Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Who wants to read about rape?

I certainly didn’t, even though rape education is near to my heart. I’ve written about rape before, about how time and again, the justice system fails victims. And we, as a society, fail to teach our children what rape looks like.

However, even I did not want to read Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. Because, really, does that sound entertaining? And what I wanted as I searched my Nook last week was something light and entertaining. I’d recently started a few novels that dashed my high hopes, so I was starting to become desperate. Maybe that’s why I finally downloaded Missoula at 11pm the other night—out of desperation. But I hope I can convince you to read it, too.

What’s interesting about Missoula is that it’s not depressing. It’s inspiring and highly readable. Krakauer reports on several cases of sexual assault at the University of Montana from 2010 to 2012. To prepare, he interviewed the subjects, read court transcripts, and attended some trials. The result is a fascinating legal drama filled with heroes and villains, one that had me staying up too late at night and reading first thing in the morning.

My favorite thing about Missoula, though, is that it is an invaluable teaching tool. I am grateful to Krakauer that this book now exists. He has created a meticulous, detailed description of what rape cases can look like, how victims might be treated, and how perpetrators might respond.

This book should be required reading for everyone over the age of 14. My daughter—and my son—will both read it. Mothers, fathers, police officers, judges, attorneys, teachers, coaches, athletes, and older students should as well.

As Krakauer states toward the end: “…Missoula had an incidence of sexual assault that was in fact slightly less than the national average. That’s the real scandal.” And the only way we’re going to change that is by refusing to be ignorant.


Jessica Null Vealitzek is a writer near Chicago. Her debut novel, The Rooms Are Filled, was published by She Writes Press in April 2014. She can be found online at her web site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.


Have you read Missoula? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!