Local Voices “Intellect and Inspiration” Series on Lines from Loganberry, first episode with Dr. Kalra

Hello, everyone! Tonight on our podcast Lines from Loganberry, Local Voices manager Miesha Headen interviews Dr. Ankur Kalra, who is an interventional cardiologist and clinical researcher at the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital. His collection of poetry, titled “Ibadah: When love transforms into transcendence, life transforms into servitude,” is a tribute to his spirituality as well as his experiences treating patients’ hearts. The poems bridge feelings of heartache, loss, and beguilement to the concepts of reincarnation and transcending finite pain in order to grow. 

His collection is available at Loganberry here: https://store.loganberrybooks.com/ibadah-when-love-transforms-i.

He also recommends the following books that align with spirituality, wholeness, and gratitude: 

The episode is live now! We created the Intellect and Inspiration series to aid, engage, and motivate our listeners during these challenging times through the thought-provoking work by a local author. We hope you enjoy!

You can listen below via Spotify, or through Anchor.

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Launching “Lines from Loganberry” – the Official Loganberry Books Podcast

We couldn’t be more thrilled to begin our journey in audio to stay connected with you through these ever-shifting, odd times. Our new podcast series “Lines from Loganberry” will connect you to new books, feature staff picks, reveal niche stories about Loganberry, link you to local authors, ask some interesting questions about the bookish world, and, of course, we will also check in with our friendly bookstore cat, Otis.

The first podcast episode, a recording of the live Facebook event “Books, Big Hats, and Bourbon – A Celebration of Horses” with Local Voices manager Miesha Headen and three local authors is now live:

You can also listen at https://anchor.fm/linesfromloganberry, which is where we will host all of our episodes, and on Spotify.

We are also excited to share that for the remainder of this month, we have a special Local Voices series on “Intellect and Inspiration” that will air every Wednesday night at 7:30 pm starting June 10th. Be sure to tune in! We hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening!

More information on the episode “Local Voices: Books, Big Hats, and Bourbon – A Celebration of Horses” attached:

**This episode originally aired as a Facebook Live event on May 2, 2020.**

Join Loganberry Books as we celebrate the beauty and strength of horses by hosting a free author talk with three horse lovers. Though the 146th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs was postponed, Loganberry Books invites fans to honor the animals and the annual tradition while staying at home and enjoying books, big hats, and bourbon with us. All of the books are available online via Loganberry. The featured authors are:

• Dave Szalay, illustrator of “The True Story of Zippy Chippy The Little Horse That Couldn’t” https://cutt.ly/Ryd3gf0

• Betty Weibel, author of “Little Victories A True Story of the Healing Power of Horses” https://cutt.ly/eyd3jME

• Janet Wolanin Alexander, author of “At Home on a Horse in the Woods” https://cutt.ly/Fyd3hmI

Related books are also available at Loganberry:

  • “A Year at the Races – Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money, and Luck” by Jane Smiley;
  • “Half Broke” by Ginger Gaffney

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Black Looks: Race, Beauty, and Memory in Brit Bennett’s new Must-Read, “The Vanishing Half”

“Race! The thing that bound and suffocated her. Whatever steps she took, or if she took none at all, something would be crushed. A person or the race. Clare, herself, or the race. Or, it might be, all three. Nothing, she imagined, was ever more completely sardonic.”

Nella Larsen, “Passing,” page 101

Larsen’s words here seem to represent a core theme of what so many authors dating back to the 19th century and into the 21st century wrote and continue to write about: how racism stifles, freezes, kills. Strains of this idea run through Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Baldwin’s Another Country, and recently, through Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. If you are unfamiliar, pick up a copy of Passing by Nella Larsen, which tells the story of two women who run into each other atop a fancy hotel after not seeing each other since their teenage years. Both of these women, Irene (protagonist) and Clare, are very light-skinned, and we find that Clare has committed to passing for white, marrying a white man and abandoning her old life. Irene is horrified by the idea, even though she also occasionally uses her light-skin privilege to do things that Black people were not permitted to do often, like dine at fancy hotels in the 1920s. 

As the novel unravels, we see how these two women interact, how Clare, after reuniting with Irene, yearns to be with her “kin” again, and how Irene subsequently becomes somewhat infatuated with Clare. But ultimately, the short novel concentrates on the poison of racism—how it infiltrates, abducts, coerces, stupefies, and destroys the lives of everyone it impacts. Which is to say: everyone. When Larsen mentions at the end of the above passage, “it might be, all three,” this is it: race does not “crush” one or the other, it crushes all.

Brit Bennett’s compelling new novel, The Vanishing Half, examines the same concepts. Identical twins Desiree and Stella, years after witnessing an abhorrent instance of lynching in 1950s Louisiana that serves as the groundwork for characterizing how they will each think about race, leave the small town where they grew up to pursue bigger and better things. But this idea manifests itself in ways that could not be more disparate for each twin: Desiree marries “the darkest man she could find,” thus birthing a similarly dark-skinned daughter, and Stella disappears one day, choosing to pass for white and leave her family behind. 

What Bennett does not do is chastise. Upon reading, I admit, I was hesitant that this would be the case, and we would have yet another “tragic mulatto” tale at our disposal. But Bennett, through brilliant, captivating prose is only an observer, and lets her characters become as full as they can be. We follow the twins and their children’s lives, their ups and downs, their happiest and worst days, to witness how penetrative racism is in every facet of people’s lives—no matter what your race is—while, nonetheless, building an incredibly engrossing story. She describes, through each character’s journey, how guilt, fear, trauma, and, inversely, love can make a person and inform their choices. She shows us the gravity of memory, how it is warped by time, how ideas fluctuate generationally, how some things don’t really fade or become easier. She demands that we grapple with ideas of beauty, how overt forms of discrimination based on white beauty standards weigh on public memory and representation, and how covert objectification, fetishization, and exoticization of Black women’s bodies hinder and corrupt everyone’s ideas about Black women’s worth, place, and strength. 

To me, this novel was fueled by Stella and Desiree’s gripping relationships to each other, their mother, “the race,” and their hometown, but it is driven by Desiree’s daughter, Jude. Jude is the heart of this novel, and Desiree and Stella’s heart-aching relationship serves as its soul. Jude’s story acts as a counterpoint to both her mother’s and aunt’s, the guiding force that sets the story in motion. And once you reach this point in the novel, you cannot put it down. With The Vanishing Half, Bennett delivers a meditative, intense, fresh examination of Black womanhood in all its unique and diverse forms. Already I can see this text becoming a classic, to be paired well with those aforementioned titles and the ones it will surely inspire. 

Coming out this Tuesday, June 2nd––you don’t want to miss this one.

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Child Imaginary Creatures Contest Winner

We had a great selection of entries from our April creative writing contest. Enjoy our favorite story from the children’s category. Congratulations to Eleanor Lindsay!

The One and Only Fire Unicorn

By Eleanor Lindsay

Once there was a fire unicorn and she was peacefully eating berries and then she laid down for a nap. And then hunters came and they went to hunt and found her sleeping and she was only a baby so her parents were with her. They saw the hunters and they shot the unicorns with a tranquilizer gun. And one of the hunters grabbed the unicorn but the parents scared the hunters away with their fire. When they ran away, they noticed that the hunters took away their daughter and they were very upset. They tried to rescue them but they didn’t know which way the hunters were going.

They put them in a cage in a scientist’s home where they discover unknown animals. The next day, when the baby woke up, she expected her parents to be cuddling her but she saw a hunter looking at her and a scientist staring at her and she was shocked! She closed her eyes and covered them and laid back down. A couple of hours later it was lunchtime and she was starving but she was very tired. The hunters came over, and the scientist, and asked what she wanted to eat. She roared and made magical sounds and made horse sounds and she blew fire and it almost made her escape. And then the hunters and scientists said maybe she wants something roasted. Maybe since she lives in the wild, she likes wild things. Maybe she wants roasted berries? The unicorn was magical so she could understand what humans say. She nodded and laid back down. The hunters and the scientists smiled at each other and got berries and put them in the oven for a few minutes.

When it was done, they fed them to the baby that was starving. She ate them quickly and laid back down and smiled. And then at supper, she was not hungry because she ate a late lunch. Then she laid back down and she was very tired but she didn’t have any exercise or lessons on how to fly or do magic. So she tried to get out of the cage but she was also very tired. And then she was so tired, she drifted off to sleep very fast. The next morning, she was so tired of being in the cage, but it was only for a day and a half. So she used her fire powers and magic how her mother and father taught her and she breathed as hard as she could to get out of the cage. It was very hard but she did it and she ran around and made messes in the scientist’s room. And she felt a little bad but she also didn’t care anymore. She just kept making messes and then she did some magics her mother and father taught her so she could clean up the messes before the scientist and the hunters came back. Then she ran around for her exercise but she tried not to make a mess again so she wouldn’t have to clean it up with her magic. And then she burned the door down and she used her magic to fix it and then she made her way out by burning everything and that time she didn’t fix it. And afterwards, she had a little more fun with making a huge fireball and blowing up the whole place.

The hunters and scientists came back with bags under their eyes because they were so tired. When the got out of their vehicles, they looked at their place in shock! They covered their eyes and left and the whole way they thought, “How did this happen?” So the baby unicorn happily ran around, looking for her parents. But she only found the woods but she got bored of the woods because she was living there for a lot of years. So she walked around and looked around the city and found a berry shop and while the man that was selling it wasn’t looking, she grabbed the berries with her teeth and ran. She tried not to swallow them but her mouth was watering with hunger. Then she ran to the pizza place and busted the door down and then she ran to the oven. All the people there and the people who worked there were shocked.

She ran to the oven and put the berries in, pressed random numbers, but somehow they were right. She waited and waited and she used her mouth to open the oven. She laid down on one of the customers’ tables and ate the berries calmly and she didn’t shnarf so they wouldn’t think she was a Shnarf McGee. When she was done with the berries, she left the place and looked around some more and then she went to the mall. It had lots of fluffy cushions and laid down on one of those. She was very relaxed. She ran around after the store was closed, made a little bit of mess, burned some things down (but not the whole place), and stole some things she thought would be interesting. Like teddy bears, dolls, balls, blankets, cushions. Everything a unicorn needs that a human has. The next day she ran to the woods and found her parents. They had a great day together and brought a cushion that was so big everyone in the unicorn family could fit on it. They couldn’t wait for another adventure tomorrow and they happily slept and dreamed some awesome dreams.

The end.

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Adult Imaginary Creatures Contest Winner

We had a great selection of entries from our April creative writing contest. Enjoy our favorite story from the adult category. Congratulations to Erin Smith!

Talons and Tales

By Erin Smith

Issagoth dreamed, and when it dreamed, it dreamed of fire and flight and the shrieks of its enemies. This particular fire-drake was small for its age, only the size of a warhorse, but it was also wily and fierce. It never went hungry, even in the long winter months when little stirred beyond its cave door.

The wind outside shifted, and the drake stirred irritably as a draught slipped in through the cave opening, the icy fingers scraping its black hide. Issagoth hated the cold and the whirling snow that blew in its face whenever it had to slither out of its lair to track down food. But more than that, it hated the endless monotony of the short days and long nights when nothing moved within its view in the surrounding valley. It was never as happy as on summer days when it was diving to the ground to harry a hapless villager with its fiery breath or carrying off a sheep in its talons. Boredom, on the other hand, was a foe even the drake could not defeat.

Something tickled at the edges of its hearing as it tried to settle itself back into a comfortable position on the cave floor. A buzzing hum as if from a dragonfly sounded over the wind’s shriek, but it was far too early in the year for such a creature to be on the loose. Issagoth eased its eyes open for the first time in days and flicked its tongue into the air, tasting for the first signs of spring and to assess what the unwelcome visitor might be. The scent coating its tongue was something it had not tasted since it was a hatchling.

“I know you are there,” the drake hissed in a dry rasp, lifting its head off the floor. “You might as well show yourself, sprite.”

The buzzing dipped toward Issagoth’s head, and the drake blinked its eyes open wide at the sight of a tiny, dark-haired woman in a blue shift levitating in the air. She must have been only three inches tall, and her wings flapped so quickly they blurred behind her.

“Hi there,” she said, flitting up and down in Issagoth’s vision, much like the dragonfly the drake thought it had sensed. “I don’t suppose I could borrow your cave for a few hours? It’s freezing out there.”

The drake let wisps of smoke spiral out of its nostrils as a warning to the impertinent visitor. “No. Begone before I decide whether or not you are worth the trouble of eating.”

Ignoring the command, the sprite landed on a rock, her wings showing iridescent in the light filtering in from the cave entrance. She looked around with an appraising glance. “Nice place. Cozy. Guessing you don’t get many visitors, though.”

Issagoth blinked. “Did you not hear me, sprite? Begone or die by my wrathful flame.”

The sprite quirked an eyebrow. “Well, that’s not very friendly. And ‘by my wrathful flame’? Just how old are you?”

“I am old as the hills. Old as the river flowing through yonder valley.”

“Ok. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you sound like Councilman Agnew down in the village. He’s always yelling at the kids to stop running so fast and griping about the price of cabbages.”

Issagoth drew itself up, feeling its breath heating in its chest as the flames in its stomach kindled. “You dare,” it sputtered.

The sprite sighed in response. “Don’t worry, he’s not as bad as some of the others down there. At least he’s not truly tragic like the poet pining over the Miller’s daughter. Like she’s going to marry anyone other than the Huntsman. Somebody needs to tell that boy that mediocre poetry does not win you any points in the romance category. And don’t get me started on the songs he’s tried to sing…” She shuddered. “No, you’ve got the right idea hanging out up here on this mountain. Farmer Benson and his fiancé Glen are the only ones down there worth two gold pieces, and those guys had a serious row the other day. You wouldn’t believe what it was about, either.”

The sprite took her boots off as she talked and raised her legs until the soles of her feet were within a few inches of Issagoth’s side. She whistled and wiggled her toes. “Wow, you’re toasty. That feels amazing.”

Despite its irritation, Issagoth felt a stirring of curiosity. This was so different from the usual monotony of its winter slumber. “What affront has the farmer made to his betrothed?”  

The sprite grunted. “My Ma always said gossip makes your ears swell and your tongue fall off. I probably shouldn’t be telling you any of this. Forget I said anything.”

The drake shifted on its bed of rocks for a few moments. At last it rumbled, “Very well. You may stay, sprite. So long as you continue your prattle. I wish to learn the fate of the village folk and to hear the song of the tragic poet.”

“Great,” the sprite exclaimed. “It’s a deal. So, what do you go by?”

“I am Issagoth, Destroyer of Man and Beast, the One who Feasts on the Flesh of the Unwary.”

“Vanria. Charmed, I’m sure.”

With that, Vanria stood, fluttered her wings, and zipped upwards to the cave ceiling before settling herself onto Issagoth’s long neck. She rolled over onto her back and stretched out her legs, one hand idly scratching the drake’s hide.

“So, get this, Issy. Glen and Ambrose—that’s Farmer Benson—wanted to buy this cow named Buttercup. And Glen promised Ambrose he’d go into town with three gold pieces to get it. But then the cabbage seller offered him ten cabbages and a magic ring…”  

Issagoth gazed out past the cave entrance at the swirling snow and closed its eyes as Vanria spun her tales. And when it dreamed, it dreamed of cabbages and poets, of farmers and millers’ daughters, of magic rings and the droning sound of wings buzzing through the air.

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A Tribute to Poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate a post to the wonderful form of poetry, to think about how poetry has changed over time and to contemplate its role in society today. Of course, unpacking all of that is a sizable project that would take numerous blog posts, so I will (attempt to) keep it brief, which consequently means I won’t be able to talk about all that I wish I could. I am a fan of poetry, as demonstrated by the image above, which is a selection of my personal collection of both widely known and locally published volumes. However, I know the medium does not always present itself as…welcoming.

Poetry can seem exclusive, inaccessible, elite. This is interesting, because poetry started out as a method of story-sharing, its primary mission accessibility, connection. Think of Homer: The Iliad is figured to be one of the oldest works of Western literature, first recited, dramatized vocally, rather than being shared through text. But we cannot say that poetry has stayed the same since the beginning. Now, I’m no poetry specialist (just a lowly English major), but there is something to be said for how deeply engrained poetry seems to be in the world, through centuries and centuries. Does poetry have the same impact on public consciousness that it once did? How has our social landscape changed, and thus, how have these shifts affected poetry? Perhaps it would be apt to turn to poets; what can they do now that they could not before? If we stick to the idea that poetry is a way of story-sharing, how can people share ideas with each other? 

In my view, when we think of “poetry,” there is an idea we have of a “high” art that points to writers like Walt Whitman, Percy Shelley, John Keats, and other names you might remember from your high school English class. Regarding poetry’s inaccessible edge: when we think of, for example, Keats or Tennyson, the language they use can be difficult for anyone to comprehend nowadays because language has changed, and what it referenced regularly has as well. Are we talking about Grecian urns anymore, in everyday conversations? Well, maybe you are, and that sounds fascinating. I, unfortunately, am not, except in reference to Keats’ famous poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Though, that is not to say that all poetry is inaccessible because of the specific language people of the time used. It is a testament to the poet when, even after years and years, a poem is as evocative now as it once was. (To that point, I think of Emily Dickinson, Audre Lorde, Pablo Neruda.)

However, contemporarily, many poets use social media as a way to share their art. As a result, the idea we have of a “legitimate” poet has changed, and thus, so has the form. Unlike 200, 100, or even just 50 years ago when poets heavily relied on official print publication, poets who self-publish via Instagram or other means are not taken as seriously as those who have published “traditionally.” This is hindering to the art, as it encourages the idea that poetry ought to be exclusive, which goes against its first intentions! But then, I think of Elizabeth Acevedo. Or Hanif Abdurraqib. Or, Rupi Kaur.

These poets, among many others, have shifted the ways poetry is shared and how or what stories are told, in some ways returning the form to its roots. Acevedo’s triumph The Poet X is arguably better experienced as an audiobook, because listening to the presentation of the poetry is striking and purposeful. Acevedo has embraced poetry as story-telling through vocal, intentional renderings of her work. Kaur became widely known for her short poems shared via social media because she was able to connect with so many across the globe. However, because poets like Kaur use free avenues of sharing their work, it is taken to be of a lesser quality. And many slam-poets like Acevedo face the same criticism, their vocal showcasing often dismissed as not “real” poetry. If a poem’s first intent––to be heard, seen, sensed, felt––overshadows its ability to translate onto a printed page, it is delegitimized. It is also worth noting the fact that these poets are women of color, which is not extractable from their work being interpreted as “lesser than.” But poetry that speaks to us without the barriers of capital, that makes us feel heard and seen and represented, exemplifies story-sharing at its core, at its most legitimate.

All this is to say that poetry is a way of connecting us all. While some of us may not be enthralled by T.S. Eliot and others may scoff at Rupi Kaur, this adapting form of expression has stood the test of time, because it has shown itself to be so central in how we experience life. Whether reading poetry, hearing it, or feeling it, language is itself poetic, because we live inside it. We think, communicate, sense, love, cry, and breathe in language. Poetry knows this better than any other form, and we owe it more than we think.

And what kind of bookseller would I be if I went through all this trouble without giving my own personal poetry recommendations?

For the poetry-slam lovers: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay, Soft by Damien McClendon, Crossfire by Staceyann Chinn

For seekers of genre-defying and prose poetry: Citizen by Claudia Rankine, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews

For the fans of the traditional styles: Twelve Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, Blue Horses by Mary Oliver

For those who want to be pushed, to possibly have their heart broken and their ideas challenged: Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith, Don’t Cal Us Dead by Danez Smith, Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, The Tradition by Jericho Brown, A Fortune for Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib

For those who wish for a kick in the feelings: Bluets by Maggie Nelson, Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, Soldier by June Jordan (interweaves memoir and poetry)

Thanks for reading, and I hope if you’ve been questioning getting into poetry that you’ll give some of these a shot! Happy National Poetry Month!

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The Final Frontiersman by James Campbell

You can’t get any closer to escapist literature or off the grid stories than The Final Frontiersman : Heimo Korth and His Family, Alone in Alaska’s Arctic Wilderness by James Campbell, narrated by Dan Warren. At the age of twenty, Heimo Korth decided to move to Alaska and stay there for the rest of his life, where he still lives with his wife Edna, in the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge, literally in the middle of nowhere. Heimo’s cousin, James Campbell, a journalist, visited Heimo several times in order to write this amazing and often heartbreaking story about a man driven to build his own cabin, hunt his own food, fend for himself against the dangers of ice-bound winters and swollen rivers, and to find a life he can call his own. Heimo might not be a warm, fuzzy character, and Campell doesn’t avoid his honest opinions about some of the choices Heimo makes, yet the story of this place and this man are compelling, and speaks to a part of each of us that wants to live life on our own terms.

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The Stand, By Stephen King

The Stand, By Stephen King.  What can I say besides I’ve read this book three times and am about to read it again?  It’s a classic Dystopian, Apocalyptic, End-of-the-world-because-of-a-deadly-virus, Quest-for-Salvation, Good-vs-Evil book with a plot and characters that keep you rooted to the page, lost in a world that is not—or was not—reality; a story that scares you until you remind yourself that’s it’s fiction.  Or is it?  Maybe it’s an allegory of sorts, of mankind’s struggle to find the good in a frightening world.  King is at his very best here, creating memorable characters (the good guys and the bad), and a sense of place that rivets you into the world where cities are destroyed and the landscape is barren and the world is very, very dangerous.  Follow Stuart and Frannie and Nick and Tom Collins—and the rest of the group of people who cross the country to save mankind.  A must read for any fans of, well, a book you can’t put down.  

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Surrender by Ray Loriga, translated by Carolina De Robertis

I loved Surrender by Ray Lorica, which just came out.  It’s a strange and disturbing novel about a dystopian future in a fictional country, ten years after a war that no one understands. The whole novel is narrated by one man, without a bit of dialogue, just a telling of what’s happening to him, which might not be the truth. The narrator is unreliable, possibly lying to himself, and the reader must interpret the truth. He and his wife live in a house in a rural locale, they are under strict rules of isolation, his sons have gone off to war and have never returned, and one day a mute boy walks onto their land. And then everyone is rounded up and sent to The Transparent City, where the walls are all made of glass and everyone can see everyone, all the time. His relationship with his wife, and the mute boy, as well as his understanding about this society, are all put to the test.  

There are so many different ways to read this novel—what it says about governments, privacy, our need to feel safe and secure, and what we are possibly capable of doing to each other, and ourselves.

Surrender may not be for everyone, but if you loved Blindness by Saramago, or feel the need to read fiction that speaks to what our world might become, read this book.

Sarah Willis

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Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

This is the book that began my fascination with epic disasters in cold, icy places. I guess I wanted to understand why people risk their lives for adventure or exploration, which I admit I still don’t understand after reading dozens of books like this. But I keep reading them, just as drawn into the snowy, freezing landscapes as the mindset of these men and women who choose to go to the ends (and tops) of the world. What drives them? How do they explain themselves to family? How do they feel afterwards? And, always, what is the truth? Is there a truth? After reading Into Thin Air, I read The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev, which is about the same disaster on Mt. Everest, but with a different point-of-view. Boukreev at times contradicts Krakauer’s story. (He died in 1997 in an avalanche while climbing Annapurna in Nepal.) There are also other accounts of this particular Everest disaster (many other disasters have taken place on Everest, and still do today), each as riveting as the last.  Left For Dead by Beck Weathers, and No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs are also well worth the read. There may not be any answers to the why, and to what really happened, but each story, each perspective, is equally fascinating.

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