Book Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

The story of Chris McCandless isn’t exactly new. There were plenty of young men before him and plenty after him that believed, almost arrogantly, in their intelligence and ability so much so that they felt that even against the strength and almighty power of nature at its most wild that they would win out regardless of how ill-prepared they were for their journey. McCandless was a smart, well-educated twenty something from a well-off suburb of Virginia. His family, friends and those that knew him described him as such adding that, Chris often liked to be alone, not in the sense of being a “loner” and all that that term conjures, but in that, Chris didn’t mind being alone and often was, finding ways to entertain himself.

He enjoyed wandering. He took long trips across the US and would often disappear for long stretches of time. After his graduation from Emory University, McCandless did just that. He packed up and left, eventually getting rid of his car, possessions and even burning what little money he had on him. From there, he drifts all over the West before finally trekking into the Alaskan bush country with ill-fitting boots and little to no food on him.

He plans to live off the land and strike out on his own totally negating the fact that he does not have the supplies needed nor has he taken the time to build the skill set that is needed to survive in the wilderness. Ultimately, the end of Chris McCandless is evident and it’s easy to write him off as a know-it-all kid that got in over his head and paid the ultimate price.

And in some parts I do have to agree with that. He had a comfortable life set up for him and he gave it all away to pretty much tell his parents, up their’s. On the other hand, Krakauer also includes stories of other boys who did the same as McCandless including stories of his own rebellion and his stupidity and near-death experience in trying to climb the Stikine Ice Cap. He spoke of how in your early twenties you grasp mortality, but your own seems so far off and something you’re incapable to completely understanding that you almost want to push yourself into the tip of it, the brink in order to look down on it and feel it.

Which, I get. It reminded me of how when I was 23, I went sky-diving and nothing makes you feel mortal and face your own mortality more than throwing yourself out of a plane and plummeting to earth with nothing but some flimsy material to save you. It was exciting, thrilling and it took away any and all control I had over myself and my well-being. It was exhilarating and something I probably will never do again.

Overall, did Chris McCandless over do it on the rebellion? Heck yes! But, his story and John Krakuer’s take on it does make for a good read.

And then there’s always the 2007 Sean Penn  movie adaptation which boasts lots of beautiful scenes and enough Eddie Vedder to keep any Pearl Jam enthusiast satiated:

Score: 5/5

Book Information: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer was reissued on August 21, 2007 through Anchor Books with ISBN 978-0307387172. In November 2014, Chris’s sister released her own memoir of why Chris went into the wild and tells the story of what her family and upbringing were truly like in, The Wild Truth.

My First Summer in the Sierra (Illustrated Edition) – Book Review

sierraPicture getting to see some of the most breath-taking parts of Yosemite National Park before it ever was Yosemite National Park. Think of sweeping mountains, fresh, gushing water and abundant plant life. 19th century romanticism only touched on how beautiful these landscapes were and in some cases still are. Now, combining that 19th century writing with beautifully rendered 21st century photographs, this illustrated edition of a classic is not something that is easily put down.

The Power of Descriptive Narration

John Muir’s adventure into the Sierra is wonderfully documented, pairing stunning nature photography with an in-depth personal narrative that makes you feel as though you are along side him, taking in the scenery and experiencing everything that untamed nature has to offer.

“Before noon,” Muir writes, “we passed Bower Cave, a delightful marble palace, not dark and dripping, but filled with sunshine, which pours into it through its wide-open mouth facing the south. It has a fine, deep, clear little lake with mossy banks embowered with broad-leaved maples, all underground, wholly unlike anything I have seen in the cave line even in Kentucky, where a large part of the State is honeycombed with caves.”

Muir creates pictures, not only with the included photographs by Scot Miller, but also with his keen sense of detail and explanation which evident throughout his narrative. Combined with the equally as detailed photographs, Muir delivers with My First Summer in the Sierra.

My First Summer in the Sierra and John Muir

Originally published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra enticed many people to visit the Yosemite area. John Muir was a young Scottish immigrant who had not yet become the famed naturalist that he would be later in life. Later dubbed, “John o’ the Mountains,” Muir first trekked into the Sierra shortly after the end of the Civil War.

After falling in love with the area, Muir later returned in 1869 to work with a group of shepherds as they herded a flock of 2,500 sheep toward the headwaters of the Merced River. My First Summer in the Sierra captures much of this adventure, including vivid descriptions of what Muir under-went during his time in the unspoiled area of Yosemite.

Other books that document and explore the American landscape include Joseph Sohm’s Visions of America: Photographing Democracy.

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir with forward by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns with photography by Scot Miller is available for purchase on April 12, 2011 with ISBN 9780618988518 through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Intimations of Paradise – Book Review

paradiseChristopher Burkett is a landscape photographer with over 25 years of experience. He has worked in print and was also briefly, a Brother in a religious order, before he turned to his passion of photography. All of his exhibition prints are personally printed by him. His ability to capture light and color in his work make for breathtaking photographs that give the viewer a more intense view of nature, as seen through our ever-changing landscape.

According to the artist’s website, “Christopher Burkett crafted this retrospective volume with the same care and precision expressed in his photographs. The book’s 180 pages include 73 plates and four essays. Each book ordered directly from Christopher Burkett will be hand signed.” Each plate that Burkett included is a solid, bold representation of the artist’s large body of work. It is a fabulous gift for Burkett fans or nature enthusiasts as a whole.

The Photography of Christopher Burkett

In Imitations of Paradise, Burkett includes many photographs that span his impressive 25 year career. The reprints of his work are bold and vibrant, giving the viewer a clear impression of what it is like to stand before a gallery print of Burkett’s work.

Burkett is known for the color seen in his work. He has been called one of the best color photographers of his time– something that is not easy to attain. Photographing in color is much harder than in black and white because light changes color and thus, photographers must learn different angles, maneuvers and techniques in order to capture the photograph and the color just right.

Buying a Burkett

Christopher Burkett’s work is available for purchase all over the United States, including New York, California and Colorado. A list of galleries that sell Burkett’s work is available on his website. Depending on what print and the size of it, prices for Christopher Burkett’s work range from $1,000 to over $10,000 USD.

For fans of Burkett who do not have a spare grand laying around, Burkett also sells posters and books of his work like Imitations of Paradise. Posters are about $30 USD and his books range in price, but are usually under $100 USD.

Overall, Christopher Burkett’s Imitations of Paradise lives up to the high standards that he holds for his work. As he states on his site, [he and his wife] “self published this book to ensure the highest quality reproduction possible.The separations are scanned from original prints, and after two years of work, are ‘as close as you can get with ink and paper’ to the original photographs.”

Imitations of Paradise by Christopher Burkett was first published by West Winds Art, Inc. on June 1, 1999 with ISBN 978-0967021607. It is available for purchase on the artist’s website.

Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design – A Review

biophilicThe world unto itself is a work of art, with its natural beauty and majestic landscapes. Too often, modern society tends to forget the world we live in, failing to preserve the beauty that we were given from the beginning. Biophilic Cities explores the importance of incorporating wilderness and nature in our urban lives. City living makes it easy for us to forget what nature is like, everything from its beauty to its power to heal even the most jaded of city landscapes.

About Biophilic Cities

In his book, Timothy Beatley argues for the greening of future cities, stating that renewable energy and better public transit are just one part of what a green city is. More importantly, urban planning needs to begin to focus around coexisting with the natural world instead of constantly impeding on it. A biophilic city, argues Beatley, plans in conjunction with nature. It incorporates the natural world into its buildings and planning.

It is imperative that as we move towards the future, we begin to take into consideration the importance of doing so because nature is an important part of sustainable living and thus, overall existence. What is most notable about Beatley’s ideals for a future planned city, is that it not only incorporates the nature that was already there in the first place, but it also strives to replenish and revive what has already been lost and degraded by poor planning in the past.

Including Nature in Urban Design

Timothy Beatley offers many solutions to how urban planners can incorporate nature into urban development. Beatley includes essays and beautiful photographs of roof-top gardens, green walk-ways, living walls and sidewalk gardens. His ideas for what a city can be, does not make it difficult to put these new ideas into place. Rather, his ideas for the greening of urban living are about coexistence and even a beautification of drab urban settings.

Overall, Biophilic Cities presents interesting ideas on what future cities could strive to become. The essays though interesting, can be a bit dry in places. However, Beatley does make up for that by including beautiful nature and urban photography which often enhance his ideas on what a city can be and what the issues with past urban planning have caused. It will be interesting to see how many of Beatley’s solutions begin to redefine what we have known as the urban landscape.

Biophilic Cities by Timothy Beatly is available for purchase with ISBN 1597267155. It was originally published on October 25, 2010 through Island Press.