Conversations with Authors - Tim Cahill (Virtual Event)

Saturday, July 11, 2020 - 4:00pm


Saturday, July 11th • 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT

Tim Cahill

in conversation with Michael Shapiro

Conversations with Authors is our free virtual event series! Join us every Saturday and Sunday at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT for a new chat with a different author.


Thanks to everyone who joined the conversation with Tim Cahill on Saturday. And thanks to Book Passage which gave me an opportunity to interview one of my literary heroes. I met Tim about 20 years ago at Book Passage’s travel writing and photography conference. Despite his towering accomplishments—co-founder of Outside magazine, Academy Award nominations for documentary screenplays, and more than anyone the person who transformed adventure writing from macho chest-thumping to literary yet down-to-earth prose—Tim had absolutely no airs. Wanna have a beer and talk shop? Well then belly right up to the bar.

A few years after we met, I was working on a book of interviews with the world’s top adventure and travel writers. Among them: Paul Theroux, Jan Morris, Peter Matthiessen, Pico Iyer, and Isabel Allende (all of whom I met at Book Passage). When I asked Tim if I could interview him for the book, he instantly invited me to come up to Montana for the weekend and stay with him. We took a long hike with his dogs, we did the interview; we drank scotch (more or less in that order). That book is called A Sense of Place and begins with the Cahill chapter; it’s called “Working Class Hero.”

To say Cahill’s body of work is impressive would be an understatement. When I was a young writer, it was transformative. Propelled by insatiable curiosity, Tim has a knack for hooking readers with keen insights and precise description. He’s a master craftsman. His stories typically open with a wild or heartbreaking or enthralling scene, and now that you’re interested he’ll give you the history or scientific backstory. And his endings are revelatory, perfect complements to his leads.

Two of the stories we discussed yesterday—“Cahill Among the Ruins in Peru” and “The Shame of Escobilla” about sea turtles in Mexico—are in his trailblazing debut collection, Jaguars Ripped My Flesh.

The story about the Mongolian yogurt riders is in Pass the Butterworms. But really, you can’t go wrong with any Cahill book. Pick up A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg or Pecked to Death by Ducks and you’ll be in for a rollicking ride. To learn more about Yellowstone, read the slim volume, Lost in My Own Backyard.

Tim has said he set out to show that if he, an average guy, could have outlandish adventures then just about anybody could. But Tim is not an average guy. Through a combination of research, physical and emotional endurance, friendly connections and knowing how to manage potentially dicey situations, he’s made it to places few of us will ever see. Here’s another way that Tim is far from average: he’s a master storyteller. So from the comfort of home, you can explore the world with Tim and commune with mountain gorillas in Rwanda or yogurt riders in Mongolia. And I can wholeheartedly assure you that Tim is one heck of a travel companion.

— Michael Shapiro
Michael most recent book, The Creative Spark: How Musicians, Writers, Explorers, and Other Artists Found Their Inner Fire and Followed Their Dreams, was launched in November with a standing-room-only event at Book Passage. It’s a collection of interviews with 32 of the most creative people of our time, including Barbara Kingsolver, Smokey Robinson, Amy Tan, David Sedaris, Jane Goodall, Lucinda Williams, Pico Iyer, Melissa Etheridge, and Lyle Lovett.


Below, please find links to purchase Tim and Michael's books.


Jaguars Ripped My Flesh (Vintage Departures) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679770794
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - April 2nd, 1996

The author of A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg and Pecked to Death by Ducks gives new meaning to the words "going to extremes" in this exhilarating--and frequently hilarious--collection of adventure travel writing. "Cahill . . . (writes) with the precision ofJohn McPhee and Joan Didion tempered by a Monty Pythonesque sense of the absurd."--San Diego Union-Tribune.

A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg (Vintage Departures) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679720263
Availability: Special Order
Published: Vintage - February 25th, 1989

Cahill is great! He is the P.J. O'Rourke of the outdoors! Fearless and hell-bent on overcoming all obstacles in his path, Cahill takes us to the oddest and scariest adventures nature has to offer.

Pass the Butterworms: Remote Journeys Oddly Rendered (Vintage Departures) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375701115
Availability: Special Order
Published: Vintage - March 31st, 1998

In Pass the Butterworms, Cahill takes us to the steppes of Mongolia, where he spends weeks on horseback alongside the descendants of Genghis Khan and masters the “Mongolian death trot”; to the North Pole, where he goes for a pleasure dip in the 36-degree water; to Irian Jaya New Guinea, where he spends a companionable evening with members of one of the last head-hunting tribes.

Road Fever (Vintage Departures) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780394758374
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - March 3rd, 1992

Tim Cahill reports on the road trip to end all road trips: a journey that took him from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in a record-breaking twenty three and a half days.

Hold the Enlightenment (Vintage Departures) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375713293
Availability: Special Order
Published: Vintage - September 9th, 2003

In his latest collection of death-defying exploits and far-flung travels, Outside Magazine editor Tim Cahill visits the side of an active volcano in Ecuador, the Saharan salt mines and the largest toxic waste dump in the Western Hemisphere. He also ventures to find a Caspian tiger in Turkey and giant centipedes in the Congo.

The Best Travel Writing: True Stories from Around the World Cover Image
By James O'Reilly (Editor), Larry Habegger (Editor), Sean O'Reilly (Editor)
ISBN: 9781609520571
Availability: Special Order
Published: Travelers' Tales Guides - October 30th, 2012

The Best Travel Writing, Volume 9 is the latest in the annual Travelers' Tales series launched in 2004 to celebrate the world's best travel writing -- from Nobel Prize winners to emerging new writers.

Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400046225
Availability: Special Order
Published: Crown - June 8th, 2004

“Let’s get lost together . . . ”

Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure (Travelers' Tales Guides) Cover Image
By Tim Cahill (Editor)
ISBN: 9781932361445
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Travelers' Tales Guides - October 1st, 2006

If you think you know what's the worst than can happen while traveling, the essayists in Not So Funny When it Happened will set you straight. In over 30 scathingly funny pieces, a diverse array of authors shows just how quickly a pleasant vacation can turn into an embarrassing anecdote.

The Creative Spark: How Musicians, Writers, Explorers, and Other Artists Found Their Inner Fire and Followed Their Dreams Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609521769
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Travelers' Tales Guides - November 9th, 2019

"Knowledgeable, probing, and thoughtful." --Foreword Reviews

A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk about Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609521561
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Travelers' Tales Guides - August 10th, 2004

In A Sense of Place, journalist/travel writer Michael Shapiro goes on a pilgrimage to visit the world's great travel writers on their home turf to get their views on their careers, the writer's craft, and most importantly, why they chose to live where they do and what that place means to them.