true story of one man’s miraculous survival after a mountaineering mishap high in the Andes of South America.”
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
I’ve been on the prowl for another great family read aloud, along the lines of Endurance and Unbroken. Even though Touching the Void and Into Thin Air are incredible true life accounts, I didn’t think the writing was of the same caliber as those two.
There’s a lot of climbing terms and concepts that I didn’t understand and it took a while before the story became compelling. If I hadn’t known what was coming, I’m not sure I would have stuck with it. The account is a testimony to the human will to survive. Although it was only given a passing reference, it’s also a testimony to the prayers of Joe’s mother.
It’s fascinating to me to analyze the decisions you make in the face of death. What motivates you to keep going when it’s hopeless and what motivates you to give up?
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
It took 100 pages for this story to really get good. But, when it did, I was hooked.
Who can resist the search for a lost city? There’s quite an appeal to explore virgin territory, untouched by human hands for centuries, but yet once a thriving civilization.
The book took a left turn for the last fourth and covered tropical diseases, almost leaving archeology in the dust. I found the information interesting, but it certainly wasn’t where I was expecting the book to go.