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Last Breath: The Limits of Adventureby Peter Stark
Synopses & Reviews
Sudden, extreme deaths have always fascinated us-- and now more than ever as athletes and travelers rise to the challenges of high-risk sports and journeys on the edge. In this spellbinding book, veteran travel and outdoor sports writer Peter Stark reenacts the dramas of what happens inside our bodies, our minds, and our souls when we push ourselves to the absolute limits of human endurance.
Combining the adrenaline high of extreme sports with the startling facts of physiological reality, Stark narrates a series of outdoor adventure stories in which thrill can cross the line to mortal peril. Each death or brush with death is at once a suspense story, a cautionary tale, and a medical thriller. Stark describes in unforgettable detail exactly what goes through the mind of a cross-country skier as his body temperature plummets-- apathy at ninety-one degrees, stupor at ninety. He puts us inside the body of a doomed kayaker tumbling helplessly underwater for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes. He conjures up the physiology of a snowboarder frantically trying not to panic as he consumes the tiny pocket of air trapped around his face under thousands of pounds of snow.
These are among the dire situations that Stark transforms into harrowing accounts of how our bodies react to trauma, how reflexes and instinct compel us to fight back, and how, why, and when we let go of our will to live.
In an increasingly tamed and homogenized world, risk is not only a means of escape but a path to spirituality. As Peter Stark writes, "You must try to understand death intimately and prepare yourself for death in order to live a full and satisfying life." In this fascinating, informative book, Stark reveals exactly what we’re getting ourselves into when we choose to live-- and die-- at the extremes of endurance.
"Un-put-downable stories of outdoor catastrophe and death, carefully and vividly told; they make us, unexpectedly, happy to be alive." Ian Frazier
"Peter Stark tells us to 'step beyond the self.' But, not too far beyond, into oblivion. If you've ever wondered just where that edge might be, physically, read Last Breath. It's thick with specific information, and with vividly rendered, often hair-raising stories both useful and entertaining, a compelling read for those interested in testing their limits, and a sport and pastime for those of us who sort of aren't." William Kittredge
"Death comes to us all. Last Breath introduces us to the people who tempt fate and experience their final expiration. We witness their intimate encounters with death from multiple angles. Stark's craft as a storyteller blends physiology, ecology, physics, psychology, and metaphysics into a compelling read. Last Breath is a page-turner!" Ira Byock, M.D., author of Dying Well
"Forget the edge of your seat. Last Breath takes you to the edge of your life, for a pulse-pounding glimpse into the Great Beyond. There are many ways to risk your life in the out-of-doors, and Stark has captured them in exquisite and harrowing detail." Jim Robbins, author of A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback
Includes bibliographical references (p. -300).
“Forget the edge of your seat. Last Breath takes you to the edge of your life, for a pulse-pounding glimpse into the Great Beyond. There are many ways to risk your life in the out-of-doors, and Stark has captured them in exquisite and harrowing detail.”
Author of A Symphony in the Brain
An enthralling blend of adventure and science, Last Breath re-creates in heart-stopping detail what happens to our bodies and our minds in the perilous last moments of life when an extreme adventure goes awry.
Combining the adrenaline high of extreme sports with the startling facts of physiological reality, veteran travel and outdoor sports writer Peter Stark narrates a series of adventure stories in which thrill can cross the line to mortal peril. Each death or brush with death is at once a suspense story, a cautionary tale, and a medical thriller. Will they survive, or will they succumb? Readers will shiver with a man lost in the snowy woods, suffering from hypothermia and tearsing off his clothes as he’s burning up from the cold; they will hallucinate with a young woman stranded at the top of Annapurna as she experiences a cerebral edema; and while a kayaker tumbles helplessly underwater for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, readers, too, will gasp for their last breath.
About the Author
Peter Stark is a contributor to Outside, Smithsonian, and The New Yorker magazines. His article for Outside, "As Freezing Persons Recollect the Snow"-- the inspiration for this book-- was cited as a notable essay in Best American Essays (1997). He has been nominated for a National Magazine Award and has published a collection of essays, Driving to Greenland. He is also the editor of an anthology of writing about the Arctic, Ring of Ice. He lives in Missoula, Montana.
From the Hardcover edition.
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