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The Leader
 

New Books by NOLS Authors

Reviews by Matt Wendling
Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2002, Vol. 17, No. 2

Looking for Alaska
By Peter Jenkins
St. Martin's Press; $25.95

In 1999, Peter Jenkins, author of the best-selling book A Walk Across America, moved his family from their farm in Tennessee to a rented house in Seward, Alaska for 18 months. It was a family adventure-Peter's then 20 year-old daughter, Rebekah, joined him on many of his expeditions into the wilds of Alaska, and the book contains some of her own personal narratives.

Before journeying to Alaska, Rebekah took a month-long NOLS Idaho Backpacking and River course "to prepare for the extremes of Alaska." In Looking for Alaska, Rebekah writes, "NOLS helped me find the voice within myself that encourages me to persevere, to stay strong, to never give up. And what is most invaluable about what I found on my NOLS trip, out there in the high desert of Idaho and Oregon paddling the Owyhee, making my own way through the treacherous hot backcountry, is that voice that screams, 'You can do anything. Anything!'"

The eccentric happenings of Seward, as well as the Jenkins' forays out from their home base, provide the meat of Looking for Alaska. The book overflows with profiles painted vividly in the colors of the Alaskan frontier, profiles of commercial fishermen, homesteaders, mushers, and native Eskimo whalers. Their explorations find them tripping across the boundless wilderness via floatplane and dog sled, overcoming innumerable hardships along the way. Jenkins revels in the rugged beauty of Alaska and the human life nestled in amongst the seemingly endless glaciers, mountains and waterfalls. The narrative is written in a concise style that makes for a fast read and an unforgettable depiction of a wild and wonderful land.


Fire
By Sebastian Junger
W.W. Norton & Company; $24.95

Fire is the latest work of NOLS grad and celebrated writer Sebastian Junger, author of the wildly popular bestseller The Perfect Storm. A collection of ten previously published magazine articles, Fire deals with people confronting dangerous, explosive situations. In this exciting book, Junger reports on raging forest fires in the Western U.S., war zones in Kosovo and Afghanistan, the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, guerilla hostages in Kashmir, the last living whale harpooner on the Caribbean island of Bequia, and the Greek-Turkish conflict on Cyprus. The book also contains a chapter on the explorer John Colter, a member of the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark.

Fire is the latest work of NOLS grad and celebrated writer Sebastian Junger, author of the wildly popular bestseller The Perfect Storm. A collection of ten previously published magazine articles, Fire deals with people confronting dangerous, explosive situations. In this exciting book, Junger reports on raging forest fires in the Western U.S., war zones in Kosovo and Afghanistan, the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, guerilla hostages in Kashmir, the last living whale harpooner on the Caribbean island of Bequia, and the Greek-Turkish conflict on Cyprus. The book also contains a chapter on the explorer John Colter, a member of the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark.


Rowing to Latitude
By Jill Fredston
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $24

Rowing to Latitude, written by two-time NOLS grad and former instructor Jill Fredston, chronicles the paddling adventures of Fredston and her husband, Doug, along the edge of the Arctic Circle. The book is as much an exploration of Fredston's loving relationship with Doug as it is a record of their travels. Filled with wild adventures, near disasters and glowing descriptions of beautiful, wild places, Rowing to Latitude is a captivating, exhilarating read. What follows is a short excerpt from the book-a description of wildness NOLS grads can appreciate, no matter where on the globe they took their course.

"If I were a place, I'd be Labrador: improbable, impossible, tempestuous, serene, thinly populated. I'd be smooth boulders carried by great rivers of ice, plopped down at random, and balanced precariously against the odds of gravity for thousands of years. I'd be spired mountains, crumbling ridgelines, and winds that literally make the water smoke. I'd be purple sunsets, bedrock that looks like marshmallows, and relentless green waves beating against the shore. I'd be dome-shaped islands with eider duck nests on the open tundra and puffin eggs concealed in the shadowed cracks between black rocks. I'd be clear streams flowing over pink granite, miles of imposing headlands, and icebergs of every conceivable shape making their way south from Greenland. I'd be Windy Tickle, Slam Bang Bay, Cape White Handkerchief, and Blow Me Down Mountain. I'd be sun one minute and rain like Ping-Pong balls the next, with rainbows that seem to span the world."


Rivers of Life: Southwest Alaska,
The Last Great Salmon Fishery
By Bruce Hampton
Aperture; $50
Review by Marco Johnson, NOLS Senior Faculty

When asked to paint a mental picture of Alaska, I conjure up images of the peaks of the Chugach or Alaska ranges. I see the mist clinging to the forested islands of the Inside Passage. If I am challenged to discuss environmental issues, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the cutting of old growth trees in the Tongass National Forest come to mind. Photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum and author and former NOLS Instructor Bruce Hampton have collaborated on a book that challenges my stereotypes of Alaska and the issues that affect Alaskans.

This is a coffee table book and the pictures speak volumes. There are the wide-angle and sweeping vista shots of the geography of Southwest Alaska, beautiful rivers, mountains and tundra of an area that few people see. The close up shots of tundra flowers and lichen bring me into the photographs. I smell the wet, musty plants and feel the crunch of the tundra beneath my feet. When the photos depict fishing camps and the fish themselves, I hear the floatplane roar by, smell the rot of dead salmon and feel the rush of water around my legs.

While the pictures of this book are striking, I found Hampton's essay even more valuable. His essay begins with the natural history of salmon and progresses through a history of commercial and sport fishing in this area of Alaska. The issues, laws, conflicts, and environmental wrangling surrounding the salmon fishery are all laid out. Hampton also demonstrates how local issues have national effect. We meet the players in these issues: Native and non-Native, outsiders and Alaskans, producers and consumers. There is no editorializing. Each side gets its due. I learned more about salmon and the associated issues from Hampton than I had from working in Alaska for five years.

If your goal is to get an introduction to Southwest Alaska you will do well buying this volume. Should you wish a primer on salmon and the politics involved with this fish, this book is an excellent resource. Not a field book, it would make a wonderful addition to your library or coffee table.


Chapters
By Candice Olsen
McGraw-Hill; $21.95

With her book, Chapters, former NOLS instructor Candice Olsen (formerly Carpenter) offers reassurance to those of us struggling with changes in life. According to Olsen, wavering interests and frequent career shifts are the norm in modern society. In fact, unsettled periods in life are necessary, says Olsen, because they provide an opportunity to devote time to family or volunteer work. Chapters is an inspirational model for taking charge of the ever-shifting terrain of life, rather than being overwhelmed by it.

In Olsen's philosophy, each shift in life marks the end, and beginning, of a "chapter" in life. Like the chapters in a book, the chapters in our lives serve as building blocks. Each chapter introduces new elements and refines different aspects of our being while still keeping to the central narrative of our lives. In Chapters, Olsen offers advice on recognizing the end of certain sections in life and encourages readers to embrace new frontiers.

Throughout the book, Olsen draws upon her own experiences in life as a successful CEO, entrepreneur, and cofounder of iVillage.com. She shows that the Chapters approach to life can be applied not only to career planning, but also to personal issues like marriage and parenting. Olsen offers genuine help by giving people the words to understand what's happening as they open and close the chapters in their lives.


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