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Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography Paperback – January 29, 2013
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Mud, Sweat, and Tears is required reading for fans of Man vs. Wild but also for anyone who revels in first-person stories of high adventure.” (BOOKLIST)
“I cannont think of anyone who has faced challenges and overcome them like Bear Grylls.” (GENERAL CHARLES GUTHRIE, Colonel Commandant of the SAS)
“Mud, Sweat, and Tears flows with the verve of an engaging novel and forms a satisfying life story brimming with excitement and adventuresome risk-taking. An inside look at the makings of an intrepid, insatiable explorer. ” (KIRKUS REVIEWS)
“World-famous ‘extreme adventurer’ Bear Grylls had so far avoided telling his life story--until now. Well told, personable, fast-paced, and undoubtedly a fascinating read.” (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
From the Back Cover
Bear Grylls has always sought the ultimate in adventure. Growing up on a remote island off of Britain's windswept coast, he was taught by his father to sail and climb at an early age. Inevitably, it wasn't long before the young explorer was sneaking out to lead all-night climbing expeditions.
As a teenager at Eton College, Bear found his identity and purpose through both mountaineering and martial arts. These passions led him into the foothills of the mighty Himalayas and to a karate grandmaster's remote training camp in Japan, an experience that soon helped him earn a second-degree black belt. Returning home, he embarked upon the notoriously grueling selection course for the British Special Forces to join the elite Special Air Service unit 21 SAS—a journey that would push him to the very limits of physical and mental endurance.
Then, disaster. Bear broke his back in three places in a horrific free-fall parachuting accident in Africa. It was touch and go whether he would walk again, according to doctors. However, only eighteen months later, a twenty-three-year-old Bear became one of the youngest climbers to scale Mount Everest, the world's highest summit. But this was just the beginning of his many extraordinary adventures. . . .
Known and admired by millions as the star of Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls has survived where few would dare to go. Now, for the first time, Bear tells the story of his action-packed life. Gripping, moving, and wildly exhilarating, Mud, Sweat, and Tears is a must-read for adrenaline junkies and armchair explorers alike.
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Top customer reviews
One of the big problems with autobiographies is that most lives just aren't that interesting. For example, see A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. Thus autobiographies often end up as a near-meaningless set of disconnected vignettes from the character's life, with little of interest or meaning or relevance to a general audience.
For example, the book might say "Here are some random memories of where I grew up, what I did as a child, how well I did in school, some of the relatives and people I knew, how I started in my career, what happened later, etc." (Even the sentence above seems routine and boring as I write it...)
It helps if the author is a celebrity (this book qualifies), because big fans of the author will probably like whatever is written, regardless of content (see all the 5 star reviews, for example).
Focusing on the book itself, as a recounting of vignettes from the author's life so far, this book is no doubt reasonably accurate. The writing is reasonable, the vignette stories are reasonable, the pace is reasonable, and the book moves along. It seemed to me there were three main sections of the book - the author's early life, his SAS qualification and bad parachute landing, and his Everest trip, with some ending material on his role in the Man vs. Wild TV show.
But as for being really interesting or meaningful to a general audience, the book doesn't seem to be anything special. The author does try to include various quotes and stories from his own life to encourage readers to keep on going when the going gets really tough (like the author did). However, it seemed to me that the inspirational conclusions seemed disconnected from the stories - the book seemed to repeat the same pattern over and over again: some physical challenge in SAS qualification/training or Everest, followed by another "keep going when it's really tough" quote.
Autobiography reviewers must also be careful to separate their evaluation of the book from evaluation of the author's life story. It seems to me that the book itself had a flavor of "Hey, look at my cool life of adventure, and look at what I got away with", and that quite a few of the 5-star reviewers were fans of the author agreed that the author's life was cool and adventurous. Many of them seemed to be talking about the author and his cool life, rather than about the book itself.
As a book, I don't think it was anything special because it contained general stories without too much interest or meaning to a general audience. And none of the stories seemed to have changed the author much, internally or externally. He seemed to be a child who preferred physical achievements to mental achievements (eg school work), and with lots of luck, seems to be a celebrity man who still prefers physical adventures (supported by teams with lots of modern technology, dramatized for TV audiences). Nothing in his story seems to have changed him much.
As for physical achievements and adventure stories, there are many other better books out there, such as the ones below. (It feels odd but fair for me to be comparing an autobiography story with pure adventure stories, but it seems reasonable because the author's book seems to be 2/3 adventure story, and not autobiography.)
What I liked about the book - in reaction to the "Hey, look at the cool adventure life that I'm living" (kind of a more modern George Plimpton makeover) - was that it made me think more about life. It seems to me that there are many other life stories that have more real adventure (unsupported by military training or TV filming teams and budgets), and that produced more meaningful changes in the people who lived them.
Maybe anyone can say "Hey, look at the cool adventurous life I have lived." And who am I or anyone else to dispute their claim? But I think I can legitimately say that this book - although a reasonable description of the author's life and thoughts about it - did not seem particularly insightful, meaningful, or relevant to me, as a non-fan of the author (I had never heard of him).
I wouldn't recommend this book to readers, unless they're already fans of the author. I think there are quite a few other better books to read first.
The Proving Ground
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest
Life in the French Foreign Legion: How to Join and What to Expect When You Get There
One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea
White Nights - Menachim Begin
Alone - Admiral Richard Byrd