cover image A Wild Idea

A Wild Idea

Jonathan Franklin. HarperOne, $28.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-296412-0

Journalist Franklin (438 Days) takes a look at the life and work of American businessman-turned-conservationist Doug Tompkins (1943–2015) in this accessible biography. Admitting that he’s “lived many years in awe of Doug Tompkins,” Franklin pays tribute to the North Face founder’s “love affair with the wild.” Franklin describes the office environment Tompkins helped to create during the 1970s and ’80s at Esprit headquarters in San Francisco: the company had a rooftop trampoline for fun, for instance, a sign of its eclectic work culture. Much of the account deals with Tompkins’s experiences in South America after he divorced and sold his stake in Esprit, netting him approximately $300 million. He donated to wildlife preservation groups and accumulated parcels of land in Chile and Argentina to establish national parks: “He bought entire valleys, purchased volcanoes, acquired stands of old-growth trees with substantial financial contributions from key allies in the U.S. and Europe,” Franklin writes. Franklin’s admiration for Tompkins is clear, though he gives fair play to the man’s many contradictions: “Tompkins was an environmentalist who drove a red Ferrari. A multimillionaire who preferred to sleep on a friend’s couch.” Readers who love stories of business mavericks will find much to savor. (Aug.)