June Thunder

So June went by lightning fast, as I expected. Had good shows with Imagine Dragons and Dead and Company. Spent quality time with family and friends. Ran next to nothing for miles. But, the books! Thanks to not running (still) and all the travel I was able to get a lot of reading done…

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson (EB & print)
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams (EB & print)
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette (EB & print)
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (AB)

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War by Michael Oren (print) – confessional: did not finish
  • Cactus Eaters by Dan White (print)
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman (print)
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn (AB)

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame (EB & print)

Short Stories:

  • “Xingu” by Edith Wharton (EB)
  • “Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams (EB)
  • “Roses, Rhododendrons” by Alice Adams (EB)

For fun:

  • Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU by Julie Foudy

Cactus Eaters

White, Dan. The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind – and Almost Found Myself – On the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Reason read: June is National Hiking Month.

Pure fun. From the comfort of my couch I took great pleasure in reading about Dan White’s adventures while hiking the 2,650+ mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. With his girlfriend Allison for companionship Dan’s account is in turn both funny and didactic. He can be snarky and scholarly in a single sentence. What starts out as an avoidance of the real world turns into a journey of self reflection and maybe, just maybe, a little growing up.
What makes Cactus such a pleasure to read is this is Dan’s account of the first time he hiked the PCT. He has no idea what he’s doing, despite reading up on it in the months leading up to the hike. He isn’t a seasoned through-hiker expertly navigating arid blazing hot deserts. He isn’t a blase professional warding off bear visits with a ho hum attitude. He is cocky in his naivete.

All time favorite line, “I could not stop the racing thoughts about Todd the Sasquatch somewhere out there, tearing up the foothills while exuding massive amounts of man sweat” (p 63).

Author fact: I could tell from the songs White enjoyed singing while on the PCT that he is about my age. An internet search revealed he was born just a few years before me.

Book trivia: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and covers three countries and yet White doesn’t include a single map or photograph. To be fair, his camera didn’t have film in it for part of the trip and he did include one illustration of a journal entry.

Nancy said: Nancy dedicates 25% of the chapter to describing the plot of Cactus Eaters, but not much else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill in the Blank) Trail” (p 94). Confessional: this the second book I am reading from the chapter and I just now noticed while Pearl mentions the four major long-distance trails in the Americas, she only recommends four books. Three of them are about the PCT and the final one is about the Appalachian Trail. Why bring up the Continental Divide or the American Discovery Trail if you aren’t going to include a book or two about them? There certainly was room for a few more recommendations for the chapter.


June Lightning

June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
  • Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Walk in the Woods

Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. New York: Broadway Books, 1998.

Bill Bryson is one of those “collectible” authors. Meaning, I know I can read anything he has written and enjoy it on some level. A Walk in the Woods was no different. One day in 1996 while walking near his Hanover, New Hampshire home Bryson gets it into his head to hike the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia and working his way, 2,100 miles later, to Maine. He brings along an old buddy, Stephen Katz, someone he hasn’t seen in years. They make an interesting pair and their relationship is one of the best parts of the book, but there is a little of everything in A Walk in the Woods. Over the course of 870 miles, Bryson has the opportunity to tackle the serious with a touch of silliness. Case in point, the bears. Bryson jokes about becoming a snack for the hungry mammals but at the same time paints a pretty scary picture of what those beasts can do. While a great deal of the book is written in a humorous tone (can you just picture the “waddlesome sloth” he mentions on page 4?), Bryson also has a sobering commentary on the history of the trail, man’s devastating logging and hunting practices, and the sociological quirks of the regions he visits. His visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania is both haunting and disturbing. From the blundering beginnings of trying to buy the correct equipment (and use it properly) to the soberly fact the Appalachian Trail is over 2,000 miles long and they will never finish it, Bryson and Katz experience the best and worst of an iconic trail. Even though they end up skipping the AT from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, the pair learn more about America (and themselves) than they bargained for. A Walk in the Woods made me want to find my own little piece of the trail and hike it, just to say I did.

Reason read: Bill Bryson was born in December. Read A Walk in the Woods in his honor.

Author fact: Bryson had moved his family to the other side of the pond. This hike was a “coming home” of sorts.

Book trivia: Supposedly, A Walk in the Woods is being made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Bill Bryson: Too Good To Miss” (p 37). I have 13 different Bryson books to read. The one I am looking forward to reading the most is Palace Under the Alps.


Zero Days

Egbert, Barbara. Zero Days: the Real-Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nelly Bly and 10-Year-Old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail. Berkley, CA: Wilderness Press, 2008.

Lots of people like to hike. Some people like to take it to an extreme, like Barbara Egbert and her family. She, with her husband, Gary, and their ten year old daughter, Mary, spent six months hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. All 2,650 miles of it. Well, Barbara had to come off the trail at the end to become a trail angel so technically she didn’t hike the entire thing but Mary became the youngest person to do so. Zero Days is a memoir of sorts about that adventure. I expected the story to be in chronological order, starting with Day one in April at the Mexico border and ending six months later at the Canadian border. Instead I found to be quasi-chronological with random sidetrackings, even referring to previous hikes before Mary was born. Here are some examples, chapter three is all about the other hikers they met along the way. Chapter eight is all about the different towns they stopped in. Day 11 of the hike can be nestled with day 108 on the same page. Names aren’t consistent either. Mary could be called Scrambler (her trail name) in the same sentence. Same with Captain Bligh (husband, Gary). Egbert sometimes refers to herself as Nellie Bly. Aside from the meandering, I thoroughly enjoyed Egbert’s tales from the trails. I learned a great deal about what it takes to hike the great trails of the United States. Like, for example, you can take detours miles and miles off the PCT and you have still hiked the PCT. You can leave the hike for weeks at a time and still be called a thru-hiker. Hell, you can even hitchhike through some of it and still be called a hiker!

My one complaint – I was distracted by how many times Barbara would exclude herself (or her family) from the norm. Maybe it was just me, but Egbert seemed to put herself in a different category than the rest of the hikers; than rest of society even. I can’t really explain it except to say I began to notice of pattern. Here are some examples of what I mean, “…many thru-hikers count on doing a lot of hitchhiking. We had decided ahead of time to hitchhike as seldom as possible” (p 136), “We had a good experience at White’s, but during a later year, some thru-hikers reported a much less pleasant time” (p 137), and “After five months of the Pacific Crest Trail, the dental procedure that summons up fear in the hardiest souls had struck me as nothing more than a minor annoyance” (p 159).

I like the way libraries work. My copy of  Zero Days traveled from Sierra Vista, Arizona. 🙂

Reason: June is National Take a Hike month. This would be some hike!

Author fact: Barbara Egbert’s family is reported to have their own website. However, when I went to check it out I was told it was “temporarily unavailable.” I guess after ten years the 15 minutes of fame ran its course. Either that or someone forgot to pay the site bill.

Book trivia: Zero Days includes “the Blighs’ PCT Album.” I especially liked the picture of Crater Lake.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill In The Blank) Trail” (p 95).