Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: "The Last Viking"

I live in Florida. I complain of being cold when it's 75 degrees and sunny outside. I'm that annoying, whiny person sitting next to you in the car who is constantly turning the AC off when you're not looking. So maybe this is why I love non-fiction books about explorers who test the limits of human survival. Books such as Endurance and In the Heart of the Sea mesmerize me- how could those people stare cannibalism in the face and keep going while I can barely contain my anger at being stuck on the interstate in afternoon traffic? It's incredible....

Stephen Bown's The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen is just such a book to make me wonder at the sheer willpower of the human spirit. What impresses me so much about Amundsen is not just the fact that he was the first man to reach both the north and the south pole, but that he simply made a decision to do so- and then did it. His vision, tenacity and commitment to near-impossible dreams is awe-inspiring. Yet The Last Viking is not written as an inspirational tome, just as Amundsen did not see him self as an inspirational person. It is written in a frank, vivid style and let's you make up your own mind as to your opinion of Amundsen's character. Many saw him as a hero; many also saw him as a villain. Undoubtedly, though, he was a pioneer and Bown's account of his life is well-worth reading.

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