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Community Read 2018

Leif Whittaker
My Old Man and the Mountain: A Memoir

My Old Man and the MountainIn 1963, the world followed the first American expedition to summit Mount Everest, and watched as "Big Jim" Whittaker became the first American to stand on top of the world. He returned home a hero.
My Old Man and the Mountain is Leif Whittaker's engaging and humorous story of what it was like to "grow up Whittaker"—the youngest son of Jim Whittaker and Dianne Roberts, in an extended family of accomplished climbers. He shares glimpses of his upbringing and how the pressure to climb started early on. Readers learn of his first adventures with family in the Olympic Mountains and on Mount Rainier; his close, yet at times competitive, relationship with his brother Joss; his battle with a serious back injury; and his efforts to stand apart from his father's legacy. With wry honesty, he depicts being a recent college grad, still living in his parents' home, and trying to find a purpose in life—digging ditches, building houses,
selling t-shirts to tourists—until a chance encounter leads to the opportunity to climb Everest,
just like his father did.
Leif heads to Nepal with all the excitement, irony, boredom, and trepidation that
are part of high-altitude climbing. Well-known guides Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot
figure prominently in his story, as does "Big Jim." But Leif's story is not his father's
story. It's a unique coming-of-age tale on the steep slopes of Everest (Tibetan name,
Chomolungma), and a climbing adventure that lights the imagination and fills an
emotional human endeavor with universal meaning.
"Whittaker writes as he climbs mountains, with courage, grace, and a dash of
humility. The result is an utterly compelling tale of a young man who bravely tackles
two great challenges—one made of rock and ice and one made of doubts and fears.
It's a great read." — Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat

Related Special Events

All Events Free!

High & Hallowed: Everest 1963 Film Kickoff – presented by the Port Townsend Film Festival. Featuring honored guests Jim Whittaker and Dianne Roberts
February 28 (Wednesday) Wheeler Theater, Fort Worden 7:00 pm
The deeper story of the greatest Himalayan climb in American mountaineering history
followed by a discussion with Jim and Dianne after the film.

1956 Sailing Memoir with Shelly Randall of the Community Boat Project
March 8 (Thursday) Carnegie Reading Room 7:00 pm
On International Women's Day learn about how writer Ann Davison and the sloop
Felicity Ann sailed into women's history (

Adventure Photography with Christian Coxen
March 15 (Thursday) Carnegie Reading Room 7:00 pm
Christian Coxen is a photographer and adventurer from the Olympic Peninsula. His work
portrays his love and devotion to the ocean, mountains, forests, and rivers where a neverending
pursuit of new horizons keeps his soul alive. Examples of his work can be found at

PT Shorts
March 15 (Thursday) Northwind Arts Center 7:30 pm
Reader's Theater– Dramatic reading of excerpts from My Old Man and the Mountain by
performers from Key City Public Theatre.

Story Trail for Kids and Their Families
March 17 (Saturday) Kai Tai Lagoon 12:00–4:00 pm
A fun outdoor adventure for the whole family. Pages will be posted at stations along the
trail for families to enjoy a story as they walk the path near the Lagoon. Explore anytime
between 12:00–4:00 pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Meet the Author: Leif Whittaker
March 29 (Thursday) Port Townsend High School Auditorium 6:30–8:00 pm
Join Leif for a talk and reading. His father, Jim Whittaker, will introduce
him. A book signing will follow with books for sale by Imprint Books.

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The Community Read Program & How It Works

The City of Port Townsend has proclaimed March as the official "Reading Month."
Community Read is designed to promote closer ties among community members
through the shared experience of reading, sharing and discussing the same book and
ideas related to topics raised by the book.

• A limited number of free copies of the book will be available at the Port Townsend
Public Library on a first-come first-served basis. Additional copies will be available
at the Library on two-week loans, or you may purchase a copy at Imprint Bookstore.
• Read the book, then pass it on to others.
• Prepare for a discussion about the book with your own book group or join in the
groups listed below. A brochure with discussion issues and questions is available at
the Library.
• Attend the many related events in the community during the month of March.

Author Profile

Leif Whittaker was born in Port Townsend, Washington, at the foot of the Olympic Mountains. He reached his first major summit when he was 15 years old; he has since climbed many of the Leifworld's tallest mountains. A writer and a photographer, Leif's work has appeared in Powder,
The Ski Journal, and Backcountry. Leif lives in Bellingham, Washington, and is a seasonal USFS climbing ranger on Mount Baker. Visit him online at

Discussion Groups

MARCH 5 Book Lovers' Café 2:00 pm (Monday) Library Learning Center (Pink House)
MARCH 13 Community Book Discussion at 7:00 pm (Tuesday) Alchemy Bistro & Wine Bar, 842 Washington Street
MARCH 20 Community Book Discussion at 2:00 pm (Tuesday) Velocity Coffee Shop, 431 Water Street

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Thank you to our sponsors: Friends of the Port Townsend Library, the Port Townsend Public Library Foundation, and Kris Nelson's Family of Restaurants: Sirens Pub, Alchemy Bistro, The Old Whiskey Mill. Our community partners are the Port Townsend Film Festival, Imprint Books, Port Townsend School District, Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader, Peninsula Daily News, Northwind Arts Center, Key City Public Theater, KPTZ 91.9 FM, Alchemy Bistro & Wine Bar, Velocity, and Mountaineers Books.