Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category
In my effort to read all the books this year, I made some progress with reading this month. Here’s the lowdown:
- The Care and Management of Lies by Jaqueline Winspear. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and as I was trolling through the Overdrive app for our library this one piqued my interest. I rated it 3/5 stars because of some character development issues and some weird language/writing at the beginning. The book is set in WWI England and we see the beginning of the war from three different vantage points. Because of this I believe it easily could have been split into two books. Also, there was a very compelling suffragette component to one of the storylines and frankly I found myself wanting to know more about that line and suffragettes. It made me want to read more about women getting the right to vote, what was done to them (HORRIBLE THINGS!), and to be a more well-rounded feminist. Mental note: read more feminist books this year!
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book. This book deserves 6 stars instead of 5. It is that good! It’s part memoir, part meditative/contemplative, part whip-your-ass-into-creative-shape…I will refer to this book for years to come. Read it straight through and then randomly pick it up and pull out whatever passages speak to you. I want to be Elizabeth Gilbert’s BFF.
- A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon. This is a novella of the Outlander novels set between/around books 7 and 8. I hesitate to say a whole lot about it so I don’t spoil things for others who haven’t made it through the whole series, but if you’ve at least read Dragonfly in Amber, the second book, there are several characters in that book that appear in this book. I know, I know, I’m confusing y’all! Just know there’s a sweet treat and more mystery when you finish the Big Books. LOVED this one!
- The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon. This is another novella from the Outlander series and it takes place concurrently with the last released book, book 8. Definitely don’t read this one until you’ve finished the entire series as it is currently. It is about what happened to Roger’s parents. While I did like this one it wasn’t a ‘love’ as the other novella. Honestly, I wanted more. It was too short. Oh, and another mention of a Dragonfly in Amber character in this book. Yes, very intriguing!
- The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. Remember I said I liked historical fiction? Yep, this is historical fiction and it’s Tudor fiction at that! I love me some Tudor fiction! I know I’ve gone through all or most of the Philippa Gregory books for this period and the earlier War of the Roses period. I also love to watch any kind of Tudor time period movies or tv…so of course this gets me! It is a lot slower reading, though, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be renewing this one when it comes up. Based on the author’s list of books she’s written, I’m pretty sure I can satisfy my historical English monarchy fiction reading for awhile.
What are you reading?
It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these and I really don’t have a whole lot to report. If I don’t write one now it might be a few months before I get to one!
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This book was making the blog rounds last spring and I wavered back and forth on reading it. I opted to listen to it as an audiobook via our library’s download system. It was a very easy listen, I think 5-6 hours, maybe a little bit more. The premise is that by keeping clutter and ‘things’, it can impact our mental status and can distract and affect our moods. It is built off of the minimalist living premise and culture. The author is Japanese and I believe the book was originally written in Japanese as sometimes there’s a weird flow going on with the reading/listening of the book.
Downsizing our stuff five years back and then getting it once again when we moved into our house 3.5 years ago was overwhelming. We went from having just a little bit of stuff to getting all of our stuff back plus buying more stuff to round out what we didn’t have. And then getting stuff from various family memebers who were getting rid of their stuff and feeling the sense of obligation to take it. Honestly, we don’t need some of the things we’ve kept around. I’ve debated getting rid of holiday stuff for awhile (non-Christmas) (but I drool at pumpkins and fall decor at the stores!) and we have boxes of shells and decoration stored in various storage areas around our house and outbuildings and frankly we don’t need them. Things are always stored for ‘someday’ and usually someday never comes and it sits there taking up space.
Kondo’s advice is to go room by room and just take it all out and ask yourself if each piece ‘sparks joy’. If it doesn’t get rid of it/donate it. She gets a little carried away and takes this a little too far with photographs and other more sentimental items, of which I absolutely didn’t agree with. However, I think her premise makes a lot of sense. The Root Simple podcast has talked about her a few times, too. I think they like her premise but their problem is like so many of us out there, the DIYers who keep stuff because it might be of use one day. It was a predicament they were working through, trying to focus on actual projects and crafts/hobbies they know they will do and enjoy and not trying to worry about trying this or that hobby out because it is out there and available. Basically, becoming a specialist and not a generalist.
My problem is that I would like to do some of her techniques but I don’t necessarily have a spouse that’s on board with that. So, I could apply it to just things that are in my control like my craft room and my clothes but not necessarily to other items that are of shared use.
Some of the reviews I saw for the book took things a little too seriously and got upset with the author for some of her premises but I say, read it, and apply what you can and want of it to your life.
Moral of story: You don’t need a bunch of stuff.
You can watch a video of her here
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Ok, I am really kicking myself for holding out so long to read this book. Part of me is glad for a delayed reading in that I am reading it outside of all of the hubbub surrounding the novel. I held out because I had a bad grudge against it because it wasn’t a thru-hiking book. This despite several reputable people (Patrice!) telling me that it was well worth the read. I finally bit the bullet and read it and was pretty much captivated from the start.
I should preface this to say that I had watched the movie last spring so I was familiar with the storyline when I went in to reading the book.
This is not a thru-hiking book but a thru-hiker can definitely identify with it. Was she well-prepared? Nope. That was part of her story. But there were so many other moments that, like I said, a thru-hiker can identify with. The hiker hobble. The hiker hunger. The worry about making the miles. Wondering what’s up ahead. The thrill of going to town. The not-so-thrilled feeling about leaving town with a heavy pack.
The hiking parts I really, really loved. Her story about her mother and life before the hike, well, I liked her writing but I really just could not identify with how broken she was enough to wreck her marriage and set off for flings and take up shooting heroin. There are some really tough scenes in the book that she flashes back to and sometimes I was annoyed that she had to switch gears from her hike back to a point in her life. However, I get it. I often flash back to various scenes in my life when I’m hiking. And of course the story was about how she was overcoming the troubles she’d gotten herself into and those moments had to be in the novel.
In all, I definitely recommend reading this book. Also, listen to Cheryl on the Longform Podcast.
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This is the first in a series of books from her I plan on reading. I’m only a little bit into it but I am enjoying it so far.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’m listening to this one and it is kind of in the same vein of Marie Kondo but less about ‘things’ and more about strategies for life. Do Less, Enjoy More is the theme I’m getting from it so far.
- The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling. I’m about halfway through this as an audio book and am thinking of abandoning it. I liked what I heard so far but I’ve read a lot about being an introvert and none of it is really new to me. It’s definitely for people just discovering their introversion or for extroverts wanting to figure out a friend or family member who is an introvert.
- Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto. *still* reading this one but haven’t really picked it up in awhile. I’d like to knock it out soon.
- Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I’m re-reading this for the third time (and I started thinking about it, it might even be my fourth time) with Elizabeth and we’re discussing it on her podcast every few weeks in anticipation for the second season of Outlander on Starz. Yeah, we’re hardcore fans!!
That’s about it. Reading is probably going to take a backseat in the next few months as I want to get some more creative things done around here and I am planning on using NaNoWriMo in November as NaNoEdMo and finish editing my book in a hardcore way. I keep putting it of and putting it off and it’s driving me nuts. Once it is edited I can call it done and if it gets published or not at least I’ll have something final for myself.
What are you reading?
So, July sped by! I did not read as much as I wanted and so I don’t have a whole lot to report on. You can see June’s report here.
+The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
I finished reading this book while we were on vacation in Port Aransas. I couldn’t put it down, though towards the end I did feel like things got a little repetitive. The short story is, Chris and Carine McCandless had very crappy parents. There’s emotional and physical abuse, not to mention the father was basically a bigamist–though technically not married to their mother when she had them but was living with her while married to another woman with whom he had several children—including having a child with the first wife right around the time Chris was born. Yes, you can do some oogly eyes at that! Oh, it was a messy, messy life.
Carine wrote the book because she felt like she’d betrayed Chris by not letting Jon Krakauer tell the truth about all of the background history of the family in Into the Wild. At the time she didn’t want to air the dirty family secrets but had given that background knowledge to Krakauer so that maybe there would be some allusion. As the years went by her parents continued to perpetuate many myths and gained sympathy from the many people who mistook Chris for an unprepared idiot who abandoned his family and caused them grief. What they world didn’t know was the last people Chris wanted to be around were his parents, according to Carine and the rest of their siblings.
I really enjoyed reading it but like others I was sometimes left with wanting more of a story that we will ever get. Chris has been dead for over 20 years and will never be able to give voice to his odyssey out west. We just have to accept it and move on.
+The Art of Influence
I grabbed this back in June off of the library’s books-on-cd rack. It looked interesting and self-help-ish in regards to business and positivity. It was incredibly short, about two hours, and ended up filling a gap on a day when the internet was down at work and I couldn’t stream podcasts. However, it was the most awful thing ever. I hesitated to even write about it because who wants to know about crappy books? But, I want to save someone else from reading it. It was the most smarmy business parable I’ve heard. Goodreads reviewers either loved it or hated it. I’m not sure how you could love it. The bullet points could have been written in a blog post and summarized simply instead of going through a roundabout storytelling session.
Don’t read it!
In the Middle Of
+Illiumination in the Flatwoods
I had every intention of finishing this book this month. Just haven’t gotten there. I think it’s a book to be savored.
+The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
The library wanted it back when I tried to renew….someone else had requested it.
+Small Victories by Anne Lamott
Probably on hold indefinitely until I decide to read it in print. Just can’t handle the author’s voice on the recording.
On the Radar
I don’t have anything planned to read yet but here’s what I do want to read:
+Dragonfly in Amber—re-read with Elizabeth for the upcoming Outlander season.
+Brene Brown books. I’ve listened to several podcasts with her and her TED talks and she just makes you think hard about a lot of tough topics. This year has been difficult for me and I think it is right up my alley.
+The Signature of All Things and the soon to be released Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She just launched a podcast, too, and it is fantastic.
+Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I really fought this book for so long but it took several reviews by various people for me to accept that it was *not* a thru-hiking book. We did watch the movie and I actually liked it a lot. I do have this one on hand that I’m borrowing from Chris’ mom so it will likely be my next read.
There’s a lot on my radar—just not enough time!
Ohhhh, I forgot…The Girl on the Train…the book that is taking the blogosphere by storm.
What’s on your reading list?
When I wrote my summer goals last month I mentioned wanting to read three books this summer. I am well on my way to getting that done and adding more to the list. I credit a few things for this, one of them being that I gave up Facebook back in late April. The last time I spent this much time away from the site was for the last half of 2009. I’ve done little hiatuses here and there, but it just got to be too much. I don’t have the personality where I can just say I won’t log in…because I will. I have to actually close the account. It got much easier as the weeks went by, though sometimes I felt like I was missing out on little news updates and tidbits, but I really don’t miss the drama or memes or people selling me stuff.
So with my evenings, instead of reading status updates, writing my own, or reading the myriad of links that people post, I am instead doing things around the house, trying to write here, or reading. It’s incredibly refreshing!
What have I read in June?
+Eat and Run by Scott Jurek: I actually listened to this via a free Audible download. It had been on my radar for several years, particularly when I was vegetarian, and it seemed like an easy book that I could follow while listening at work. And it was. I really liked the book and the person who read it. Scott almost makes me want to run more than 3 miles at a time, but really, I’d rather hike all of those miles he runs in an ultra. It was interesting to listen to his story of growing up, how he got into running, running with the Tarahumara, and how he became a badass runner. It also reinforced my vegetarian ways…I want to go back someday. I might eat my weight in pulled pork before I go back, though!
As a side note I only found out a week or so ago that he currently going for Jennifer Pharr Davis’ Appalachian Trail assisted speed record: read more here.
+Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Hah, yes, I mention her above and I also read her first book about her first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In 2011 she set the AT assisted speed record in 46 days but in her first thru-hike she did it as a typical NOBO hike. I bought this back in October when I was still on maternity leave as part of a Kindle bundle with her second book, Called Again, when they were on sale for like $3 total. I’ve been a fan of Davis’ ever since I followed her AT record in 2011. I went into reading this book ‘knowing’ one aspect of her persona put out on Facebook by her own page, and through news and blog articles. I really like her and support her.
I really did not like her in this book. At first I did but then I started hating her a lot! At first I was excited to be back on the trail, but then some of her side stories just became entititled and obnoxious. It toned down a bit towards the end, though. She actually does address these shortcomings here, so it is nice to know that she realizes she’s changed and that she had some issues in the first book.
That said, I did feel the book was poorly written. It could have been developed so much more! Maybe she wrote it a few years after the fact and forgot some details, I’m not sure. Some of the details she did write were harrowing, including hiking with a guy who was borderline stalker. I know that many women hiking alone are very cautious about who they hike with and their surroundings, so I can’t imagine being stuck around someone you just can’t shake.
In all, it was an easy read and brought back memories from our hike. It is only my third AT memoir to read and I would be put it at the bottom of those three. The Barefoot Sister’s set is by far my favorite AT read, though I really need to Nimblewill Nomad’s account.
+Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: This was an impulse grab off of my library’s audio book shelves. After having success listening to Eat and Run I wanted to pick up a few other books to listen to as a way to break up listening to podcasts. I was familiar with Hitchens but not really of his work. I knew he had died a few years ago and that he had quite the public profile as a writer for many major publications.
This book is incredibly short, about two hours on audio, and it is really a very simply stated and truthful telling of facing death by cancer. There’s no sugar coating it, no glib remarks about putting on a brave face or having a battle with cancer…he pretty much just turns all the fluff about it on its head. I like his writing and I like the narrator for the audio book. I definitely shouldn’t have started here, with his death, but I think I’ll go back and read some of his other works in the future.
In The Middle Of
+The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless: For Into the Wild fans, this is Chris McCandless’ sister telling the rest of the story, what she told Jon Krakauer but did not have him publish. Let’s just say, they did not have a happy home life. I’m about halfway through it and will review it next month.
+Illiumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey: I started this back in mid-spring and had to return it to the library before I finished. I love, love, love it so far. It’s set in the Appalachichola area of Florida, so definitely up my alley.
+Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott: This is another impulse grab off of the library audio bookshelf. Unfortunately it is read by the author and I am having a hard time with her voice. I’m not sure I will finish listening to it or try to find it on paper to read later. This would be my first Lamott book.
+Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Since I bought it as part of the Kindle bundle with her first book I am going to read this, too. I’m hoping for better writing and am definitely excited about the story.
+The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon: Since I am all caught up on other Outlander novels and tv shows, I’m going to bide my time of Droughtlander with Gabaldon’s other novels that revolve around many of the same characters and other small characters in her novels.
Got any recommendations for the coming months?
I can’t believe it is nearly mid-June and I’m 28 weeks pregnant! Whattttt? Time has flown by. I’m slowly feeling the panic rise, that the summer is going to breeze by me and I won’t enjoy it as fully as I should, and then soon fall will be knocking on the door and I’ll be nursing an infant. It’ll happen like *that*. I know it will. So, I do my best not to foward-think too much and keep trying to enjoy June.
Chris and I finished our last Bradley Method class the other evening. I’m so glad we took the class, it was a learning experience for both of us. I feel so much more prepared for a natural childbirth than before and I truly think that as long as me and the baby are healthy when 40 weeks approaches, there’s no reason for not having a successful natural birth. I know the cost and length of the class scares people off (10-12 weeks and $250-$300) but it was money and time well spent, especially knowing that many women desiring a natural childbirth go into it more unprepared than they think for birth itself but also for what they may face at the hospital intervention wise (based on stories I’ve read on blogs and forums…women with failed natural births the first go-round, realizing they weren’t as educated as they thought, end up making more an effort for a successful natural birth the second go-round). If you are thinking about having a natural birth, absolutely check into the Bradley Method and read the associated books that go with it (Husband Coached Childbirth and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way).
Now that we’re done with class I’m trying to stay focused on doing the daily workouts that are suggested, continuing to eat well, and focusing on my relaxation. I had my glucose tolerance test a week ago and I didn’t hear results for a week. Typically they don’t call anyway if there’s nothing wrong, so by week’s end I had decided that I’d probably passed the test. The nurse called me yesterday and said I did pass with a 134 and the level had to be below 140. I went online to see if I could read more about the numbers and it seemed a bit all over the board with what doctors consider passing, some say 130 and below, others said 140…but then there were women who had results in the 170s and higher so I didn’t feel so bad having a 134. What I thought was most interesting were a lot of the pregnant paleo bloggers who were failing the test, likely because their body’s weren’t even used to sugar and carbs anyway so downing the glucose drink probably threw everything into a whirl. I’m not paleo, but I have tried to watch what kind of sugar I’ve been eating, though probably not as good as I should (damn you seasonal Blue Bell ice cream flavors…and you 1/2 price Sonic shakes…), but that morning I only ate two eggs and skipped my usual morning snack of fruit and yogurt prior to the test. Anyway, the glucose drink was not awful, but it wasn’t tasty. It was an amplified Hawaiian Punch, with a twinge of a chemical after taste. If it had been offered to me as a soft drink I probably would have had two sips and called it good. Just too much sugar….blech.
I’m realizing there’s so much to write about since the few weeks I last wrote. I’ll get to the books soon.
Last week we also took our hospital tour. We wanted to get it out of the way so that we could work on finalizing our birth plan before my next checkup. The hospital only does tours once a week at 5pm, which was definitely annoying, but it worked out. We weren’t the only couple there, about four other couples joined us. The maternity ward itself was fairly nice and while the birthing rooms were huge, the recovery rooms were smaller and more hotel like but not nearly as nice, obviously. I’d written down a list of questions to ask and I was the only one with a list. I felt like a huge nerd, but at the same time I felt prepared. We threw the nurse giving the tour a few times, as I’m fairly certain they don’t see many natural births. While it seemed that most of our questions could be accomodated, the biggest one that we’ll have to resolve with our midwife is the issue with IVs. Since I’m not having an epidural and won’t be on pitocin, there’s no need for me to have an IV. I need to be able to move freely about without being tethered to an IV. And since I won’t have an IV I’ll be eating and drinking as I feel comfortable, hourly. I guess I worded the IV question wrong because the answer I got was “Everyone gets an IV. No food or drinks.” Well, something to that effect. Chris and I continued to prod her and finally she relented to say that they do whatever the doctor tells them to do, which reinforced to Chris and I that we have to talk to our midwife about it and get it on the birth plan that we don’t want an IV. (More information on actual evidenced based facts regarding IVs here). Our alternative if anyone insisted on having some portal set up to my veins was for a hep-lock to appease the minds of those not used to a natural/normal birth (or in the case that I end up Group B strep positive when they test in the last month and have to get antibiotics at birth.)
So, the hospital tour really reinforced that we have to be firm in our wishes while weighing all of the benefits, risks and alternatives to suggestions by those in the hospital. But it also reinforced to labor at home as long as possible before arriving at the hospital. So many natural birth blogs and stories involve the phrase “show up pushing” if you want an intervention free birth as possible in a hospital setting.
Finally, the books. That’s quite a stack, most of them thanks to the library. The top one and bottom two are mine, so I can take my time with them. I need to get through Birth Matters quickly since when I borrowed it from the library I was second in line. If I can recheck it I will, but I think it is a popular book. The other library books are all nursing or birth books that I want to peruse soon.
I did start reading the top book, The Diaper Free Baby, which is about Elimination Communication. I first heard about this five years ago when we were in Florida from some friends of ours who were doing it with their son. I believe they had success with it and continued it with their second son. It really appeals to me especially after seeing all of my friends and family potty train their 2-4 year olds and how much of a pain it is to do so. The great thing about EC is that you can be a full-timer, such as the stay at home parent who starts it early and does it on a daily basis, or a part-timer such as the working parent who works with the baby mornings, evenings and weekends. There’s even the ocassional ECer who might do it a few times a week. The gist of it is that just as your baby sends you cues for hunger it is also sending you cues for the time to go potty. Since you learn the feeding cues you can learn the pee and poo cues, too. You then assist them in certain holding positions over a toilet or a small bowl when they are newborns and small infants, but as they get older and can hold their head up you can assist them to sit on infant potties, cueing them until they learn with a sort of “pssssss” sound. Apparently it works pretty well. I even asked the female half of our Bradley Birth coaches and she said after she found out about it when her son was six months old she tried it a few times and it worked, she just ended up not being consistent with it to continue. I’m definitely curious about this, so if you have input on EC please share! Plus, hey, if I can get my kid potty trained by 12-18 months I’ll be a happy camper. Chris is on board with it, too, so that helps out a lot.
The other book I’m trying to work through is the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding which is put out by the La Leche League. Breastfeeding horror stories abound just as much as birth horror stories, so I’d like to be as knowledgeable as possible about issues and alternatives regarding breastfeeding as they occur. I plan on attending a La Leche League meeting at least once this summer and will probably sign up for the hospital’s breastfeeding class. I personally only know one person who successfully breastfed and pumped for a year, whereas most people I know did it for just a few weeks or months, switching to formula for various reasons ranging from returning to work to latching issues. So, I’m definitely in a realm of my own in this category, with few people to really lean on to learn and ask questions. Actually, we’re in a realm of our own on a lot of this, but we’re ok with that. Learn, research, apply…do our best.
I guess I should wrap it up…I think I’ll end up writing more soon since this one was already too long!
Growing up, my hobby, other than playing outside, was reading. Now I don’t devote nearly as much time to reading as I should, though the internet is my source of reading a lot of times these days. Anyway, this is the stack of magazines I need to weed through. Chris’ dad gave me a stack of Outside magazines, a new Yoga Journal came in the mail, as did Urban Farm, and Backpacker. So did Texas Parks & Wildlife. I have a lot to flip through!
And then there is this stack, too! I have finally worked up the nerve to start The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. The first one was excellent but incredibly disturbing and mind-provoking that I had to give the story a rest. I think I’m ready for Lisbeth Salander again.
Me and Mr. Darcy is a chick-lit/Austen re-mix book that I am looking forward to breezing through.
That Used To Be Us is a political snoozer but still very interesting. Received it from my boss at Christmas and I’m still trying to finish it. It is very interesting and up to date with information from the latter part of last year. If it was leaning any way I’d say it leaned left but for the most part it is non-partisan and hanging all sorts of politicians and media out to dry.
And finally The Heirloom Life Gardener just arrived the other day unexpectedly for me, but not for Chris since he ordered it. It’s kind of a history of Baker Creek seed company but also about getting into gardening and the plants themselves. I loved the part where he describes wandering around Mexico looking for heirloom seeds at farm stands.
Maybe I’ll finish these all in May?
A few months ago we were in REI when I spotted this book, Paddling the Wild Neches. Having spent the better part of spring and summer working on and around the Lower Neches River near Beaumont I thought it would be a fascinating read.
Ever since we did our two thru-thikes I have been intrigued by those who also paddle source to end (or sea) down rivers, particularly relatively unknown or lesser known rivers such as the Neches. I think many people in Texas know about the Sabine since part of it forms the boundary of Louisiana and Texas, or maybe the Trinity and Red Rivers, or particularly the Guadalupe or Comal since are tubing rivers in the summer time.
But the Neches? Or the Angelina? Or the multitude of other streams, creeks and small rivers that surround those two rivers? Not many except those who are familiar with the land in east Texas and even then those will be a relative few.
The author, Richard Donovan, sets out to revisit the river and surrounding lands that he grew up on. He had a history of working for Temple-Inland, well known for their pine plantations and logging in and around the Piney Woods/Big Thicket. In the late 90s and early 00s two dams were being proposed along the river, the Fastrill Dam which would help support Dallas’ thirst for water, and the Rockland Dam, which would also help aid in Dallas’ thirst but also the surrounding ares of east Texas. The Fastrill Dam has since been stopped by the Supreme Court (if you click on the Fastrill link). As far as I can tell the Rockland Dam is still being proposed.
So, Donovan sets off down the river starting not at the source in Van Zandt county near Lake Palestine and ending at B.A. Steinhagen Lake in the south. A couple of years later he paddles the original route but then adds in the final southern portion all the way to Beaumont with a varying group of reporters and friends to join him.
Overall I really enjoyed this book but was disappointed in some of the lack of detail. He includes great anecdotes of the history of the area, stories about bears and albino deer (that ended up being a goat), bootlegging and days of the ‘open range’ before barbed wire and folks were able to hunt and gather on any land they pleased. The days of fencing properties occurred when too many cattle were wandering around in the middle of roads causing accidents. The fencing properties led to game theft and trespassing and a spirit of debauchery that was eventually slowed when the timber companies began putting together hunting camps.
He also writes about the impacts of logging, not only to the local economy but to the forests. The logging of the virgin pine and bottomland hardwood forests was done heavily in the early 20th century, but provided jobs for the local towns until the areas was cleared completely and they moved to another region. Then the towns were hollow shells of their former tent camp selves. I can only imagine what the vast stands of longleaf pine looked like prior to their near eradication and subsequent replacement by tight stands of loblolly pines.
The river itself is mostly untamed with the exception of two lakes and the salt water barrier dam located in Beaumont. At the time of the book’s writing the dam was being built; this summer it was definitely in operation….or rather not because they wanted to hold back water to the north due to the drought. Donovan also tells tales of the river being traversed by paddle and steam boats in the 1800s and I can’t imagine that because the river isn’t all that large, but apparently they did make their way a good distance up the river. Then they would be log jammed, literally, because the loggers would send all the logs they cut upstream into the river to float down to Beaumont to the mills. Sometimes the logs would get stuck when the water level dropped; the author surmises that some of these logs are still under the water and in near perfect condition.
If you are looking for a different book to read, something adventurous but also environmentally relevant to the current politics of the Texas environment, definitely pick this book up.
+Paddling the Wild Neches via the Conservation Fund
+A Trip Report
+Article on the author in Texas Monthly
+Transcript from an interview with Donovan
+August 2011 article on how other places are tearing dams down, Texas is going for more.
+Drought Schmout from 2009 about DFWs largest water users. Ross Perot is on that list.
Now it is time for some frivolous reading as I have finally got hold of a copy of The Help.
These reads have been culminated throughout the years. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some that should be included. Send me your favorites that I should read!
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Most everyone is familiar with this book or at least the story behind it, the tragic 1996 climb of Mt. Everest in which 8 died and many more lost limbs and were injured. This was my first Jon Krakauer book and read it a lot of while doing a short backpacking trip in central Florida a few years ago. I think a lot of people, ok, a lot of outdoor people, have climbing Mt. Everest on their list of things to accomplish, whether they believe they will do it or not. After reading this book I decided going to base camp would be good enough for me! Krakauer discusses all the possible ways to die, pulmonary and brain edemas, not to mention hypothermia and freezing to death. He also touches on the history of the mountain, the history of using Sherpas to obtain the summit, the use of oxygen and going without. There is another book about this same 1996 summit attempt by another hiker who happened to be there and I would like to read it sometime because it apparently offers some counter arguments to Krakauer’s book in regards to safety and quality of those guiding the climbers to the summit. I definitely recommend this book if you are looking for an adventure story for an adventure that you might not ever get to take.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Originally I found this book to give to a coworker for a Christmas present several years ago. The bear on the front cover attracted me to it and so I snagged it up without really knowing what it was about other than hiking and the outdoors on the Appalachian Trail. At that point in time hiking the A.T was a theoretical idea on a piece of paper in a journal, something that was not probable and just something I would write as a dream. It’s funny looking back on the story now and comparing it with my actual knowledge of the A.T, I really thought the trail was more quiet than it actually was and much more remote than it actually is! He would talk about these towns like Gatlinburg, Tennessee and you could imagine the chaos and craziness of the city. When I read the book I didn’t really understand what a thru-hiker was, not knowing that while Bryson hiked a decent portion of the trail, he did not hike it all nor has he even summited Katahdin in Maine and yet he considers himself a thru-hiker. Most people on the A.T have read the book and it often is what inspires them to get out and complete the trail. When we encounter non-hikers and tell them we hiked the A.T they always tell us they ‘read the book’. Which means they read A Walk in the Woods. Though, Bryson writes about the Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park and the overloaded and overweight packs, sometimes complete with cast iron pans, with people ditching weight here and there along the trail, we did encounter a few people like that, though no cast iron pans. Our first day out on the Approach Trail we saw two guys in their 20s with packs that looked to be about 60 lbs or more and incredibly cumbersome. We have no idea what came of them and never saw them after that. While it is a great beginning entrance to the A.T there are others out there that are even better and more in depth about what trail life really is like. Bryson is an enigmatic writer and can easily keep your attention.
AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David ‘AWOL’ Miller
This book I bought while at an REI store in D.C when I had some downtime during a business trip. We were in the beginning stages of planning our A.T hike and Chris wanted me to scout some gear prices and quality, so I picked up this to read on the way home. It is written in a journal style and discusses the trail more in detail than A Walk in the Woods. AWOL also writes about injuries and obstacles he has to overcome like leaving his children and wife back at home in Florida to accomplish his goal of hiking the trail. AWOL has now come out with a companion thru-hikers book to the book that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy sells for thru-hikers, listing shelters and town information and important mileage data including elevation profiles. It is probably the second most popular trail guide right now. We were able to meet him at the opening of the A.T museum at Pine Grove Furnace State park in June 2010 while on our hike and then later on while we were hiking the Florida Trail we met him again at his house where he was hosting a group of other Florida Trail hikers.
Barefoot Sisters: Southbound and Walking Home by Lucy and Susan Letcher
These two books also chronicle the A.T (sense a theme here?) but they are about two sisters who walk barefoot on the trail for the majority of the time. They begin their adventure walking south from Maine to Georgia and once they get close to Georgia they decide to turn around and walk back home to Maine. They are the most in depth of A.T books I’ve read, taking turns each chapter for the sisters to write about their own experiences on the trail. I could feel similarities between hiking with Chris, a husband, and the two sisters hiking together consistently, the strain of having to deal with each hiker’s emotions and challenges but also the comfort of having someone you know being there to help you through the rougher days and to enjoy the wonderful moments. I love these books, mostly because they do things in quite a different way than the average thru-hiker, taking a lot of time to hike the trail, taking a lot of time off the trail in winter—and winter hiking in general. Plus, going barefoot. If you really want to experience the AT, try this book. The sisters were in Maine in 9/11/01 so it is an interesting perspective, too, coming from being in the woods and life is beautiful to a terrible tragedy.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
This book isn’t adventure in the outdoorsy sense, but adventure in changing lifestyles. I’m sure most of you have seen the movie and while there are parts of the book that are simliar to the movie, they are most definitely not the same thing. The author did give her blessing for the changes, though. I should note that this is not a book to read when you are hiking 2,000 miles and are hungry. I picked it up in Vermont and finished it on the next to last day of our AT thru-hike. What I loved about this book was the imagery, imaging the old Roman ruins and ruins older than that she would find on her estate. Discussing food and friends and the Italian culture, this book made me want to visit Italy. And it made me want to eat. She has a few follow up books on her transition to Italian life that I need to find some time to read.
The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
Another book about life transitions, the author is a writer that is firmly rooted in all the trappings of conventional life in New York city until she goes to interview an organic farmer. It’s love and so the two slowly decide to move in together but in the meantime they are planning the large organic farm co-op that is his dream and slowly becomes hers. The move to rural Vermont (New York?) where they lease some land from a friend for a year. Kristin discusses the ups and downs of planning this farm, from what they will grow and raise, including farm animals, how they will live, the depth of working a farm and what toll it takes on the two of them but how it also brings them together. Now, this isn’t just a normal organic farm, they also do it all the old fashioned way, with horses to pull plows and all the things you’d see Pa doing on Little House on the Prairie. Kimball describes the long days as achingly tired but incredibly rewarding at the same time. It definitely puts a new perspective on organic farming!
Between a Rock and Hard Place by Aron Ralston
If you’ve seen the movie 127 Hours this is the book that the movie is based on. I wouldn’t have thought to read the book but our library had it so I gave it a whirl despite knowing the story since I’d seen the movie. And if you’ve seen the movie it is a pretty accurate account, but the book goes into more details about his other adventurous hijinks and near-death adventures. Aron is/war an extreme athlete and accomplished in skiing, rock climbing, running and at one point was part of a search and rescue team. He was normally very prepared for his backcountry activities and at the time of his accident had been working on climbing all of the Colorado 14ers in winter, solo. He describes a few climbs that would definitely have me sitting at home on the couch and enjoying hot cocoa instead of risking my life! But like all experienced outdoors-people, sometimes we get a little too relaxed and his unfortunate lack of oversight was to not inform anyone of his whereabouts at this particular canyoneering trip. And it was of course the dumbest thing that set the whole accident off, a boulder that had been in the position for decades, perhaps thousands of years, happens to move at the very instant he jumps from it. How many years had that same boulder been through flash floods? The whole preposterous situation is analyzed by Ralston several times during his six days stuck in the rock. This book is highly entertaining and is a page turner. Perhaps on the more grotesque side and something I wasn’t expecting, is that there are pictures in the book. At first I thought it was going to be just photos of him and his previous trips until I turned one page and there it is, his sawed off hand stuck in the boulder. It’s pretty disgusting and yet very curious.
There are lots of adventure reads out there, tell me your favorite!
With books. The Hunger Games trilogy to be exact. Over the last week that’s what I’ve been reading. Of course I could read them all at once but other things have gotten in the way. Work for example. Went back to the field for a few days to the Big Thicket in Beaumont, so paired with my reading I don’t have much time for blogging.
I will need to take a break from reading to tackle some creative projects though. Julia Cameron in The Artists Way writes that reading is often a good excuse not to get things done. And she’s right. Reading, at least for me, is very consuming. Ask my parents about my growing up years and books. So once I get through this I will be hitting some projects hard.
But when I’m ready to read again, what should I read? Give me your book suggestions!
Back in April I wrote about three books I’d bought at the used book store. I finally finished all of them, the last one last weekend. Here’s a bit about what I thought of them.
Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson: I was familiar with Bryson’s work from A Walk in the Woods but had only thumbed through his other books at the store. This one was on clearance so I nabbed it and was immediately fascinated with the book. The book begins with the initial colonization of the U.S. and how the English language was brought over from England and the British Isles and evolved even in the several hundred years before the American Revolution. Even by 1776 American English was drastically different than it was when the initial so-called Pilgrims came over. I thought it was funny some of the criticism that their English counterparts wrote upon visiting the frontier areas of Ohio and surrounding regions. I also thought it interesting that we’ve actually held onto some of the older English words than some of the present day modern English have. Bryson also writes about the evolution of words through modern conveniences such as radio and television. This book was written in the mid 90s so it doesn’t have much about the internet in it and I’d imagine there’d be a whole other chapter on the subject if he wrote an addendum.
I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in the English language or have an interest in Anglophilia.
The May Queen by Various Authors: Loved, loved, loved this book. It’s all about essay’s from women in their 30s or reflecting on how life was in their 30s. The typical subjects were incorporating work to family life, realizing they weren’t at the supposed goals they’d set for themselves 10 years prior, love life and well, just every day social aspects of 30 year old women. Of course this resonated with me since I’m about to turn 31 and love having this vagabond type life but also want the settled family life, too. How frustrating it is to have a biological clock! If only I’d known to do some of this in my 20s!
Definitely check this book out!
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray: I have to say I was a bit disappointed by this book. I expected more ecology less autobiography. However, it was interesting reading about this woman’s childhood in the late 60s early 70s in rural and impoverished Georgia. Sometimes she was able to tie in ecology at the end of the chapter and ecology of the longleaf pine forests were more prominent in later chapters. Ray also has a few other books that sound more ecologically driven that I might check out in the future but the taste of longleaf pine ecology has left me wanting to check out Looking for the Longleaf even more, previously recommended to me by a fellow coworker.
If you are interested in culture and ecology of the rural south this is a book to check out.
My next books to read are to finish Northanger Abbey, and read An Everglade’s Providence, The White Queen, and Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America. I might also sneak in the last Harry Potter book for the last movie in July. We’ll see. These should take me through the summer!
What are you reading?