A Man's Life - a Mini-Book Review

Mark Jenkins is getting to be an old guy and his writing is better for it.

Readers of Mark Jenkins were seriously bummed out when he stopped writing his column The Hard Way for Outside last year. Many said it was the main reason they subscribed to the magazine. Jenkins - after all - did stuff most of us are too terrified to do. He'd waltz into war-torn regions just to scale a mountain or climb an ice cliff. Sometimes he'd hurt himself and a column down the road would focus on his rehab.

Most travel writers annoy the reader because they're having fun on a beach and rubbing it in that you're not there. Not so with Jenkins - sometimes you'd wish you were in his place but more often than not you were grateful to learn from him from the safety of your recliner.

Still, it can be tough to keep your ego in check when reading Jenkins... how could this guy travel the world - leaving his wife and kids behind for weeks on end without a single regret? How could he break bones and tear tendons and pop back just a few weeks later? And after reading the particularly moving columns where his ice-climbing and rappeling partners plummet to their doom, don't you begin to wonder how many friends the guy has left?

Truth is, the reader finds the answers to these questions and more in Jenkins' newest book, "A Man's Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places." As full of adventure as his previous works, an older, wiser Jenkins has come to realize that all adventures come with a price. From essays ranging from the guilt that comes from leaving your family at home to the agonizing recoveries from shoulder and wrist injuries, we see a different Jenkins, now - one who understands that with such awesome action comes equally as dramatic reactions.

Always a conservationist, Jenkins dedicates many essays in this book to his travels over lands that are quickly disappearing. Jenkins explores far-away lands that the reader has never heard of, yet by the end of the tale is convinced he must see before they're gone from the planet forever.

More fully textured than his previous works (which - understand - are must-reads for anyone interested in adventure/travel or the outdoors), A Man's Life offers readers all of the excitement of his previous works with a new level of depthness that only comes from time and experience. As we head into the holiday season, it's a perfect gift for the adventurer - or even the La-Z-Boy adventurer - on your list.

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