Books

Book 572: Tip of the Iceberg – Mark Adams

I REALLY want to go back to Alaska. Like really really want to go back and reading this book is almost enough to make me want to LIVE there. And that’s just crazy for me who has a love/hate relationship with cities. I received a copy Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, The Last Great American Frontier from the publisher* and I really wish I would’ve read it earlier.

Adams has a way with words and really putting you into the place he’s visiting. I remember when I tried to recap our Alaskan cruise I struggled (and still struggle) to talk about the beauty and the sheer immensity of everything you see when you’re there. We only visited the panhandle (the furthest north we went was Skagway) and I cannot even imagine visiting some of the places Adams visited during his trek.

There is a passage in Adams’ epilogue that he paraphrases from The Harriman Alaska Series that nails it better than either he or I could:

“…its immense mountains, extreme climate, majestic glaciers, towering forests, and mysterious interior. After providing a summary of Alaska’s resources, he finishes with a rather radical suggestion. Alaska’s chief asset, ‘more valuable than gold or the fish or the timber, for it will never be exhausted,’ is its scenery. Echoing his Elder shipmate John Muir, the father of American map making notes that, for the one Yosemite in California, ‘Alaska has hundreds.'”

Just take a look at this:

If that doesn’t make you want to go to Alaska, I have no idea what will. Maybe this book? Those photos are by Mikah Meyer (Meyer’s website)who is on a mission to be the youngest person to visit all 417 U.S. National Parks and bring LGBT representation to the outdoor community through his #prideoutside campaign.

There were parts of this book I really enjoyed (the writing, the people, the merging of a historical journey and a modern journey) and parts that I didn’t enjoy (the writing, the people, the merging of a historical journey and a modern journey). It’s weird writing that, but it’s true. So much of the writing was perfect that I was drawn into the story, but so much of the writing also felt a little too contrived. The people were both weirdly fascinating and oddly caricatured, which I guess you have to do in such a short piece. The book’s title, Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, The Last Great American Frontier, was a little misleading in that the book was an attempted retracing of a more famous journey that happened more than a hundred years previously: Harriman Alaska Expedition (thanks Wikipedia). Now this isn’t exactly bad for the book, but it just sort of caught me off guard that this book was actually a historical recap of the journey and memoir of trying to follow the journey by plane/boat/automobile versus actually just recreating the journey. Maybe it was on the back cover and I just didn’t read it?

But this being said, the good far outweighed the questionable. Maybe it’s a style choice I didn’t quite get. I found Adams writing personable and his stories relatable and he clearly wrote a good book if it’s got me even remotely thinking about spending a night in a tent in the bush of far northern Alaska. Right?

I do have to say there was a hilarious thing I found when I first added this book to my Goodreads. Apparently there is another book that shares the same title as this, Tip of the Iceberg: A Book About the Clitoris (Goodreads link). I’m not going to lie that gave me a few good hours worth of chuckles as I thought about it every time I picked this one up.

Recommendation: Definitely worth the read. If you have any desire to visit Alaska or just want to know if you should visit Alaska (answer is yes) then you should read it. After reading this I definitely want to read Meet Me In Atlantis and Turn Right at Machu Picchu. I’m also interested in learning more about the National Park Service and John Muir! So any book that makes me want to know more information is a good book in my book. Ha!

*I received a copy of Tip of the Iceberg from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. No goods or money were exchanged.

Opening Line: “Our two-person kayak skimmed the surface of Glacier Bay’s glassy water, the bow pointed like a compass needle at the rocky lump of Russell Island.”

Closing Line: “If you are old and want to see the finest scenery in the world, there’s no time like the present. And if you are young, what are you waiting for? Check the ferry timetable, grab a sleeping bag, and go. Stay for a while. Believe me, it could be the event of a lifetime.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)

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