Book Reviews

Expedition To The Edge: Stories Of Worldwide Adventure

Lynn Martel
Rock Mountain Books, 2008, 345 pages

When i first met Lynn Martel at the Banff Mountain Book Festival in the late 1990’s she was chronicling her adventures with friends in the mountains as a reporter for Alberta’s Bow Valley newspapers. Little did I, or she for that matter, realize that one day those stories would become the core of her first book. Expedition to the Edge is a collection of selections from that work and later stories created as a full time freelance writer. Even before she became a full time writer Martel used her association with the Banff Festivals, as a volunteer, to meet and write about the world class adventurers brought to Banff for the annual book and film festivals.

The sixty or so essays included in Expedition cover the full range of outdoor / mountain adventure: mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, kayaking, long distance hiking, polar expeditions, paragliding—the list is long. A resident of the Bow Valley, many of the actors in Martel’s essays, though world-renowned in their fields, are her neighbors. Though this makes the stories a bit “Bow-centric,” she includes a number of international stars too: Slovenian climber Marko Prezeli and American climber George Lowe for example.

Martel’s experience as a journalist gives her a clean, readable writing style. Her experience in the mountains on foot, on skis and on her bike allows her to write as a participant in the active lives of her subjects not just as an observer.

A unique feature of Expedition is that many of the “interviews” for the core of her stories were conducted while Martel and her subject were in the woods on some sort of mini-adventure. This provides the reader with a glimpse of the rock and ice climbing, skiing, hiking and mountaineering opportunities in the environs of Banff and Jasper Parks in general and the Bow River Valley in particular. Reading Expedition will bring back memories for those who have been to the Valley and tempt those who have not.

Stan Miller

Dean Karnazes
Wellness Central, 2008, 285 pages

50 MARATHONS in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. If anyone else concocted such a plan, they would be advised not to admit it out loud. However, Dean Karnazes makes his living redefining how far is far enough. So, when he pitches the idea of traversing the United States and running a marathon each day for over 7 weeks, his sponsors give him a green light.

50/50 not only traces his route across America in the fall of 2006, but he uses many of the marathons to highlight running insights he learned along the way. From time to time, he honors noteworthy first-time marathoners that joined him. Other times, he reveals oddities about certain races—such as the time they encountered a building with smoke coming out of it. Their uncommon police escort responded to the fire, and saved a life; and it never would have happened if the police had not been on the scene at the time of Dean’s New Jersey marathon.

Dean’s first book, a compelling New York Times bestseller titled Ultramarathon Man, chronicles the genesis of his running career including the multiple 100 mile races, the South Pole marathon, and winning the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley to name a few. Nonetheless, even a runner as accomplished as Karno had to deal with travel logistics. For example, due to the time zones, on the day he flew from the West Coast to Hawaii and back, he actually ran 2 marathons in less than 24 hours.

Built around an unfathomable story and packed with practical advice, Dean rightly praises his wife for being so supportive, and acknowledges the heroic race directors that coordinated with his team. He’s also clever about mentioning his sponsors every few marathons. 50/50 reads a little bit like a diary instead of a book, and repeats a couple lessons and experiences from his first book. But there’s little doubt about why ESPN named Dean Karnazes the “Best Outdoor Athlete” of 2006.

Jon Jonckers


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