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4.6 out of 5 stars163
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Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykham-Fiennes was once described by his prospective father-in-law as "Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know." He is also described by the Guinness Book of Records as "the world's greatest living explorer" and this is the major part of the story of his life. I say `part' because, since this book was published in 2008, Ran Fiennes (as he is known) finally conquered Everest - at the age of 65!, in early 2009.

Throughout the book there is one single overriding quality which stands out above all others; For all the accolades poured upon this man, few bother to mention the fact that he is an engaging writer with the gift of capturing the reader's attention. Whether he is white-water rafting or walking to the South Pole, he has the knack of including his readers as part of the team and takes them along for the ride. This is why this book is so hard to put down.

It is an honest account of the life of someone unable to sit still. From his earliest recollections and formative years we move on to his service as an officer with 22 SAS and being required to leave after some exuberant exploits with explosives (and a betrayal by the press!) from where he later re-emerges as a Trooper (private soldier) in one the SAS reserve squadrons. An illuminating account of his active service in Oman is followed by an even more exciting narrative in which, his team travelled along some of the most dangerous and uncharted rivers in the world from the Yukon to the USA as a celebration of British Columbia's centenary. He was also considered by Cubby Broccoli for the part of James Bond!

The next 16 chapters are filled with expeditions and explorations too numerous to mention here. They include his circumnavigating the globe via both Poles, his use of an old hacksaw to saw off the ends of two fingers lost to frostbite and so many other achievements and hardships it is difficult to believe they were all undertaken by one man. Liberally filled with anecdotal accounts - such as the briefest explanation of the Royal Scots Greys, this book answers questions I had not yet asked.

Throughout it all, however, there comes across an image of the man himself and of his love for his family. In an excellently crafted autobiography, we meet Ginny, his childhood sweetheart and later the wife he almost never won. We continuously learn of her active involvement and support in his many exploits until we finally discover her own unsuccessful fight against cancer. Her passing is recorded with such simple honesty that no reader will fail to feel her loss as though she were one of their own family. The darkness which followed is such that we find great relief in seeing this fine person eventually able to continue his life as before. Completing seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, he just persists in exciting and astounding those who observe. By the time he finds a new love and a new family, we have become so close to this "central character" that we find ourselves experiencing relief and wishing him well.

On finishing this, quite amazing, story, I was left with the clear impression that somehow this was only the beginning and that more was to come. Already, he has finally conquered Everest but I doubt that even that magnificent feat will be the finale to this man's performance in the role of living his own life. Of one thing, however, I can be certain; Nobody will record his feats better than the man himself and I eagerly await part two of this incredible journey. This book cannot disappoint any reader.

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Ranulph Fiennes has lead a most extraordinary and inspirational life and `Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know' is the autobiography that recounts it for us. He has participated in numerous endurance events and has achieved many world first explorations and to read of his tenacity and determination is at times awe inspiring. From his early days in the SAS, boating the Yukon, the worlds first global circumnavigation via the poles, a desert archaeology expedition, an Antarctic crossing, running 7 marathons in 7 days across 7 continents, his attempt at climbing Everest and finally his Eiger climb, this book offers up adventure and explorers spirit on every page. This is written in a clear and engaging style, although I did find it lacking in real emotion at times. It is a rich, description of his various exploits, but you never truly know how he feels about them. There are two sections of photos, but these aren't on the glossy paper typically used for these sections in books and they are in black and white. Never the less, they illustrate the various expeditions and events from his life well. All in all this is an interesting and inspirational book and if you enjoy adventure/survival books then this is well worth reading. Other polar books worth reading if this has piqued your interest are `Mawsons Will' (which is one of the best Polar books I have ever read) and the account of James Cracknell and Ben Fogles Antarctic race.

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on 5 May 2013
A formidable character who constantly challenges himself and never gives in.

Well written, I've read it 4 times now and know it wont be the last!
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on 14 August 2009
I like to read biographies about people who have achieved something and have a good story to tell. Ranulph Fiennes definately fits into that category. I took this book to turkey for a holiday read. I read this book in 40 degree heat whilst reading about Fiennes' travels in minus 40 degree plus temperatures! The man is definately mad, has a cardiac arrest, then recovers and runs seven marathons in seven days! I am not a climber or an arctic adventurer by far, so i was a bit confused by some of the terminology. This aside a very enjoyable book about a modern day hero.
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on 21 November 2007
This man has been there, done that, and already has the T-shirt! From Mountain climbing some of the worlds toughest peaks to traveling overland to both poles Fiennes has lifed life at the extremes. This one is as page turning as any modern fictional thriller, though even more exciting ast it actually happened. For more mountain adventures I highly recommend "Across the High Lonesome."
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 January 2012
One of the most enjoyable autobiographies i have ever read, which inspired me to read two more books by Ran Fiennes which I have greatly enjoyed too.

He has led the most remarkable life, and accomplished so much more than most of us could ever dream of - yet he has experienced real hardships too - the loss of his much loved first wife to illness, his heart attack near the top of Everest to name but two - all covered here with honesty and considerable charm.

But what a life - 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents - after heart surgery anyone? How about climbing the sheer north face of the Eiger despite a deep seated fear of heights? Fiennes covers these adventures, his truly remarkable polar exploits, his early life including his experiences in the SAS, and much more here.

a truly enjoyable account of an amazing life so far.

Highly recommended
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on 21 November 2012
Ranulph Fiennes has seen and done things that most of us can only dream of. In this autobiography, he certainly comes across as driven and determined. As the title suggests, he's also a little mad, bad and dangerous to know - no doubt these are also crucial personality traits for what he has achieved! Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that Fiennes managed to transform himself from being a polar explorer to being an all-round adventurer, with expeditions in the Middle East, marathons on every continent and climbs up Everest and the Eiger. While on an archaeological dig in Oman does Fiennes come across as a 'spare part', and the fact that he hasn't done anything similar suggests that he's learned from his experience and stuck to exploration challenges. Certainly an engrossing and inspiring read.
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on 25 June 2009
MB&DtK is a wonderful read. I had heard of Sir Ranulph Fiennes through various media coverage over a number of years, but my knowledge was generally quite patchy. This book describes his extraordinary life and exploits in breath-taking detail.

The guy is absolutely amazing; a real 'Boys Own Adventure' in the flesh. Not only do we learn about his astonishing Polar exploits and the horrendous hardships he endured, but the various other endeavours leave the reader equally gob-smacked.

The description of his mountain climbing exploits and his amazing 7 marathons, in 7 continents in 7 days simply beggar belief!

If Britain had more men like Sir Ranulph (in politics, in industry) we wouldn't be in the state we are today!

This is an astonishing life told in an immensely readable book.
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on 5 July 2014
Ran Fiennes has I think lived several lifetimes in what most people just plod along living just the one. This book is a blueprint for life. A life lived, full of love, and adventure, a lifetime of achievement and descriptions of what can be achieved rather than excuses of what could have been...might have been.
Although Ran writes from the heart I think even he downplays some of the scrapes he gets into. If he were a cat I think he would have used up those nine lives long ago.
His descriptions of loss, of his wife and of the father he never knew, and the others in his life that have disappeared upwards brought tears to my eyes.
Sir Ranulph, you are a truly inspirational guy. And if ever our paths crossed I would take great pleasure in buying you a beer.
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on 9 September 2013
Makes us mere mortals wonder what we are here for. If Roy of the Rovers was an explorer he would be named Ran Fiennes. Really good read and riveting accounts of cold weather endurance. Just amazing. Highly recommended.
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