Sunday, February 10, 2013

Books along the Trail


I finished "Wild" -- the book I mentioned yesterday about the woman hiking solo on the Pacific Crest Trail. I liked it, despite my ambivalent feelings about the author, Cheryl Strayed. But I really, really liked one thing she did. At the end, she listed all the books she'd read while hiking the trail (and burned or traded along the way, to reduce the weight of her pack). I can totally relate to that -- how important those books were to her, and how listing them, acknowledging their influence, allowed her to pay them some respect.

When I was in the Peace Corps -- the closest thing I've had to a comparable extended period of roughing it -- the books I read were a critical part of my experience. I will never think of my years in Morocco without also thinking of "Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace" and "The Agony and The Ecstasy" and "Lonesome Dove" and many others. (Living out in the sticks, a long way from the Peace Corps library in Rabat, I chose to read the longest books I could get my hands on!)

Come to think of it, books are a critical part of the experience wherever I am. When I think of almost any book I read, I can picture where I was when I read it. I read "Gone With the Wind" in my sixth-grade classroom (much to the annoyance of the teacher). I read "The Silence of the Lambs" in my apartment in Winter Haven, mostly in that old nubbly chair in the corner. I read "Cujo" perched on top of the dryer in the laundry room of a rented condo on Longboat Key, where I was staying for a week with my family. (Everyone else was asleep. It was the middle of the night.)

Two of the books mentioned in "Wild" intrigue me. One is called "The Ten Thousand Things," a book by Maria Dermout set in Indonesia. I'd never heard of it, but I ordered it on Amazon yesterday. The other is "The Novel" by James Michener. I have never been much of a Michener fan, though my mom read many of his books -- when I was a teenager I tried to read "The Covenant," but I don't think I got more than halfway through, and probably a lot less than that. Now I'm wondering whether I should give him another try. I'm not wondering enough to buy a Michener book, though. Maybe if I see one in the used book shop on the £1 shelf.

(Photo: Near Upton Park, East London)

5 comments:

Ms. Moon said...

I, too, can remember where I was when I read certain books. They are THAT important to some of us, aren't they?

ellen abbott said...

those rolls of carpet in the photo look like book bindings on a shelf. I used to read in my classrooms too to the annoyance of my teachers. They always knew it because most every class I had the teacher sat us alphabetically so I was always on the first row. I read a few of Michener's books as a teen and young adult. I rarely re-read any books but I remembered really enjoying The Source long ago and picked it up a few years ago to re-read it. I was not as impressed the second time around post feminism.

Helene Titsch said...

Oh I wish I had more time to read. Right now I'm concentrating on a Lightroom4 and Nik Software manual. My all-time faves...Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I'm Russian and Polish and you cannot beat Tolstoy!

Lynne said...

You read Cujo in the middle of the night? Brave man!

Books are wonderful escapes. I've been wanting to do a post on kind of the same thing but when I sit down to write the words don't come easily.

Do you have a library near by? I have recently re-discovered the library and right now I have so many good books checked out I'm not sure what to read next. I used to spend so much money on books; now I just borrow them! Love the library!

I've read Anna Karenina three times. Loved it. Gone with the WInd too.

The Bug said...

I'm laughing because what I remember reading in Zambia was practically the complete works of Alistair MacLean because that's what one of the other missionaries had. He also had a lot of Louis L'Amour but I couldn't really get into those. :)