15 Women Writers Discuss Their Favorite Overlooked Books
Two things that make any reader happy: an enticing recommendation from a fellow booklover and an underappreciated work that turns out to be a gem.
Mary Roach is an author specializing in popular science whose most recent book is Gulp.
Amazon does not deliver to the unnamed ice fields of Antarctica. Nothing gets delivered there but the occasional research team, their stuff, and the even more occasional journalist coming to interrupt their work. In 1996, I was that journalist. A Twin Otter dropped me off, but was days late picking me up because when weather blows in and the pilot can't tell ground from air, he has to turn back. The ice fields are stunning when you can see them, but when you're confined to a tent camp with no toilet and Tang-marinated chicken for dinner again, and no book to read in that 24-hour light, even Antarctica becomes the tiniest bit trying. It was late December, and it was looking like I might not make it home for the holidays. Then Ralph Harvey, the lead researcher, came over to my tent with an early Christmas gift: a copy of Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing's account of the explorer's harrowing slog to safety after his ship was crushed by pack ice. Nearly 40 years before the Caroline Alexander book of the almost identical name, long before Kenneth Branagh donned sealskins for the TV movie, there was this perfect account. Shackleton's story would be compelling in anyone's hands, but Lansing got the pacing exactly right. I could look up from the page into the same gorgeous, ghastly white that Shackleton faced. It turned a great read into an unforgettable day.