The best books showing the human superpower of teamwork overcoming challenges

Who am I?

I have always been drawn to narratives where a group of individuals needs to collectively overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge. And, as someone who loves reasonable outdoor challenges such as whitewater rafting trips, I love stories that combine the two. I have been lucky enough to partake in two private float trips of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. With no internet, or electricity for 16 days at a time, a carefully crafted book list is key for any river descend. All these books at their core are narratives of individuals digging in deep, and cultivating that collective human superpower known as teamwork, to overcome challenges many thought could not be overcome.

I wrote...

Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II

By Benjamin Hruska,

Book cover of Valor and Courage: The Story of the USS Block Island Escort Carriers in World War II

What is my book about?

In May of 1944 three torpedoes slammed into the escort carrier USS Block Island. One survivor of the crew of over 900 sailors described to me this experience decades later as being “baptized by saltwater.” These young men swam through fuel oil, felt the concussion of depth charges exploding around them, and encountered the alien-like beings of the central Atlantic known as Portuguese men of war. The bond that was created because of surviving the sinking of their aircraft carrier off the coast of Africa did not end with their rescue, for another carrier, and enemy, awaited these men.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

Why did I love this book?

Davis in this book completes the literary equivalent of juggling bowling balls and razor blades. He crafts an incredible, readable adventure narrative on a generation of men seeking to make sense of the world after the slaughter of the Western Front concluded.

Using the vehicle of Mallory and Irvines’ 1924 attempt to summit Everest, Davis interweaves several intriguing narratives including the British coming to terms with the cause and effects of empire, climbers using mountains to overcome survivor’s guilt, and man’s indelible need to explore.

Sweeping in both detailed research and the human costs of mechanized warfare, Davis book is a prime example of the paradoxical notion of wounded men seeking solace on the top of the world’s tallest peaks.  

By Wade Davis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Into the Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The definitive story of the British adventurers who survived the trenches of World War I and went on to risk their lives climbing Mount Everest.

On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip of Everest’s North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain’s finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a twenty-two-year-old Oxford scholar with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.
Drawing on more than a decade of prodigious research, bestselling author and explorer Wade Davis vividly re-creates the heroic efforts of Mallory and his fellow…

Young Men and Fire

By Norman MacLean,

Book cover of Young Men and Fire

Why did I love this book?

Covering the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana, Maclean’s narrative explores that age-old human question of what one does with tragedy.

I find this book fascinating as the author is consumed with the happenings of the book, and he uses a range of tools, including religion, philosophy, and mathematics, to explore the conundrum of why some people survive events and some to not.

While best known for his work A River Runs Through It, Maclean’s work is the gift that keeps on giving for any budding authors seeking to write about, and on making sense of, the loss of young lives. 

By Norman MacLean,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Young Men and Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, "It has trees in it." Forty years later, the title novella is widely recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. Maclean's later triumph, Young Men and Fire, has over the decades also established itself as a classic of the American West. And with this twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, a fresh audience will be introduced to Maclean's…

Book cover of No Picnic on Mount Kenya: The Story of Three Pows' Escape to Adventure

Why did I love this book?

A few books exist that while reading you think a librarian made a mistake in placing a work of fiction in the nonfiction section. This is such a book, a story so unique it is hard to believe.

Benuzzi’s memoir of World War II is the most unique I have ever read. An Italian soldier in Africa captured by the British and held prisoner during the war, Benuzzi and his men escape into the wilds of Africa not for freedom but to attempt to summit Mount Keyna.

From clandestinely manufacturing alpine climbing equipment from tins of beans, to dodging rhinoceros and lions to reach the base of the mountain, this is a true tale of devotion to an ideal and to each other. 

By Felice Benuzzi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Picnic on Mount Kenya as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A rediscovered mountaineering classic and the extraordinary true story of a daring escape up Mount Kenya by three prisoners of war.

When the clouds covering Mount Kenya part one morning to reveal its towering peaks for the first time, prisoner of war Felice Benuzzi is transfixed. The tedium of camp life is broken by the beginnings of a sudden idea - an outrageous, dangerous, brilliant idea.

There are not many people who would break out of a P.O.W. camp, trek for days across perilous terrain before climbing the north face of Mount Kenya with improvised equipment, meagre rations, and with…

Book cover of Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped Win World War II

Why did I love this book?

I love this book for at its heart this is a story of the average American sailor waging war in the Pacific during World War II.

As an author of naval history, I understand it is all too easy to get bogged down in the writing about motivations of top commanders and the newest advances in military weaponry. Tillman successfully walks the thin line in telling the individual stories of the sailors of the Enterprise and how this single vessel fits into the greater campaign of the U.S. Navy against the Empire of Japan.

This book demonstrates that detailed military scholarship can retain a human face. 

By Barrett Tillman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enterprise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offering a naval history of the entire Pacific Theater in World War II through the lens of its most famous ship, this is the epic and heroic story of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and of the men who fought and died on her from Pearl Harbor to the end of the conflict.

Pearl Harbor . . . Midway . . . Guadalcanal . . . The Marianas . . . Leyte Gulf . . . Iwo Jima . . . Okinawa. These are just seven of the twenty battles that the USS Enterprise took part in during World War…

Book cover of The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Why did I love this book?

Even though shot at while participating in the Spanish-American War, and even shot in the chest by a would-be assassin while running for President decades later, the most dangerous adventure of Theodore Roosevelt took place in the jungles of Brazil after he was President.

Millard in this fantastic work seamlessly marries two complex topics. First being the personality of our 26th President whose varied accomplishments included writing over 30 books and being the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The second is the ecosystems of the Amazon, which damn near killed Roosevelt on his descent down an uncharted tributary of the river. 

By Candice Millard,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The River of Doubt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1912, shortly after losing his bid to spend a third term as American President to Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt with his son Kermit, a Brazilian guide and a band of camaradas set off deep into the Amazon jungle and a very uncertain fate. Although Roosevelt did eventually return from THE RIVER OF DOUBT, he and his companions faced treacherous cataracts as well as the dangerous indigenous population of the Amazon. He became severely ill on the journey, nearly dying in the jungle from a blood infection and malaria. A mere five years later Roosevelt did die of related issues.…

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