By David Roberts/ Simon & Schuster, $24
In the recent hullabaloo over Mount Everest—the fatal climbs of 1996, the 1999 discovery after 75 years of the frozen corpse of "because-it's-there" climber George Mallory—we tend to forget what a big deal Annapurna was. But when, on June 3, 1950, that 26,493-foot Himalayan giant became the first of the world's 14 8,000-meter peaks to be conquered, Annapurna became a household word down below. Since the conquerors were French, the deed, according to Roberts, was to a nation humiliated in World War II "a matter of incalculable national pride." The 1951 book Annapurna by expedition leader Maurice Herzog sold more than II million copies and was translated into 40 languages. And Herzog became France's Lindbergh.
But as Roberts tells it, the Annapurna saga wasn't all that it seemed to be. He describes Herzog, who lost all his fingers and toes to frostbite on the climb, as a self-aggrandizing egotist who, in Herzog's book, relegated the other ace climbers on his team to a secondary role. Herzog dismissed his fellow summiteer, Louis Lachenal (who also lost his toes), as a hothead who wanted to turn back. Rather than the one-for-all-and-all-for-one spirit Herzog described in his book, Roberts says there was considerable disharmony among the mountaineers. It is, you'll excuse the expression, a chilling story.
By Rick Bass / Houghton Mifflin Co., $22
This Crafted paean by a man to his dog confronts animal lovers with something of a dilemma. How can a human express so much love for one animal (canine) yet be so determined to gun down another (birds)? Bass isn't unaware of the contradiction, and he does his best to explain it. There's some consolation in the fact that he's a lousy shot.
By Jim Kaplan/SABR, United Book Press, $12.95
In his time in the major leagues, 1925 to '41, Grove was as famous for his temper as for his pitching. But in this excellent biography, Kaplan reveals a gentler, more human side to the fireballing 300-game winner. He also rescues a fading reputation and makes a valid case for placing Grove at the very top of the alltime pitching rankings.
THE BEST OF FRANK DEFORD
By Frank Deford / Triumph Books, $24.95
This "Bimedia" collection is a winning combination of some of the many perceptive profiles Deford has done for this magazine and others, along with scripts of some of the commentaries he has been delivering for 20 years over National Public Radio. Whether Deford is writing for the reader or the listener, his authorial voice rings clear and true.