Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recently read: Pharr Davis, Abbey, Thoreau and Walls

Throughout the summer I have focused on reading blogs and books to help maintain my training schedule and ever-increasing mileage.  It's much easier to get up at five to hit the trail if you've been dreaming of Walden all night.
That said, these four books have shaped the past couple of months for me.  I read a LOT of books and I read them fast, so retention of information is not always one of my strong points.  I like to think of this quality as a positive thing, I only remember the best.
Becoming Odyssa is Jennifer Pharr Davis's account of her first through-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  This woman is a BAMF.  She first completed the trail in 2005, she broke the women's speed record in 2008 and she broke the overall record this summer, pulling off consecutive 50 mile days like nobody's business.  The book itself is a pleasant read that details the total experience of the trail; the personal, spiritual and of course physical aspects of her journey.  When my mom told me that they didn't have it at her local library I had a copy sent to her and told her to have everyone in the family read it.  Of course she obliged and has passed the book on to a few friends as well.  Although Jennifer and I would probably disagree on a lot of things, I admire her a whole lot and her adventures are a huge inspiration to me and have had an immense impact on my relationship with the wilderness.
The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey was recommended by a college friend, I got about halfway through before leaving for vacation and was put in quite the anti-TSA mood before my flight to Seattle.  the novel details the hi-jinks of four eco-terrorists in the most lovely way imaginable.  The characters are not all as well developed as one might like, but they all have a different relationship with the southwest and take the actions that they do for different reasons.  Abbey was quite a character and had an extremely deep relationship with the deserts that he describes.  His prose is breathtaking at times and his anarchism balances this out in an unexpected way.
I finished this about a day into my vacation and perused the shelves at my grandma's house to find Walden.  Given that Henry David Thoreau was a big inspiration for Abbey, this was the perfect follow-up.  I got about ten pages in and wanted to smack myself for not having read this sooner.  The man sings the song of my soul. The book is boring at times, but the values of self-sufficiency and frugality that he preaches are vital to my own happiness and who I am as a naturalist.
Most recently I finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  (gotta love this interview) When my mom recommended the book she said something along the lines of "ohh, it's a memoir, the parents are alcoholics and they're abusive... It's really great."  Needless to say, I was hesitant, but luckily my mother is not very apt at identifying literary virtues as she recognizes them.  The story of Walls' childhood is certainly a heart wrenching one but she captures the adventure and romance in her parent's ideals in a very beautiful way.  It's a quick read and something that I would recommend to anyone.

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