Goodreads Project, part 14: History and Biography

Goodreads Project, part 14: History and Biography

I’m creeping toward the end of my project to read a book from each of the fifteen categories Goodreads uses in its Best Book of the Year contest. This review is of a book from the History and Biography category. I read The Wager by David Grann, who also wrote Killers of the Flower Moon.

The Wager is not the story of a bet. It’s the name of a British Navy ship that sank off the coast of Patagonia in the mid-eighteenth century. The surviving crew lived as castaways for months. Starving and uncertain of their own survival, many descended into anarchy and violence. Eventually, two groups of them managed to return to England, where they told competing stories of life on the island. Had the captain been incompetent or had the crew committed mutiny?

Grann describes life on a naval ship in fascinating detail. The Wager’s mission was to sail around Cape Horn and hunt a Spanish galleon that was known to be carrying treasure. Grann describes the catastrophic voyage, during which they were beset by problems ranging from storms to scurvy. And by the way, I hadn’t realized what a terrible disease scurvy was.

Grann’s account is based on journals in which several of the crew members recorded day to day observations. Through those accounts we get to know half a dozen crew members well enough that they become like characters in a novel.

This is a well-written story of how thin the veneer of civilization can be.


The Trickster

A pickpocket girl and a smuggler’s son stumble on treason and can stop it only by betraying their families. A less intense Game of Thrones meets Pirates of the Caribbean.


Bookshop (alliance of independent bookstores)

Inspired Quill (UK small press that makes more money when you buy from their site)

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