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Books About a Passion

March 8, 2010

Does your student have a passion for a particular activity?  Does he or she need role models who can demonstrate that it’s OK to be different?

If so, there are two books I would recommend that are appropriate for young adults:

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, is a new book about a 12-year-old boy who loves to draw maps and charts, even to the point that he charts his dad’s drinking and his sister’s corn shucking.  His mentor submits his work for a Smithsonian Institution award (for adults) and the kid wins it.  The book charts his progress toward arriving in Washington, D.C., to accept the award.  Reif Larsen’s book was published after a bidding war from several publishing houses, no doubt because he captures the boy’s voice, plus the margins are filled with wonderful maps and drawings. 

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer is the true story of George Mallory, who in 1924 may have been the first person to summit Everest.  We don’t know if he succeeded, because he died in the attempt.  What fascinated me about the book was how, as a child, he ended up in trouble with his teachers because he saw a different way, yet his out-of-the-box approach was the reason he was admitted to university and how he wooed his wife.   The story is one of passion for a goal.  When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, Mallory famously replied, “Because it is there.”

Students who enjoy Paths of Glory may also want to seek out the 2009 National Geographic documentary, The Wildest Dream, in which mountaineer Conrad Akers finds Mallory’s body on Everest and is then inspired to try summiting Everest by the same route Mallory tried, a route that no one else has successfully attempted.  He also tests replicas of the flimsy clothing and gear that Mallory used.

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