A down-to-earth, relatable examination of career and life choices.

THE PASSENGER

HOW A TRAVEL WRITER LEARNED TO LOVE CRUISES & OTHER LIES FROM A SINKING SHIP

The memoir of a travel writer on assignment aboard a sinking cruise ship.

During a storm on March 23, 2019, the Viking Sky suffered engine failure and began drifting toward the jagged shore of Norway. While facing death and hoping to be rescued, Kwak took an inventory of his life and wished for “any normalcy” he could find. With a mix of candor and cynicism, the author details his family’s history and his estranged relationship with his German partner of 16 years. Kwak also laments having to soothe them while he was involved in a major crisis. Having become disillusioned with his career, the author shares a history of cruise ship disasters, and he comments on the hypocrisy and hierarchy of cruise ships, particularly those that cater to the wealthy, noting how crew members cheerily tidied up and attempted to entertain the passengers while they were on the verge of capsizing. Checking the news, he was also disturbed by social media reporting on his cruise ship’s predicament in real time as well as disgusted with the notion of his documenting the disaster for the sake of an assignment. He then becomes philosophical regarding the randomness of fate. Making a comparison between the state of the ship and his life, he writes, “what you see isn’t always the truth. The staff can keep buffing the surface, but everything is breaking down beyond the skin of this capsule.” Around 27 hours after the ordeal began, the ship was able to dock in Norway with the assistance of tugboats. At this point, Kwak expresses gratitude for a second chance and decides it’s time to make significant changes in his personal life. The author goes on to share the changes he made after returning to San Francisco as well as details from his interviews with the ship's crew and rescue workers.

A down-to-earth, relatable examination of career and life choices.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56792-697-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

more