It's a shame I didn't need W instead, but there it is. Instead of pegging it to the amazing mountaineer whose story this is, I've tied it to the biographer's name.
Title: The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer
Author: David Roberts
Publisher:William Morrow, 2009
This one needs no summary, because it's all there in the subtitle. It is the life of Brad Washburn, June 7, 1910 to January 10, 2007. Washburn was an adventurer, an early climber and explorer of Alaska's mountains who began a love affair with climbing in the Alps as a teenager. He was also a photographer and a pilot, and he was David Roberts' mentor. The accounts of climbs are concise and vivid, and the personal relations are treated with gentle care, so that we do see Washburn as a whole person, but I never lost sight of the fact that Roberts loved and admired his mentor.
Roberts insists that Washburn's greatest accomplishments are in his first ascents of a number of remote Alaskan peaks, with a secondary nod to his truly extraordinary photography (several examples of which are in the book). But I agree with Washburn, who considered his greatest accomplishment to be his work with the Boston Museum of Science, where as Director for many decades he took the museum from the dusty do-not-touch model common at the time to be one of the leaders in the hands-on interactive museum style. Helping to pioneer that movement is, in my opinion, a truly great act.
My only other complaint about the book is that Roberts spends a long chapter near the end recounting a couple of his own expeditions. They are interesting to read about, and Washburn was instrumental in setting him off on them, but they are not really part of Washburn's story. Roberts can be forgiven this bit of self-indulgence, however.
Recommendation: For those who like mountains, mountaineering, and stories of the great adventurers of a nearly a century ago. Also those who don't mind just a touch of hagiography.
Full Disclosure: I was given The Last of His Kind by a friend with no connection to the author, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."