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Best books … chosen by Douglas Preston
Douglas Preston&rsquo;s latest best-seller, the thriller <em>Cemetery Dance,</em> is his 13th collaboration with Lincoln Child. Preston&rsquo;s true-crime hit, <em>The Monster of Florence,</em> will be out in pap
 

Douglas Preston’s latest best-seller, the thriller Cemetery Dance, is his 13th collaboration with Lincoln Child. Preston’s true-crime hit, The Monster of Florence, will be out in paperback later this month.

Annapurna by Maurice Herzog (Lyons Press, $16.95). This controversial account of the first ascent of the Himalayan peak Annapurna I, in 1950, is a mountaineering classic. The peak was so remote that Herzog and his team spent weeks just searching for it. While the ascent is thrilling enough, the harrowing descent—with avalanches, frostbite, gangrene, and amputations—truly boggles the mind.

Roughing It by Mark Twain (Signet Classics, $6.95). Twain’s account of his escapades in the West as a journalist, vagabond, and get-rich-quick schemer is perhaps his finest book, packed with droll characters and unruly tales of dubious veracity. He paints a marvelous picture of Carson City, Nev., at the height of the silver boom.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (Anchor, $14.95). I read my brother’s book on the Ebola virus while recovering from the flu, and it darn near gave me a relapse. The opening chapter—about a man “bleeding out” from the virus on a crowded commuter plane—will burn itself into your mind forever. My mother used to send Richard away from the dinner table for telling gross stories, but this book outdoes them all. Absolutely terrifying.

Endurance by Alfred Lansing (Basic, $14.95). This account of Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to reach the South Pole in 1914, and his desperate struggle to save his men, tells an incomparable story of human courage and survival against impossible odds.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (Touchstone, $14.95). Ostensibly Abbey’s account of a year working as a park ranger in Utah, this is a quirky, beautiful, funny, cranky, dark, and elegiac book about the desert Southwest that captures its soul like no other. There are passages in it so evocative, so perfectly achieved, that they will sweep you away.

Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Harcourt, $13). This crystalline memoir by the man who wrote The Little Prince recounts his adventures flying mail over the Sahara on the dangerous Toulouse-Dakar route. The stories are wonderful, and Saint-Ex’s lapidary observations on life, nature, and the human spirit are sublime.

 

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