If being cooped-up has you dreaming of the great outdoors and wide-open spaces, then perhaps you need a dose of Krakauer. Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk is a collection of articles written by the journalist and author in the 1980s and 1990s.
Jon Krakauer found fame in the 1990s with best-sellers like Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. The outdoor enthusiast chronicled the adventures and travails of others who were also drawn to the great wild places of our planet, a lure that sometimes led to their demise.
In this collection, Krakauer takes readers into the worlds of big wave surfing, mountaineering and exploring the vast, untamed wilderness of the Brooks Range on the edge of the Arctic in Alaska. These themes are classic Krakauer. However, this collection features articles that go beyond testing oneself in the face of mother nature. In “Loving Them to Death” Krakauer takes a deep dive into the industry of environmental camps for troubled youths. These organizations sprung up in the 1970s and 80s and were a combination bootcamp/rehabilitation center for teens whose affluent parents had the means to pay often exorbitant sums to reroute their children’s wayward paths. These organizations were largely unregulated and many were motivated by profit over results. The tough love that was designed to straighten out troubled kids by forcing them to spend weeks hiking and camping in the harsh climes of Utah and Arizona sometimes became marches of abuse and neglect and led to the deaths of several teens.
A tragic fall in a rock-climbing class led Krakauer to investigate the surging cases of personal injury lawsuits and how they affected the industry of safety equipment on which rock-climbers rely.
A climb to the heights of Mount Rainier in Washington with a volcanologist opened Krakauer’s eyes to the potential mass devastation if the mountain were to ever blow like her sister volcano Mount St. Helen’s further south in the Cascade Range.
Krakauer spent five days deep in the bowels of a massive cave in New Mexico with scientists from NASA searching for life on Mars. Life on Mars at the bottom of a cave? Yes, and it’s complicated involving microbial life in the pitch-black cave, but Krakauer’s writing makes the esoteric science readable and enjoyable.
As the days tick by and our walls close in and bingeing on Netflix has lost its appeal, a yearning for the great outdoors may grow exponentially. Until we can answer that call and these crazy times are behind us, we can rely on Jon Krakauer to be our guide.
James Downes is the Public Services Manager of the Mebane Public Library. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.