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Making History Relatable
WHY HAMPTON SIDES IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS
A major part of being an attorney is doing a lot of reading — dry, detailed reading. Because of that, it’s rare to find an attorney who reads as a form of relaxation. It feels too much like work most of the time. That being said, I still try and read a little in my down time. My favorite books are nonfiction books about adventure, overcoming hardship, and the triumph of the human spirit, and I don’t think many authors can do that better than Hampton Sides. “Stories about struggle, hardship, tragedy, survival, and triumph show what people have been through — and what people are capable of overcoming.” Hampton Sides is a historian and journalist who has written narrative accounts of events all throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, including the conquest of the American West; a harrowing, failed expedition to the North Pole; and the manhunt for the killer of Martin Luther King Jr. But, even though Sides writes about history, his books don’t read like a mere chronicling of events. He’s my favorite author because he turns meticulous research into compelling accounts of incredible, and sometimes infamous, people.
It begins with a proposed adventure to the North Pole, one of the last unexplored regions of the world in the late 19th century. It follows the crew of the USS Jeannette on a two-year voyage from San Francisco to the top of the world in search of what they hoped was a lush, green island sustained by warm ocean currents. But, after two years at sea, their ship is punctured by ice and sinks, leaving the crew to survive a long trek across a frozen wasteland, thousands of miles from civilization. They had to survive on their wits alone to make it out of the arctic tundra. “In the Kingdom of Ice” is ultimately a book of hope and overcoming tragedy, and Sides makes the characters relatable. He doesn’t use academic language to distance himself or his readers from the immense suffering of these very real people. It’s a survival story, and how Sides writes about the crew and their struggles makes me thankful for what I have. Reading about history is especially important. Stories about struggle, hardship, tragedy, survival, and triumph show what people have been through — and what people are capable of overcoming. These
stories from our history are testaments to the strength of the human spirit and our capability to not only survive, but thrive, in the world today. – Daniel J. Miller
Take “In the Kingdom of Ice,” one of my favorites of Sides’ books, for example.
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