Feb 15, 2016

Going to Extremes

by Joe McGinnis

Written by a reporter who travelled across Alaska just before and after the oil pipeline went through, this book had a lot of interesting descriptions but ultimately failed to hold my attention.  The author definitely covered a lot of ground. He took a ferry up from Seattle and then visited Anchorage, Prudhoe Bay, Barrow, Nome, Juneau, Bethel, Valdez and Bettles. He spent a few weeks in each location, usually staying with locals. To get a sense of the wilderness and isolation he stayed three days alone in a cabin on Crescent Lake, and at the end of the book describes an extended group hiking trip through the Brooks Range. Most of his account tells of the communities, scattered stories of individuals- how they ended up in Alaska, why they loved or hated it there, all the troubles and joys people found living in such a difficult place. A lot of it sounded dismal, to be honest. Sudden population growth, sudden money, cold and dark and nothing to do but waste it- drinking and violence and depression and suicide. I was much more interested in his descriptions of life in a few remote native villages, but that chapter wasn't very long. The parts about government and small town politics were only interesting to a point- I found myself skimming a lot. Best chapter was the last one, about the Brooks Range and his final encounters (after hearing many stories) with grizzly bears.

Rating: 2/5       285 pages, 1980


Thistle said...

Sounds like the book could have been really interesting (I love Alaska!), it's too bad it fell flat.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I would like to know more about Alaska (my cousin lives there!), but it sounds like this is not the book to teach me. Sigh.

Jeane said...

Well, it's from the eighties too, so I don't know if much of Alaska is still as the book portrayed.

james b chester said...

I read his book on Sarah Palin, back a few years, Going Rogue I think. I skimmed quite a bit, too.