Attention armchair adventurers, history buffs, and geography enthusiasts—the New Book Section at A.K. Smiley Public Library is calling out to you! Here are just a few selections from our bookshelves.
Brian Castner’s “Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike” brings the Klondike gold rush of 1897-1898 into detailed focus. More than 100,000 people headed north in search of gold and wealth during an intense economic depression. Very few of them succeeded in their quest and many of them tragically perished due to being completely unprepared for the harsh realities they encountered. Individual experiences and tragedies are intimately chronicled, along with photographs, through the author’s meticulous research of memoirs, oral histories, and other historical sources. Stories of familiar names like Jack London, Skookum Jim, and the nefarious Soapy Smith are included, along with many others.
Another optimistic adventure in 1897 that also turned ill-fated is detailed in Julian Sancton’s “Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night.” This narrative of Belgium’s first polar expedition details the journey south that eventually became a story of survival as the ship became engulfed in ice for an entire year. The author shares the relationships of the scientists and sailors as they endured the long polar night, illness, isolation, and madness. The inclusion of photographs brings more vividness to the saga. A young Roald Amundsen and Dr. Frederick Cook, unknown to history at that time, were part of the crew.
Jack London and Dr. Frederick Cook also appear in Patrick Dean’s “A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali, America’s Wildest Peak.” In 1913 Episcopal priest Hudson Stuck, wilderness guide Harry Karstens, Alaskan native Walter Harper, and divinity student Robert Tatum all kept journals of their trek on the first successful ascent of Denali. While this narrative chronicles their arduous journey, it also delves into the life of Englishman Hudson Stuck and his experiences before the historic climb. He advocated for ending child labor in Texas, was an Archdeacon of the Yukon and Arctic where he established hospitals, libraries, schools and missions, and was an advocate for the environment and indigenous Alaskans.
Here are a few more selections for your consideration: “Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena,” by Jordan Salama; “To the Greatest Heights: Facing Danger, Finding Humility, and Climbing a Mountain of Truth,” by Vanessa O’Brien; “In Search of a Kingdom: Francis Drake, Elizabeth I, and the Perilous Birth of the British Empire,” by Laurence Bergreen; and “Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall,” by Helena Merriman.
Just in case you decide to pursue your own adventure, you might want to first read the tenth anniversary edition of “The Natural Navigator: The Rediscovered Art of Letting Nature Be Your Guide: Find Your Way with Trees, Looming Clouds, Hidden Spiderwebs, and More Clues,” by Tristan Gooley.