Book Review: Dirty Inspirations

Review of Dirty Inspirations by Terri Schneider

At face-value, Terri Schneider’s Dirty Inspirations (Heatherleigh, 2016) is a memoir of her ground-breaking exploits as a world-class endurance athlete. Readers follow Terri around the globe as she muscles through a lengthy resume of outlandish events. Each of which, for most people, would represent a one-and-done, bucket list sort of adventure. The kind of thing you’d talk about forever after, and mostly because you remain eternally shocked that you survived the gory ordeal in the first place.

But Terri is cut from a different cloth. And a closer read of Dirty Inspirations’ thrilling stories reveals a mindful philosophy that results from her well-lived life. To her, exploration and discovery are mandatory ingredients for a richer existence. Not for everyone, but for her, definitely so. Just so happens that she’s heeded this call and matched her personal drive with this beckoning through extreme endurance sports. 45 years worth, in fact.

But Terri brings more than sweat and finish line trophies to the pages. Her interest in psychology, human behavior, and Buddhism puts readers into the mind of an athlete suffering from a deadly bout of high-altitude sickness, or covered, head to toe, in bacteria-rich Bornean guano. In relaying such details, she may as well be discussing the merits of a high-quality espresso shot. Her relatability results from an implied insistence that all life experience, in some way or another, is universal. Terri conveys the textures of each wild undertaking while also pointing out the less-obvious, albeit priceless, intrinsic jewels to be pocketed along the way.

Each chapter expands the sense of self (for both author and reader) while serving as a reminder of things that shouldn’t require any nudging: authentic human connection induces joy, genuine relationships are rare and worth celebrating, and respect for the natural world transcends (yet deeply includes) postcard monuments.

Terri’s stories are far more about process than they are about completion. They explore the idea of risk, virtues of toil, and they fervently question the enormity of perceived social value. But rather than use this venue as a soapbox, Terri allows readers to come to their own conclusions. Be forewarned—there’s no coddling to be had.

In the final section of her summit attempt on Denali, Terri writes, “Unless trauma of some sort shuts us down, it’s always our choice to keep moving—or not.” The pressing yet relentless voice in Terri’s head is generously gifted to the reader, page after page after page. There’s no escaping it. This, however, is the book’s magical secret. A whispered call to action, made directly into the readers’ ears—a peaceful encouragement to just keep moving.

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