The best thing about having a wish list of books is that the not so famous or just downright obscure books, tend to get forgotten about when hunting through the local bookshops. So when you get books (such as Wasa-Wasa) for a christmas present they take on an extra special meaning when read.
I heard of Wasa-Wasa through a reference in Ancient Mariner, a superb history book detailing the life of Samuel Hearne, an 18th century naturalist, and explorer of Canada and when I got my hands on it, it was a prime example of the hidden gem.
Books with maps are great, FACT! There is no getting away from it, maps suggest exotic, exciting, unknown places with mysterious names that conjure up all sorts of imaginative extravagance. For all that though it was the picture of two men and dog team camping in the vast wilderness of a snowy forest seemingly completely isolated from the world, that impressed me most and got me in the mood for some adventure.
The book is essentially the selected memoirs of Harry Macfie, a Swede (descended from Scotland) and his Sam Kilburn, an Englishman who took part in the gold rushes of Canada and Alaska. Yet instead of being a dry history of obsession over the yellow stuff, it is so much more. There are a plethora of reminiscences ranging from fleeing huge forest fires, being stalked and constantly attacked by wolves to races against time to escape the oncoming storms.
Each chapter, tells a story and although the chapters are fairly short, there very nature brings them to life and they remain vibrant with colour and atmosphere. It’s a lovely world to lose yourself in but not one to be rushed, I managed to eke out each chapter and only read six or seven pages a day, so great was my desire to make it last.