The Book Report – Chapter 1

If I’m reading a good book, something is right in the world. The first time I traveled abroad by myself I was a junior in college and anxious to be on my own in a country associated with kidnappings and economic crisis. I brought along three memorable books, gifted to me by my 6th grade teacher –  Comfort me with Apples, The Poisonwood Bible, and Life of Pi. This was ten years ago, but I still remember the sense of peace those books gave me as I traveled – and I highly recommend all three.

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Me and kindy, taking a nap after finishing a 5-day trek + ‘Wild.’ These comfy bean bags feel just like the rocks on the Pacific Coast Trail, right Cheryl?

Now I know that good books are the answer to my pre-travel nerves. So when Dan and I left for our three month adventure I obsessed for weeks curating the perfect kindle playlist.

Then…combine days without internet and electricity, long bus rides, layovers, plane rides, and a husband who insists on getting to the airport three hours early….and what do you get??? A LOT of time to read. I read eleven books, and put down quite a few, but here are my favorites from the trip:

1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I especially loved this since I read it while (modified) backpacking through Torres del Paine. It brought back so many Camp Thunderbird memories, and how better to entertain Dan on a long hike than with endless girls camp stories? I finished it just as we completed our five day Chilean trek and was so sad that both journeys were over.

2. Under the Shadow of the Banyon Tree – beautiful but heartbreaking story. I was completely engrossed and transported to 1970s Camodia. I had to warn Dan not to interrupt me each time I picked up this book. Also, I cried ~10 times.(Dan also read and loved it!)

3. The Innocents. Wowza. Really intense quick read, and a modern take on ‘The Age of Innocence’ (which I’ve never read). I’m going to try to make my book club read this because it’s the kind of book you immediately want to discuss. I made Dan read this but he didn’t love it as much as I did. Oh well…

4. Cutting for Stone – No words. Except – gorgeous. All-time favorite. Read now.

5. Beautiful Ruins – holy moly, this book got me through seven days on Kilimanjaro with no modern day distractions. Since our Kili group was just me + Dan + our two guides (and ~18 porters…) and we hiked for approx. ten hours per day, AND Dan and I had already had 6 weeks of uninterrupted silence to talk to each other 24/7, we ran out of conversation topics about two minutes into the intense trek. Thank goodness for Beautiful Ruins!! Every night I would read as much as I could, and then on the hike the next day I would relay the entire story to Dan. We were both totally invested in the characters and story. Side note, our guides, who spoke good but limited English, were like, ‘WTF are you guys talking about all day???!!!’ They were so confused. All that to say, this book will always have a special place in my heart. I think I might read it again. It is so, so wonderful, and I like to think it’s a big part of the reason we made it to the summit.

Beyond my beloved trip books, here are the others I have loved recently:

  • Where’d you go Bernadette (obsessed)
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King (JFK assassination premise – fascinating)
  • Round House (also read this on the trip – different and engrossing)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (many tears for this beautiful story)
  • The Lost Wife (WWII fiction is hard to read, and sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this to myself, but the stories tug at my heart and I keep coming back to them. This was another good one)

What book recommendations do you have for me? Please – send them along!

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