The Emerald Mile, by Kevin Fedarko (2013)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Emerald MileIn 1983, a strong El Nino event set up the conditions for a massive spring runoff that swelled western North American rivers and tributaries to record levels. One of these was the Colorado River, which cuts through the heart of the Grand Canyon. In the middle of the nights, a group of daring river rafters launched a wooden dory just below the Glen Canyon Dam, intent on riding the surge of floodwater in order to set a new speed record for a river run through the Grand Canyon. Fedarko’s book, subtitled “The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon,” is ostensibly the story of this thrilling adventure. But it’s so much more than that, as Fedarko draws on meticulous research to wrap the tale of the adventure within a much richer exploration of the history of the Grand Canyon, dambuilding in the U.S., the conservation movement and political battles between all involved. The result is a truly engrossing, lyrically written, and compelling narrative in the tradition of The Perfect Storm or Touching the Void. I began this book just before embarking on a hiking trip to Northern Arizona, and it was especially stirring for me to read about the places I was seeing in person – Page, Lake Powell, Hurricane, Desert View Watchtower and more. I kept reading parts aloud so it took me two weeks to finish. I didn’t want it to end and read both the Acknowledgments and Notes on Sources, and learned even more. While Fedarko doesn’t follow the formal footnote tradition of numbering his references, he does provide an extensive 24-page set of endnotes that clearly explain what he is referencing and how it was used on each page. Another 11 pages are set aside for a select bibliography, and the book includes an excellent index. A magazine writer and part-time Grand Canyon river guide himself, this was Fedarko’s first book, and it earned him the 2013 National Outdoor Book Award for history/biography. Well deserved.
More discussion and reviews of this title: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15803144
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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