Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Mammoth Book of Endurance & Adventure, edited by Jon E. Lewis

Jon E. Lewis pulls together exciting stories from across the globe in his The Mammoth Book of Endurance & Adventure. He includes expeditions to the poles, mountains, jungles, caves, the air, deserts, and on water. He includes a range of authors, anywhere from the well-known Ernest Shackleton and Charles Lindbergh to Nikolai Nikhailovich Przhevalski and Norbert Casteret. Like most other anthologies, this book skims the cream off other published material, and can serve as a teaser or a replacement for the full works, depending on your preference. He includes several books on mountaineering, including excerpts from Bonatti, Herzog, and others (notably Lewis and Clark's crossing of the Great Divide).

For Mount Everest, editor Lewis side-steps the usual pick for Hillary and Tenzing's ascent of the mountain, choosing the summit-day excerpt from High Adventure rather than The Ascent of Everest. I find it a good pick, both because its a bit more clearly written than Ascent, and because everyone else uses Hillary's chapter from Ascent in their anthologies. Also, in High Adventure, the writing is a bit more jaunty and dramatic, and Hillary fixes a couple pitfalls from the earlier telling, such as his tugging on the rope, Tenzing's flopping about as a fish at the top of the Hillary Step, and revising down, but justifying his estimate of the height of that climb (though he still doesn't come close to Tenzing's estimation of 15 feet in Tiger of the Snows). I was a bit saddened, however, that Lewis fell into the trap of ending the story on the summit. Even if their descent was uneventful by Everest standards, I do hate leaving climbers way up in the troposphere to sort things out without me on their way home. Perhaps you feel differently. Lewis has actually released a Everest-specific title in this series that I'll get to eventually: The Mammoth Book of Eyewitness Everest. Happy reading!

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