Reading guide for Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by Aron Ralston

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2005, 368 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Ralston mentions his many moments at near certain death yet he continued to participate in activities with potential danger. Do you believe Ralston felt he was taking risks? What is it about his personality that drove him to these pursuits?
  2. Americans enjoy several extreme sports, not to mention the pastimes of sky diving, bungie cord jumping, and white water rafting. Do you think this is unique to our culture, or can you think of examples in other countries?
  3. How did Ralston's previous near death encounters change him? Did they cause him to crave more or increase his carelessness? Was he aware of the hazards? Did he take all the necessary precautions?
  4. In one near fatal incident, he and two of his friends were caught in an avalanche. After this incident Ralston explains he never heard from those friends again. What did you think of Ralston's reaction? Why do you think he mentions this story? Was there a lesson from this situation that he didn't take away at the time?
  5. Compare Ralston's many stories of his numerous near deadly excursions and his mountaineering and skiing adventures. Besides physically, explain how these adventures prepared him for this awful experience mentally and spiritually.
  6. Ralston was very detailed in the accounts of his survival, including the amputation. Were there sections you weren't able to read? Were there methods you learned? What effect did this have on you? Do you feel he needed to be so specific?
  7. Although Ralston chastises himself for not thinking of it sooner, do you think he needed those six days to come to the realization that amputating his arm was his only hope of survival?
  8. Is Ralston's story a symbol of hope or a cautionary tale for thrill seekers? Ralston affirms that he wouldn't change anything about his experience and would actually live through it again if given the choice. Why? What did he take away from this? Why do you think he needed to tell his story? Was there anything that you learned which surprised you?
  9. What are the most significant lessons Ralston learns over the course of this book?
  10. What are Ralston's feelings about nature? How has his opinion changed after this experience?
  11. Hindsight is 20/20. Ralston is an experienced outdoorsman. What did he need to do to prevent this accident? Do you think his probability of disaster was increasing with the number of risks he took? Are some activities ever safe? Or safe only to a certain degree?
  12. Many people have expressed that they don't think themselves capable of doing what Ralston did. How does he answer them?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Atria Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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