Adventure and Disaster Genre Study

2nd September 2014, start 10:30 AM

Present: Janet, Paula, Molly, Jason, Dylan, Frank, Sarah, Susan, Ben, Julie, Lisa, Faith

Four types: biography and memoir, historical accounts, history in retrospect, adventures and catastrophes

Four benchmark books:

The Bounty
Well written. Interesting perspective about Captain Bligh who trained under Captain Cook. Many details about the trial of the buccaneers that felt repetitious although provided interesting details of historic navy trial. Scenes of sailing in terrible conditions were quite thrilling.

Lost in Shangri La
Historical account of plane crash in unexplored area of New Guinea at the end of WWII. Of the 3 survivors, one was a WAC who captured the heart of America through her resilience and beauty. Exciting rescue. Interesting details of relationship between natives and survivors. Well researched and well written.

Crazy for the Storm
Memoir with alternating chapters of plane crash and flashbacks to childhood surfing with his father. Interesting details about surfing, skiing and relationship with his father. Not a happy story.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu
Toned down Bill Bryson. You learn a lot about history while following author’s hiking trek following ancient trail. Felt more like history and travel than adventure writing.

Second Titles

As Told at the Explorer’s Club, edited by George Plimpton
51 older tales organized by geographic region. Explorer’s Club is a NYC restaurant known as a gathering spot for explorer’s. The tales are very interesting and a sampling of the section on Africa included tales of ghosts, lions, and rare species. “Adventure means that you are not well prepared.”

City of Falling Angels.
Disaster in 1996 that burned the Fenice Opera House. Snippets of Venetian life and history interspersed with the details of the fire.

In the Shadow of the Dam.
Local disaster when the Mill River dam broke flooding the Valley. Learn how it happened and details about the trial afterwards. The library has many pictures from the flood.

Sudden Sea. Great hurricane of 1938.
There are people here who remember. Engaging details of this storm, hurricanes in detail, weather predicting. Surprising to learn the extent of damage to New England industry.

Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919
Perspectives of workers and stories of those that died and cleanup and trial in this Boston tragedy. Many related historical details including WWI. 2.3 million gallons created a 15 foot wave.

Sisters of Sinai.
Two Scottish twins, set in end of 19th century seek to uncover a biblical treasure on Sinai Peninsula.  “Rattling tale” might be a stretch but lots of adventure along the way. Impressive to learn about these highly educated and cunning women.

Marco Polo : from Venice to Xanadu
The story of Marco Polo is amazing! Also details of lesser known tales of his uncle and father’s adventures. Polo traveled extensively on trade routes on behalf of Khan. He brought back a wealth of information including technical details of various goods and products. Draws heavily from Polo’s texts.

My Journey to Lhasa
Born in 1869, France the author became an expert on Buddhism and learned several Asian languages. First western woman to meet Dali Lama. Book is memoir of a trip she took in the 20s. She pretended to be a Buddhist pilgrim and took an amazing journey on foot with no equipment.

Amazing Footrace. Coast to coast race across America during 20s.
Tells story of several candidates who were not all athletes but motivated by the prize money.

In the Heart of the Sea.
Tells story of ship that Moby Dick is based on. Fascinating details of whaling and related history. Cannabilism. 3 months from time of wreck to rescue. “Not an adventure but a tragedy.” Well written.

Whatever You Do Don’t Run by Peter Allison (Australian)
Adventure of young man who decided to move to Africa at 19 to become a Safari guide. Mostly set in Botswana, this book includes a mouse invasion with lots of humor.

Into Thin Air.
Great literature but sad story. Tragedy of Mount Everest climbing phenomenon.

Alive about plane crash in the Andes.

Unbroken. Lost at Sea and Japanese prison camp survival.

Why read adventure and disaster?

Armchair adventures, lots of historical details set in cultural context, wonderful personal stories and character development, explore strength of human spirit and psychology of humans put to extremes. Can contain historical puzzles.

Next time is the last in our non-fiction genre study and there are lots of areas we haven’t covered. There isn’t a benchmark next time but read two narrative non-fiction from two different unexplored genres. See Molly if you need help finding new books. Next meeting in early December. Romance after that!


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