North Pole Tenderfoot by Doug Hall

I came to this book with a very strong desire to like it. I have a deep respect for the author. I have listened to his radio show for several years. I admire his attitude and his accomplishments. I have taken “inspiration and encouragement” from his ideas and his words. So, I probably would have enjoyed this book even if it had been mediocre, because I would have been learning about a formative event in the life of someone in whom I had a lot of interest. I was also a little worried that, while I would find the book inspiring, I might not be able to share that feeling with others who weren’t in on the back story.

I needn’t have worried. This book is not mediocre, nor even close to it. It is well conceived, well organized and well written. It is honest, intimate and entertaining. It is about the mundane chores of life, which in the Arctic are revealed as feats of endurance and creativity, and it is about the most profound questions and challenges we face in our lives.

In the introduction, the author tells how he first performed this story as a play, since of his 4 previous books, the 2 most successful had been adapted from content delivered as lectures. I think this technique shows through in the balance and discipline of the writing. The story never drags, and I always wanted to know what happened next. As an author, you are safely far away from your audience, not so as a playwright-cum-actor on opening night.

This is a well-balanced book. It’s an adventure story. The author has a talent for getting himself into and then out of trouble, and to learn from and laugh at that experience. This makes him a very likeable protagonist, and it’s a great example of how the right sort of humility sets you up for success in life. It’s a book about entrepreneurship, a successful businessman launching a new charitable venture with a colossal publicity stunt. It’s a book about the relevance of history. How we walk in the footsteps of those pioneers who came before us, sharing the essence of their personal struggle, but with new and different challenges appropriate to our own time, and how the benefit of hindsight can give us new knowledge about the past. This is a book about making your own luck, finding your own meaning and acting on your dreams. It’s a wonderful antidote to cynicism and malaise, and it’s also a jolly good read. I highly recommend it.

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