Saturday, April 28, 2007

Man-versus-nature books

James M. Tabor, author of the forthcoming Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Mysterious and Controversial Tragedies, named the five best first-person man-versus-nature books for Opinion Journal.

The book on the list with the most dramatic title by the author with the most English of names:
The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

English aristocrat Apsley Cherry-Garrard spent 1910-13 with Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated South Pole expedition. In "The Worst Journey in the World," Cherry's writing is elegant and laced with wry English humor but also with the grim epiphanies that come only from agony. His lasted three long years; its terrible climax was the Winter Journey of July-August 1911, when Scott sent Cherry and two others into the black heart of Antarctic winter. They hauled a 757-pound sledge for five weeks through 24-hour darkness, 70-below-zero cold and hurricane storms -- on a hunt for penguin eggs that Scott wanted for scientific study. The fool's errand wrecked Cherry's body and spirit. "This journey had beggared our imagination; no words could express its horror," Cherry wrote. He was wrong, though. His beautiful, horrifying book does exactly that.
Read about the only book on the list set in the United States.

--Marshal Zeringue