Book Reviews

The Shortest Straw 

Search and Rescue in the High Sierra

 This book is fantastic! The writing style truly draws one in to the gripping and spectacular tales this great man has to tell. I must admit, I am only through chapter 8 of this book, but so far the ride has been meaningful, and I've seen many parallels in my own life to the themes Dean presents in his book..
Meeting Dean at his book tour and reading through his stories has had a large impact on my life, including opening up the doorway to SAR, inspiring me to do better, and to use my skills to serve my local communities. In fact, I recently joined my local SAR group and went on my first litter packout in some pretty rugged terrain in the dark night of a PNW forest. It was such an awesome experience, and I got to help people at the same time :)
Dean has said he's written the book from an educational standpoint, and he certainly has. The descriptions of words, techniques, and strategies are thorough and help the reader become truly engaged with what is happening in the stories told. At times I felt a little drawn away from the tale because they were so thorough, but I appreciated this way of doing so rather than be too non-descriptive. It has many benefits beyond just the book.
The descriptions of people and characters in his book are thorough as well, engaging you with their stories and purposes in Dean's life and his writings about them, and making some of the tragedies described so much more impactful.
In all, this is a fantastic read, well worth your time and money whether you're interested in the SAR/Mountaineering/Climbing/Hiking worlds, or just enjoying a fun filled, emotionally gripping, and detailed account of a life lived with enthusiasm and fervor!
A contractor by trade, a SAR member by commitment, a Christian by faith, and now, it seems you can add Author to that list.
Cheers, Dean.

-Bryan Swaffield

This is one of the most spell-binding books I have read in years. Whether you are an expert mountaineer or only wish you were, whether you are an expert in search and rescue, Dean has written a book that will keep your attention rivetted until you finish it. Then you will wish for more. Even though this is his first book, he is a masterful storyteller, but does not overwhelm the reader with self-agrandizment or excessive detail. His honesty about his own life and contributions in assisting those in need is commendable. A must read for those interested in this topic and those who have not yet been exposed. I hope to see his sequel out soon!

- Amazon Customer



This is a must-read for everyone who is interested in getting into the outdoors - whether for weekend day hikes, high altitude trips, ice climbing, backpacking, rock climbing, or exploring our treasured national parks. It's also a must-read for anyone who wants to reach into the mind of someone who takes risks, who cares about humanity, who respects mother nature, and who has deep, personal insight. Dean Rosnau is the real deal. He is a man of faith who walks the walk. He is a man of the outdoors who has been there, done that, and who wants to share it all with the reader. And he is a phenomenal writer. Many people have stories to tell. Dean shares his stories in a most intimate way. It seems like this book is sort of just a tip of the iceberg. He must have more he hasn't written about yet! If you are interested in what goes on in search and rescue, or you like outdoor activities, or you believe in being a kind, giving person who believes we must care for those around us, this is the book for you!

- Jeanne Hoffman


Dean Rosnau’s book, The Shortest Straw, is a stunning and breathless account of his thirty-plus years as a SAR (search and rescue) team member in one of the nation’s busiest SAR counties—Mono County—covering California’s rugged eastern high Sierras. The opening chapter puts him in a tree surrounded by a raging flash flood yelling instructions to a young marine who is trapped on a roof top as the buildings around them sag and collapse and are swept away in the deadly current. Each chapter offers experiences and insights into what these men and women volunteer to do when called to leave on a moment’s notice for some distant peak. The air is thin, the risks are high and lives hang in the balance. Rosnau’s writing is crisp, heart-felt, and leaves you with a profound sense of appreciation and hope, secure in the knowledge that if you are ever lost and broken in the wilderness, “the best of the best” will be summoned to find you and bring you out. Reading this book will change (and possibly save) your life. Highly recommended.

- Stephen Wallenfels


I just finished reading Dean Rosnau's "The Shortest Straw," a great read about his experiences with the Mono County Search and Rescue (SAR) team. He describes his risk-taking youth and tales of some of the many rescue and recovery missions he conducted in the Eastern Sierra. Dean is the consumate SAR professional and his description of how a SAR team operates is fascinating and his love of the Eastern Sierra is inspiring. The most compelling part of the book is the final chapter about the now 5 year search for the remains of Matthew Greene, a 39 year old high school teacher from Pennsylvania who went missing in July 2013. Dean not only describes the herculean efforts he took to find Matthew, but also the impact it has had on his faith, family, and personal well being. He also describes the friendship that developed with Matthew's family, especially his dad. It becomes evident why Dean is so passionate about SAR. He feels a personal responsibility to complete the mission no matter how long it takes. I was living and working in Mammoth Lakes during the first two years of the Matthew Greene saga and played a small role in working with Dean to find him. It haunted me at the time and still does. I hope that Matthew is found for the well being of the Greene family and Dean Rosnau.

- Daniel Watson


We’ve all heard about search and rescue missions involving missing hikers in mountainous areas, planes that have disappeared from radar, and rising flood waters that have taken out entire highways and buildings. The reports mention the victims and first responders, but rarely do they go in depth into the extent of manpower needed for these rescue operations to be successful. There’s no way to know what it’s like to experience SAR, performing these life-saving acts, unless you are in the head of one of rescuers. This book does just that. Not only does it delve into the planning, gear, knowledge, and physical labor requirements for a SAR member, but it makes the reader feel the helpless emotions and will to live in desperate situations. It also provides a vivid description of the worst of possible outcomes.
The Shortest Straw does its part in humbling even the most avid and skilled outdoorsman when it recounts the story of the author’s dear friend who lost his life to the terrain he knew so well. Anyone who wants to explore more of God’s creation or wants to volunteer with SAR would do themselves a favor by reading the stories told in this book and heeding all the warnings and advice given to remain safe. All of these are real people, with families who have lost loved ones, or have had loved ones returned to them due to the bravery of SAR professionals.
The author’s dedication to braving the elements when performing recovery expeditions to bring closure to the family of Matthew Greene is a true testament to his character. His faith in God is prevalent throughout the book and is great encouragement to anyone who needs to put their troubles in God’s hands.
In short, this is a great read, but I must warn you: Be careful where you read this. Even if you are not a crier, you may find your face getting wet, which is not ideal in public settings. An extra tip is to follow along on the website as you make your way through the book. There are pictures of the areas written about so you can envision the exact locations.

- Terri Rutherford


The first chapter grabs your attention and from then on it's one chapter after another of life and death struggle. The read is so captivating it took me just two days to read it through. At the end I wanted one more success but like real life, sometimes our experiences are not wrapped up with a neat bow. This book is not for the faint of heart, Rosnau describes in authentic (sometimes graphic) detail the realities of rescues of the living and recoveries of the dead. Woven throughout is storytelling that brings you into the moment. Humor, horror and, believe it or not, faith and prayer, are positioned next to carabiners, climbing ropes, harnesses and helicopters. If you backpack, and it doesn’t matter if that’s in the High Sierra’s or not, you must read this book, it might just save your life.

- Greg Rachuy


"The Shortest Straw" is a compelling person account of his thirty-three years, and still active, involvement is SAR (Search and Rescue) saving people's lives and recovering bodies. Dean's writing vividly brings you with him sharing moments of his heartrending tears, and times of joy and laughter. Experienced hikers or climbers, or novices on a day hike alike will identify with his dramatic experiences in California's High Sierras. As an extremely dedicated and humble man using his God-given abilities and talents, he strengthens your beliefs that there are hundreds of men and women dedicated to SAR throughout the country ready perhaps for your emergency. This inspired author admits that his divine "Guardian Angels" have been working overtime! Rosnau closes with his "Hiker Responsibility Code," a list of 6 must-follow guidelines. You won't want to put the book down until finished.

- W. Todd


I love this book. I got to meet Dean at a book signing and he so genuine, and I feel that came through in the book as well. The book is well written and made laugh as much as I cried. Thank you!

- Amazon Customer


I have always had deep respect and admiration for emergency responders, and this book and its handful of highly engaging stories helped me gain a clearer understanding of how a Search and Rescue mission is actually conducted. If you spend any time adventuring in the great outdoors (hiking, trail running, climbing, skiing/boarding out of bounds, etc.), you’re sure to learn something that might help you or a friend steer clear of harm. Please understand, however, that this is not just another safety handbook; the stories that comprise the book will draw just about anyone in, and they are told in such a way that you will feel like you are actually living them yourself. Through this book, you’ll get to know some truly amazing characters, you’ll learn about some heartwarming rescues as well as some heartbreaking recoveries, and you’ll be amazed at how the book’s heroes turn tragedy into hope and possibility. Despite a general lack of time, I read it in just 2 sittings, as it’s really tough to put down.

- Ted Lantuono


I bought this book after attending a presentation by the author, Dean Rosnau, at a local REI. I was moved by his presentation and even more so by this book. I've resided in Southern California for about a year now and recently started exploring/hiking/backpacking in the Eastern Sierras, where Dean was a member of the Search and Rescue team for years. The stories/events he wrote about in this book were exemplary. I was able to learn a lot while engaged in Dean's writing. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the outdoors and/or learning more about the service done by Search and Rescue personnel.

- Krista Muscarella


Best book I have read in a long time. Fast read since you can't put it down. So well written you feel you are with Dean every minute. My husband & I were fortunate to meet Dean in Mammoth Lakes CA. He is as genuine in person as he is in the book. Much respect for SAR everywhere. Hoping for another book or MOVIE!!

- Judy Ann Cates


I couldn't put this book down! Dean's incredible life story portrays what real heroes are made of, although he would be the last person to call himself one. Many thanks to not only the men who risk everything to be a successful SAR Team but also to their wives who, in my opinion, have achieved hero status as well.

- Judy Hertzog


Having a dad who had a long career as a SAR ranger for the NPS, and myself having recently completed a 27 year career in law enforcement, I have some familiarity with many aspects of what goes into SAR. Dean Rosnau has nailed it with this book! His honesty with admitted mistakes and emotions is refreshing in this day and age of egos and self-important "manliness". The book is very well written and grabs the reader and pulls him right into the situation at hand. I can relate to the sometimes graphic descriptions of victims he has found and the profound effect these incidents can have on a person. I also enjoyed this book because of a personal familiarity of many of the areas, mountains, and lakes he described. He described the terrain perfectly, to the point of taking me back to some specific memories of being on that same terrain. Probably the biggest thing I took from the book was his description of a search trip when he broke his own rules. I venture into the mountains about 90% of the time solo, and Dean's story will definitely make me think twice before deviating from an itinerary or taking a chance that is unnecessary. I highly recommend this book! Dean is a true hero with more experiences than most of the rest of us combined.

- Jody Langford


Just finished reading this book - The Shortest Straw: Search and Rescue in the High Sierra, by Dean Rosnau. I met Dean when our family was extraordinarily fortunate to have had Dean and his SAR friend and teammate, Chuck Bauss, rescue my dad when he broke his hip after a fall on North Peak at almost 12,000 feet (see Chapter 8). This book is not only gripping as Dean takes the reader through minute details of some of his notable rescues and recoveries but it deftly weaves in the human factor that the job entails and the toll it takes physically, mentally and spiritually. Beautifully and descriptively written, I found myself crying, breathing hard and even laughing (yes, there is some humor in this job as well) as I read. I knew before I started reading that to be a SAR member one had to be a selfless, dedicated and very fit individual but I come away from this read with a whole new respect for these remarkable people and the wilderness in which they work and that I so love. I highly recommend this book for all who crave adventure and love the outdoors. It is an easy, exciting and rewarding read that you should not miss. Thank you and congratulations, Dean, on this heart warming and exciting achievement!

- Stephanie McNutt


I was privileged to hear Dean Rosnau speak and meet his wife during authors week in Sonoma, CA. I was very moved by what he shared with us and the book went much deeper into the horrific dangers of venturing into the snowy, mountain ranges of the high Sierra and the lives spent in selfless service as volunteers of SAR. Dean Rosnau and many of the others served and depended on God. I was especially touched by his wife supporting, praying, comforting, as well as rejoicing through the losses, heartbreaks and victories. Such an encouragement to all of us to go beyond our limits, take risks, and trust God. Dean said he speaks at REI frequently and I would highly recommend meeting this man and hearing his stories as well as reading his book.

- Swanlove