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Library Journal Gives Continental Divide Starred Review


The Library Journal, a major publication for libraries across the country, recently gave Continental Divide – A History of American Mountaineering by Maurice Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History, a starred review. “This broad sweep of American mountaineering history will satisfy general history readers and outdoor adventurers alike,” wrote the reviewer. “Isserman brings masterly storytelling and an eye for detail to the history of American mountaineering, beginning with the colonialists' first encounters with mountains in the 17th century and ending with the golden age of climbing in the mid-1960s,” the reviewer continued.

The Oregonian, the oldest continuously published newspaper on the West Coast, recently printed an excerpt from Continental Divide by Isserman. The book pages selected rather appropriately, yet ironically, describe the competition to reach the summit of Mt. Hood between the Oregonian’s founder, Thomas J. Dryer, and another team of climbers. Dryer claimed that victory in 1854, but, according to Isserman, there remained doubt as to the veracity of his claim. A rather inexperienced climbing team led by Henry Pittock reached the summit in 1857. Pittock carved his name into a rock and left a flag as proof of his accomplishment. He also accurately described the top of the mountain, whereas Dryer’s description seemed to deviate from reality.

On June 7, a site called What it means to be an American published a story derived from Continental Divide about the first recorded American mountain climber. According to its site, What It Means to Be American is a national, multiplatform, multimedia conversation hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Zócalo Public Square that brings together leading thinkers, public figures, and Americans from all walks of life to explore big, visceral questions about how our nation’s past can help us understand its present and imagine its future. 

Isserman will read from his book and discuss various aspects of it on Thursday, June 9, at 1 p.m. in Kirner-Johnson 201 as part of the Reunions ’16. 

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