Friday, November 2, 2012

Book review: Climbing out of Bed

With power knocked out by the last remnants of Hurricane Sandy a few days ago, I suddenly found myself with a lot more time for reading, and I have a feeling that will become the case even more as our descent into winter brings shorter days on the rocks and longer evenings wrapped up on the couch.  Although I'm the type of person who usually cycles through the same few books, generally involving hobbits, every once in a while I manage to break from routine and am pleasantly surprised.

I first learned about Luke Mehall's new book Climbing out of Bed from good friend and fellow Maryland native Lisa Lynch, who helped in editing both the book and Mehall's quarterly publication The Climbing Zine. After a couple months of hearing about it, I finally downloaded a copy and soon found myself so caught up that I read almost the entire book in a single sitting, as the refreshingly short chapters each kept me wanting "just one more."

This isn't your traditional climbing book.  No long narratives of frozen toes and dramatic rescues in the remote ranges that most of us will never see.  No years of dedicated training culminating in the ascent that redefines a climbing area.  In fact, only about half of the book is even about climbing at all.  It's more a reflection on life in a mountain town as seen through a climber's eyes, with work, play, and love all equally on his mind.  When he does talk about climbing, it's generally at his local crags, even if he is lucky enough to have a couple world class climbing areas in his backyard.

Many times climbing books offer an escape from our lives into places that we may never otherwise see, with climbing objectives that are out of reach without mutant strength, heavy sponsorship, or private wealth.  The beauty of Climbing out of Bed is that Mehall's life is one that many of us would find somewhat familiar.  His climbs are ones on which most of us could succeed, in places that most of us could realistically visit at some point. In fact, the only difference between him and us is that he decided to write it all down.  He tells his stories with a conversational, almost stream of consciousness style that at times felt more like sitting around the fire with an old friend.  Nothing in it was particularly life changing, aside from just that general self-reflection encouraged by reading about someone with whom I identified, but it was a heck of a fun read, which for someone with limited reading time can be the most important quality in a book!

Want to check it out for yourself?  The Kindle edition of Climbing out of Bed as well as volumes 1-4 of The Climbing Zine are available on Amazon, so grab yourself a warm blanket and hot drink, and download away!

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