Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re behind the times on this book as well. It came out in 2003, but just emerged in unabridged form on Audible.com a few months ago. And, yes, it was worth the wait. It’s Laurence Gonzales’ book Deep Survival.
The author–an acrobatic pilot, rock climber, and all-around adventurer (I’m trying to figure out what extreme sport he hasn’t personally done)–set out on a life-long mission to discover what it is that some people have that gets them through life-threatening events. He goes so far as pitching it as “the first scientific investigation of human survival.”
While I’m not sure I’d go that far, I will say that it’s a terrific book, gripping right from the very beginning when he gives you a taste of what got him started on his quest: the story of his father’s survival after being shot down in a plane over Germany during WWII. He comes back to personal themes time and time again, but the book is mainly tales from folks who survived life-and-death struggles, and how they did it. And, I’ve give away the ‘ending’: it’s not super, high-tech gear. It’s determination and heart and being in-the-moment.
We’re not shy about plugging audible.com. First, listening to books gives our computer-weary eyes a needed rest. Two, schlepping around an iPod is easier than a big, new hardcover. Third, often the authors themselves read the books, adding an extra dimension that reading can’t touch. (audible.com version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, anyone?)
We’ve been hearing about another book for a while and we mentioned it a few months ago, but hadn’t picked it up until just now, because now we can hear it from audible.com: Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between.
What makes this book special? Mr. Stewart walked across Asia solo. The book is about just a relatively small portion of that trip: walking–as in on foot–across Afghanistan during the war in 2002. He’s a young, Farsi and Persian-speaking, former British diplomat and current resident of Kabul, and his tale is fascinating. He re-traced the steps of a 16th Century Muslim Emperor (Babur), straight across the country, across high mountain passes–in the middle of winter–from Herat to Kabul.
You’ll definitely gain new insights into the culture and people of Afghanistan and hearing it directly from the author himself is well worth a listen. It’s surprising and interesting, and you’ll definitely learn a lot. We sure did.