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Continental Divide Praised by Critics


“Like a hike into rough terrain, the book is full of surprises … And it is packed with fascinating details,” proclaimed a Wall Street Journal reviewer in describing Professor of History Maurice Isserman’s newest book, Continental Divide. “No one who enjoys the outdoors will fail to find suspense and enlightenment in this chronicle of the enterprising and sometimes foolhardy people who opened Americans’ eyes to the rigors and rewards which can be found in the world’s highest places,” another reviewer for Natural History Magazine asserted.

According to publisher W.W. Norton & Company, Continental Divide – A History of American Mountaineering “tells the history of American mountaineering through four centuries of landmark climbs and first ascents.” The Wall Street Journal defined the book as ““[A] history of American mountaineering that…tries to discover what prompts the human spirit to seek great heights on earth, often with great exertion, sometimes at great peril….A major theme of Mr. Isserman's book is the convergence of America's natural and national character.” The reviewer concluded with this summary, “In the end, Mr. Isserman's comprehensive and inviting book celebrates the growth in popularity of hiking and mountaineering even as it mourns the loss of intimacy and the sense of community shared by earlier outdoor adventurers and organizations.” 

Natural History Magazine praised Continental Divide with similarly positive observations. “Isserman’s narrative takes us through four centuries of American climbing with a view to the intellectual and social forces that changed our attitudes to altitude…. Isserman’s eye to the broader issues of culture, however, doesn’t keep him from spinning chilling tales of are-you-serious ascents, daredevil traverses, and tragic falls by legendary figures in the American mountaineering community. … No one who enjoys the outdoors will fail to find suspense and enlightenment in this chronicle of the enterprising and sometimes foolhardy people who opened Americans’ eyes to the rigors and rewards which can be found in the world’s highest places."

The book has already been reviewed by other major players including Publishers Weekly, Booklist and The New York Times as well as Mazamas, a nonprofit mountaineering education organization. Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History, also spoke with KBOO public radio’s Locus Focus program on April 25.

Note: The link to The Wall Street Journal's review is only accessible to subscribers.

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