Book Reviews: April 2007

50 Hikes In Washington
Kai Huschke
The Countryman Press: Woodstock, 2005, 240 pages.
Love Washington’s wild areas? You’ll love them more with this book. “The 50 hikes detailed here were chosen as the best of what Washington has to offer in its respective regions and life zones,” writes Huschke, and a quick glance at the table in the front will allow the reader to select hikes based on location, level of difficulty, length, duration, or by special attractions ranging from wildlife to vistas and cultural significance.

In his introduction, Huschke advocates the importance of experiencing Washington’s wilderness areas firsthand for their diversity and beauty. Accordingly, the selected hikes cover a vast range of interests and abilities, but Huschke masters the fine line between information and over-indulged detail. He presents basic information on hiking that is simple to understand for beginners and quick to skim for experts. He is verbose, but the details are far from dull, and outside references are very specific.

His directions are so precise that getting lost is almost out of the question, but he also includes map titles for each specific area, along with local park information and the fees you should be aware of.

Not only does Huschke cover the basics of where and when to go, he also squeezes in botany, zoology, and history lessons. Huschke’s trip descriptions include such detailed information about the flora and fauna you can expect to encounter on each foray, you can practically identify a given species just from where you are on the trail.

Some of the hikes are remote, and only about eight of the fifty hikes selected are within a three-hour drive from Spokane, but the book would serve as a great introductory guide to the various natural areas to our west. Planning a spring break trip anywhere in Washington? Get out there with Kai Huschke’s 50 Hikes in Washington.

Mira Copeland


Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century
Alex Steffen
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2006, 608 pages.
What is “sustainable” living? The term can be defined as changing the way we treat the earth to preserve it for the future. But when most people use the word sustainability they are talking about either a) the greatest crisis facing humanity or b) ways we can enjoy our over-consumptive North American lifestyle guilt-free. Worldchanging deals with the former definition, but the darn book is designed so pretty it appears to be the latter at first glance.

Digging into the 600-page tome reveals a book that is an amazing catalogue of ideas that could make the world a better place. Many of them you’ve heard of, say microlending or tidal power-but there’s also concepts such the compostable tent city and leapfrogging infrastructure. Progressive futurists, citizens of the world, look no further-this is your textbook.

If the book has a failing it’s that it sometimes reads like a textbook. Not in a boring way-the text here is always interesting and well-written-but in its inevitable lack of depth. It’s just not possible to cover several hundred ideas and not treat some of them in a cursory fashion, or with improper weight. Is the recently sold American Apparel really the only example they can come up with of a domestic fair-trade garment company? Do the world-changing possibilities of bicycles really merit less attention hydrogen producing algae? My personal quibbles, sure.

The greatest thing about World Changing (which is also a website: is the hopeful note it strikes. I love it for the same reason that I stopped reading Adbusters. I don’t need to constantly have my faced rubbed in how crappy the world is. I would rather spend my precious media consumption time trying to get information on how I can make the world a better place.

This book has some amazing ideas. I would love to fast-forward 20 years to find out which ideas were actually world changing.

Jon Snyder


Vertical World: Conversations with Today’s Masters of Rock
Katie Brown
FalconGuide, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007, 161 pages.
Flipping through the pages of jaw-droppingly gorgeous photographs in Vertical World filled me with lust for a road trip south in search of big rocks and wilderness. Reading the “conversations” with nine climbers “who have made significant contributions to the sport” turned my lust into nothing less than need.

As a freshly addicted climber whose successes are limited to Wild Walls over the past five months and one recent stint at Minnehaha Park on Upriver Drive, I found Katie Brown’s first book to be deliciously full of inspiring rock eye-candy. The awesome images show world class and “cutting edge” American climbers attacking a variety of geological formations from different angles while bouldering, sport and traditional climbing, big wall free and even alpine climbing.

Brown was named Climbing magazine’s Best Female Climber of the Millenium in 1999 at the age of 17. Now a freelance writer and professional climber, she spent time on circuits with many of the athletes interviewed for this book, and got to know their unique styles and talents. Brown’s experiences give her the credibility needed to seriously ask questions such as, “is there a difference between doing an FA and redpointing a route?” (asked of 27-year-old Beth Rodden-an “FA” is a “first ascent” and “redpointing” is completing a lead climb without falling or resting on the rope, also known as “hangdogging”).

Unfortunately Brown occasionally asks silly questions like, “do you do anything besides climbing?” and “so, you’re more psyched living on one place?” The best dialog in the book is when Brown and her subjects are “talking” about specific climbing destinations, like Hueco Tanks in Texas or Zion National Park.

Vertical World is worth having for the photographs alone-even if you have never climbed on rock or “plastic,” as the indoor gyms are called by professionals. But you just might be tempted by these tough athletes and the beautiful places they explore in their sport to give climbing a try someday.

Angie Dierdorff Petro


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