The Sun is a Compass

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert

Real life adventure memoirs can make for wonderful reading, especially during a time when we’re staying close to home. Wildlife biologist Caroline, 33, makes an epic trek with husband Patrick, a home builder, to the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. Traveling by homemade rowboats, skiing, hiking, on inflatable rafts, and in a borrowed canoe, the pair make an incredible six-month journey. Along the way they meet with unexpected kindness from strangers and Caroline regains her love of science after completing her Ph.D. mostly in a lab. Their backstory and motivation for the journey are shared, along with glimpses of happy childhoods and their loving, supportive families. Caroline’s sister has a baby as they consider parenthood. Patrick is the optimistic adventurer and builder, while Caroline is the detailed list maker, organizing most of their food drops. Part of their journey is through areas so remote that available maps show little detail and the weather forecasts are unhelpful. The pair are often awed by the magnificent landscape and the wildlife, learning to trust the trails of migrating caribou, and encountering moose, bear, and many of the birds Caroline has studied. A compelling read, and a good readalike for Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Sarah Marquis’ Wild by Nature, along with other adventure memoirs that can be found here. I read the print book, but listened to a sample of the downloadable audiobook I’ve just added to our Media on Demand collection.

Coming soon: a list of family friendly reads that can be enjoyed by older kids, teens, and adults, including titles suggested by staff in our Children’s Department.

Enjoy!
Brenda

 

Underland

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

For a remarkable reading adventure, join Robert Macfarlane as he explores the hidden worlds underground, from Slovenia to England to Greenland. This is a book to savor, lyrically written, for readers of adventure, travel, nature, and history, except for the claustrophobic. Moving below ground, he often travels backwards in time, to see red pictographs in Norwegian sea caves, the catacombs deep beneath Paris, and the fungal network linking trees in Epping Forest. There are ancient barrows, a physics lab in a Yorkshire mine, a glacier in Greenland, and caves built to receive nuclear waste in Finland. In China there’s a cave system with its own weather system, and a river deep underground connects Slovenia and northern Italy. Receding glaciers and melting permafrost show that nothing is permanent. Awe and brief moments of terror in locations ordinary and sublime make for a fascinating look at unimagined worlds. Readalikes include Into the Planet, The Hidden Life of Trees, Frozen in Time, In the Kingdom of Ice, and Deep Down Dark. Macfarlane’s other books include The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Wild Places.

Brenda

 

Into the Planet

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth

If you’re looking for the ultimate real-life adventure memoir, look no further. A pioneer in the field of cave diving, Heinerth has helped explore the longest underwater cave system in the Yucatan, and dived all over Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and most notably, inside an Antarctic iceberg. Her passion and joy in the challenge and discovery of cave diving is clear, but also the discomfort, the arduous preparation with bulky, heavy diving gear, and the loneliness of being a woman in the early days of cave diving. In this deeply personal account, Heinerth shares how the stresses led to the failure of her first marriage to a fellow cave diver. While some of her dives are apparently stunningly gorgeous (my digital review copy had only two of the photos that will appear in the finished book), other dives are arduous with tight spaces, low visibility, and moments of sheer terror. Heinerth also struggles with ever present grief over the friends she has lost to the perils of cave diving, and now focuses on diving for environmental and other scientific goals. The chapters on traveling to and diving in the Antarctic are thrilling and inspiring.

Brenda

Into the Storm

Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristram Korten

This is the gripping story of how two cargo ships encountered Hurricane Joaquin in September, 2015. National Hurricane Center meteorologists began tracking a tropical depression that unexpectedly gained in strength and followed a very different path than usual for Atlantic storms. As the Coast Guard prepared, including helicopter crews stationed in the southern Bahamas, two ships tried, unsuccessfully, to stay away from the storm. Delays in getting current weather reports and a lack of the most up-to-date safety features proved disastrous for one older ship, while dramatic rescue attempts by a highly trained helicopter rescue crew showed the resilience of another ship’s crew, making for compelling reading. This is a good readalike for The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger and Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.

Brenda

 

The Shipwreck Hunter

The Shipwreck Hunter by David Mearns

A fascinating real life adventure, sure to appeal to fans of The Pirate Hunters. Mearns describes the research, fundraising, and dramatic searches needed to find historical shipwrecks. His teams have searched for a 15th century ship connected to Vasco de Gama, an Australian World War II hospital ship, and the freighter Lucona, which sank in the Indian Ocean in 1977 after an explosion in the cargo hold. This book is quite the page turner; I wanted to see if his team could find yet another long missing ship, and possibly discover why it sank. Equipment failures, conflicting eyewitness accounts, and rough weather make searches even more challenging.

Brenda

Rocket Men

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

A compelling, engaging read of the amazing challenge NASA accepted in the summer of 1968 to send astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders to orbit the Moon in late December on Apollo 8. While the stories of Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 are well known, the less familiar story of Apollo 8 makes for fascinating reading. Even though I knew that Apollo 8 was successful, Kurson still makes the mission suspenseful. The author met and interviewed Borman, Lovell, Anders and their families for this book, and his portrayal of the men and their wives turn them from remote historical figures into real, approachable people. Readers learn how and why the men became astronauts, and how their families coped with their dangerous jobs as test pilots and astronauts. Until NASA learned that the Soviet Union planned a flyby of the moon in 1968, they weren’t planning to send astronauts to the moon until Apollo 9 in 1969. In four months, they planned their boldest mission, which was vital in preparing for the moon landing of Apollo 11 and best remembered for photographs of the Earth and the live television broadcast on Christmas Eve. After a very turbulent and violent year, Borman, Lovell, and Anders helped end 1968 on a hopeful, triumphant note. Apollo 8, by Jeffrey Kruger is another recent book about the mission. For more from Robert Kurson, read Shadow Divers, Crashing Through, or Pirate Hunters, which will be discussed here on July 17.

Brenda

 

Walking the Americas

Walking the Americas by Levison Wood

Levison Woods, former British Army paratrooper, takes readers on another adventure, this time with Mexican photographer Alberto Caceres. They hike from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where Cortes landed in 1519 all the way through Central America to the Colombian border in South America. Eight countries, 1800 miles, in just over four months, including the dangerous jungle of Panama’s Darien Gap, visited by Balboa in 1513. The sense of adventure and occasional danger is a little artificial when I know that Wood has a support team and is filming a documentary mini-series, but the accomplishment is still impressive. Each country makes a different impression on Wood, from the people and culture to the landscape and food. While spider bites and river crossings are a real danger, along with quicksand and snakes, walking along sections of the highway for part of their journey seems the greatest hazard. There are funny parts, some awesome scenery, and the occasional silly mistake. Wood has previously hiked the Himalayas and walked along the Nile River, and his latest hike has been circumnavigating the Arabian Peninsula.
Wood’s adventures make very entertaining armchair travel reading, especially as Wood hikes through parts of Central America rarely seen by tourists.

Brenda