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Journalism

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

February 2, 2018

Using up precious ticks of the clock, none of them imagined that a horrible ordeal was drawing nigh. None of them suspected that by the end of the long day every minute would matter.

It’s spring on Mt Everest in 1996, and multiple teams are preparing for the long ascent to the top of the world. Little do they know, weak snow layers and building monsoons may cause the mountain’s deadliest season ever. As Jon Krakauer’s team, led by Rob Hall, plods up the mountain, they must encounter some of the most vicious weather on the planet, while fighting for their lives. Soon it is apparent that the six different teams need rescue— it’s a matter of life and death in the fight to get down alive. Time is running out for the brave team.

Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction masterpiece captures the harrowing tale of the perils at high altitude; this roller coaster ride sucks you in until you have finished. Krakauer used strong first and third person narratives, accompanied by strong diction and a journalistic style of writing that brought me right into the story and really portrayed the action. The perspectives swapped depending on whether Krakauer was experiencing it himself or explaining how certain things came to be. I loved how he interviewed many sources to bring in multiple perspectives on how events really took place. It was interesting to try to puzzle out how so many people made multiple mistakes leading to one of the most horrific mountain disasters of all time. Readers follow Krakauer the whole time, so it feels almost like accompanying Krakauer and interviewing people while discovering more and more about how they came to Everest and what they planed to do, which I thought was creative on Krakauer’s part.

When Krakauer writes he often dives off into history, such as how the first people climbed the mountain and how unfairly the Sherpas were and are treated. I personally thought that these short paragraphs were effective because they helped me understand some of the background information when I was reading. If readers knew nothing about mountains or elevation, they could still follow the main plot of the book, all due to the chapters designated for explaining background. Also if there is ever a word in a different language or a mountaineering term, Krakauer uses an indicator and explains the meaning or definition of the term below, therefore making the premise and details of the book completely understandable and easy to follow.

If you have always dreamed of mountains and the world surrounding them, this is a great book for you: it passes on intriguing ideas about how we can learn from mistakes people made before us and cautions readers to always pay attention to nature’s signs. Krakauer’s book is crafted so well that it was a national bestseller that captivated thousands of readers. If you are into suspense, action, and adventure, this is a book for you—especially if you have read other mountain books before. It inspired me in multiple ways, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Sawyer

Anchor Books, 333 pages


Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

January 26, 2018

It’s an in-and-out operation to drop in on a Habr Gidr clan leader meeting in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. Today’s targets: two of political leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s lieutenants, another attempt to get closer to revealing Aidid. There are four chalks; each have twelve Rangers. As they surround the perimeter of the block, a Delta team rushes into the building and captures the lieutenants. It should only take an hour.

But it all goes wrong when one Black Hawk helicopter gets shot down, and now one hundred elite soldiers have to rescue those men—and find their way out.

This work of non-fiction, Black Hawk Down, is interesting because author Mark Bowden thought to talk about the fighting techniques of the Somalian men. Most of them were just armed civilians, but there were also members of Aidid’s militia who were better trained. They hid in crowds of woman and children, firing from behind them, making it so that the Rangers would have to shoot innocent people, too. The Somali women would bring the Somali men ammunition and rockets.

I also found it powerful that, as well as interviewing and collecting experiences from the U.S. troops, Bowden interviewed Somali people. Some were even the ones fighting against America. It brings in some different perspective and keeps the narrative from being biased. Readers get a look at the situation from both sides.

Readers will appreciate how the theme Bowden is getting at is clear, especially at the end, and relevant. His message is that when soldiers get into a firefight, and a bunch of their buddies get killed, or wounded they come back home and lots of people don’t know, don’t remember, or don’t care about their experiences. And then they realize all the lives taken, and realize it’s not appreciated. Somebody has to write a book about an unknown firefight, so people know. And it makes me think that there are probably other fights like that.

There is also a decent movie adaptation of this book, and it follows the story accurately. I would suggest reading the book first, since the movie doesn’t change perspectives as much, which loses some of the depth that makes the book so strong.

I rated this book a nine, just because some parts were a little slow.  Still, I recommend Black Hawk Down to anyone who’s interested in the military. Even though its a non-fiction book, it gripped me and was a page turner. Prepare yourself for an exciting and terrifying true story to remember those who were there.

Dae

Grove Press New York, 360 pages

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Chew on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson

February 13, 2016

Chew on This

“There was one kid who, as paramedics were loading him into the ambulance, asked his friends to take his burger to the hospital with him.”

One aspect that I admired about Chew On This by Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Charles Wilson, a book about the role of fast food in our society, is that it goes into lots of detail and does not just focus on one subject.  Instead it broadens out into many fields, such as the following:

  • the meatpacking industry
  • the french fry industry
  • the fast food companies
  • the flavor industry

For example, the authors talked about how these fast food companies go and advertise and sell in schools and to young kids who are only about seven years old. The authors also describe meatpacking companies where the workers don’t bother pulling the rats out of the meat that we EAT.  They also reveal that the average small french fry order at McDonald’s has more than triple the fat that a Big Mac has.  I also learned the flavor industry is so advanced that they can make a food taste and smell like body odor.  Finally, did you know that the fast food companies encourage the drinking of a six-pack of Coke every day? I had no idea until reading this hard-hitting work of non-fiction.

The reason that I picked up Chew On This was because I wanted to know the truth about what we eat.  Schlosser has taken his Fast Food Nation research and made it accessible to younger readers like me. Once I picked up this book I could not put it down, because the authors include excellent diction and such detailed description.  I was horrified, intrigued and informed all at once.  This read made me more aware of the some of the horrors of the fast food industry.

I think that Chew on This helps us by telling us what our food is really going through, and what is really in our food; I think that this will help us by educating us in this subject.  If you liked or even watched the movie Fed Up then you will love this book.  I would rate this book a 10 out of a 10.  I would recommend this book to ages ten and up.

Christian
Houghton Mifflin, 318 Pages


Marching Powder, by Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young

January 27, 2015

43081When I think of prison, I think of cells, barbed wire, fenced-in areas surrounded by armed guards. What I don’t think of are luxury suites, shops, and restaurants owned by inmates. I definitely don’t think of a place that prisoners can leave at their own will. Yet that is the shocking setting for Rusty Young’s bestselling memoir, Marching Powder.

Marching Powder, by Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young, is the true story of Thomas, a cocaine smuggler in Bolivia, which is one of South America’s most corrupt cities. Thomas arranges everything so that he can get through the airport without his cocaine being found by guards and dogs. He bribes guards, makes a fake ID, yet something still goes wrong; Thomas is betrayed by the only person he thought he could trust. After going to a lengthy trial, where the judge is bribed, Thomas is sent to San Pedro prison. But San Pedro prison is like no other prison in the world. San Pedro prison is its own society, with shops and stores all run by prisoners. Prisoners must buy their own cells, as if checking in at a hotel. Thomas quickly learns money is key, and he must get some or he will die. He is surprised to find some very wealthy prisoners inside, and he quickly learns how they make all their money. Underneath the bizarre exterior, San Pedro prison is really a cocaine lab. Prisoners bribe guards for the ingredients, and then sell the cocaine to wealthy buyers.

Since Marching Powder is a memoir, it is told as a first-person narrative, i.e, “I did this.” I think that this was an effective way to tell it for two reasons. It made it feel more realistic because it was like I was experiencing everything firsthand. It also made it easier to get to know the characters because I could envision them so easily.

This memoir is a stand-alone book, which was good because, as a memoir, I don’t believe it could have had an effective sequel. It was, however, made into a movie, which is currently in production. It is expected to be released in 2015, although currently there is no fixed release date.

I believe that this book had two themes incorporated into it. One reveals how corruption is everywhere—all around us. I think this theme is shown through the amount of bribery going around the justice system. The other shows how different conditions are all around the world. I feel like the corruption theme was illustrated the best. I think that this was a very important theme for Young and McFadden to include, as it changed the way I looked at the world around me.

Overall, I loved Marching Powder and would recommend it to anyone thirteen and up. I rated it a perfect ten, because it was so real and so raw. The research Young did for this was incredible, as he stayed inside the prison for six months. His dedication clearly paid off, as shown by his writing. Marching Powder is one of my favorite books, and I strongly suggest you read it before you leave middle school.

Nicco

Pan Macmillan Australia, 371 pages


Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

February 7, 2012

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a fascinating, true story about Chris McCandless, a man in his early twenties with an ambition to escape the constraints of contemporary society.  McCandless is inspired by authors like adventure novelist Jack London and environmentalist John Muir to abandon his life as a typical suburban American and create a new one for himself. He changes his name to Alexander Supertramp, ditches his beloved car, donates or burns most of his money, and begins hitchhiking across the western past of the U.S.  He leaves with no notice of where he’s going or when he’ll be back. Into the Wild is a must read for anyone even remotely intrigued by the prospect of living alone off the land.

I loved this book.  Normally, I enjoy books with a lot of real-life information, and Into the Wild is chock full.  Krakauer beautifully explains McCandless’s former life, his relationship with his family, and what spurs him to embark on his adventure in the first place. Even though McCandless didn’t write the book, every bit of the information Krakauer relates is believable and specific.  I learned a ton about McCandless, and I could definitely see where he was coming from.

Although I agreed with McCandless sometimes, a lot of his choices troubled me.  Yes, I think it would be fun to go into nature as he did, but I was disappointed with his decision to leave everyone who loved him wondering, until the tragic ending. The story flowed smoothly. In addition to Krakauer’s account of McCandless’s adventures, there are side stories about other hikers like Gene Rosellini, John Waterman, and others with similar fates. Krakauer even describes his attempt to get to the summit of the Devils Thumb, a mountain on the Alaska-British Columbia border.  All these stories pulled Into the Wild together in a way that kept me constantly wondering what was going to happen next.

I rated Into the Wild a ten out of ten. I admit I was reluctant to pick it up at first, because I’d never read a work of journalism before.  But when I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Avery

Villard Books, 207 pages

Learn more about this title at Amazon.com


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