What We Are Reading Today: The Impossible Climb

Updated 17 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Impossible Climb

Author: Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott’s new book, The Impossible Climb — part memoir, part exploration of the climbing culture — gives context for Alex Honnold’s historic unroped ascent of El Capitan, Yosemite’s 3,000-foot slab of “glacier-polished granite” (A climb that was recently documented in the film Free Solo).
Synnott “lays out a series of generational portraits of climbing communities, chronicling the rise and fall of progressive dirtbag cultures along with the waves of ethical debate that have characterized each generation,” Blair Braverman said in a review published in The New York Times.
The Impossible Climb “is an accomplished portrait of two remarkable lives — but its major weakness, of both style and imagination, lies in Synnott’s depictions of women. Professional climbing is largely a man’s world, but rather than examine this dynamic as he does countless others, Synnott uses descriptions that further diminish and objectify the women he encounters,” said Braverman.
Another reviewer commented in goodreads.com: “Hats off to Mark for an interesting and well written read. As a climber who has played on many of the Yosemite faces mentioned in the book, I really appreciated the insider view.”


What We Are Reading Today: Red Meat Republic by Joshua Specht

Updated 23 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Red Meat Republic by Joshua Specht

  • Joshua Specht puts people at the heart of his story — the big cattle ranchers who helped to drive the nation’s westward expansion

By the late 19th century, Americans rich and poor had come to expect high-quality fresh beef with almost every meal. 

Beef production in the US had gone from small-scale, localized operations to a highly centralized industry spanning the country, with cattle bred on ranches in the rural West, slaughtered in Chicago, and consumed in the nation’s rapidly growing cities. 

Red Meat Republic tells the remarkable story of the violent conflict over who would reap the benefits of this new industry and who would bear its heavy costs, says a review on the University Press website.

Joshua Specht puts people at the heart of his story — the big cattle ranchers who helped to drive the nation’s westward expansion, the meatpackers who created a radically new kind of industrialized slaughterhouse, and the stockyard workers who were subjected to the shocking and unsanitary conditions described by Upton Sinclair in his novel The Jungle. 

Specht brings to life a turbulent era marked by Indian wars, Chicago labor unrest, and food riots in the streets of New York.