Death Proof

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From the lawn-like Yosemite Valley floor, the Big Ditch’s true dangers remain largely invisible. But for all its bustle, Yosemite National Park is still wild, with fatalities aplenty. The gripping, exhaustive Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite ($36.95 hardcover, $24.95 paperback;, by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Charles R. “Butch” Farabee, Jr., compiles these 900 fatal mishaps (as well as some near-fatal ones) into a must-read tome for visitors to the park or any mountain environment. Sure, the tales can be macabre, but there’s much to learn: the 100-page chapter on climbing accidents, for example, is rich with insight and Valley lore, and later had me quadruple-checking my safety systems (and decisions) on the rock. Other chapters of note: BASE-jumping, scrambling/hiking, and waterfall deaths (!).

—Matt Samet