30 January 2014

January 2014 Reads

Since December doesn't count for my 52 books in 52 weeks reading journey, I'll begin my notations and reflections about the books I read this month.  You can read more about my decision to begin this journey here.

The first book I read in 2014 was 46 Days:  Keeping Up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail by Brew Davis, and really my decision for it being the first book to read came from my impatience in waiting for Called Again to arrive in the mail.  You see, while I was visiting my family in Western North Carolina during Christmas break, I learned about Jennifer Pharr Davis from my sister, Beth (who is also a hiker).  While we were in North Carolina I finished reading Wild and talked to Beth about how much I was enjoyed Strayed's journey of her thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Beth grew more interested in the memoir and then told me that she heard of a woman from the Asheville area who had hiked the entire Applachain Trail in 46 days. Naturally, I was intrigued, so Beth and I spent the next hour or so searching the internet for information about this woman who hiked the AT in 46 days.  I found her blog, and since I'm a blogger and hiker, too, I added it to my regular reading list. This month there was even a post by her husband who compared his wife's first book Becoming Odyssa to Cheryl Strayed's Wild.  I encourage you to check it out.

Upon returning home to Lexington, I immediately checked our local Lexington libraries for copies of Called Again, but they were all checked out, and I didn't want to wait, so I used a gift card I received at Christmas to order the book.  Still impatient to read about her story, I looked for an e-version, and that's when I learned about the book written by her husband.  I promptly purchased, downloaded, and proceeded to read 46 days in its entirety in a single evening.  I appreciated the details about the amount of calories she consumed per day, the number of miles she hiked, and the lack of sleep she endured all to accomplish her goal of setting the record for fastest thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

When Called AgainA Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis arrived in the mail a few days later, I felt already familiar with the story and the details and was able to enjoy the author's writing and reflection of the journey.  I relished in the descriptions of the places along the trail because I have hiked sections of the AT in Georgia and North Carolina.  I read this book in exactly one week.

Knowing I was leaving for a week long work related trip, I decided to grab a longer book to enjoy on the plane and in the evenings at my hotel.  A friend had previously recommended The Aviator's Wife to me, so that was next on my January reading list.  I started reading it the Saturday before leaving on my trip, and honestly, spent the entire day struggling to enjoy it.  I kept talking about it with my husband who reminded me--"you know--it's okay not to like a book!"  I decided to give it a few more chapters before setting it aside in search of something I would enjoy more.  I'm glad I kept with it because by the half way point, it became much more interesting and engaging to me.  I still wouldn't rank it at the top of my personal favorites, but I'm glad I read it, and I did enjoy it by the end because I liked the characters and the time period.  This book took me a week and half, and I finished it right after returning home from my week in Colorado.

Yet another trip was on my calendar, so I checked our bookshelves at home for books I hadn't yet read.  Luckily, my husband is also a reader, so there's always something waiting on the shelves for me.  I pulled Girl Interrupted for my plane ride to Washington D.C..  By the first night I had finished this short (and excellent) memoir by Susanna Kaysen.  Topics of mental health have been intersesting to me since my college days and all my psyhology/counseloing courses.

Obviously, I couldn't be on a trip and out of reading material, so I purused my saved New York Times articles and book reviews for something I might enjoy.  Cheryl Strayed's review of Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala immediately caught my interest, so I decided to give my e-reader another try on this one.  The rich and powerful story of Deraniyagla losing her entire family in the 2004 tsunami was beautifully written, taking me into the author's thoughts and life for the past 9-10 years.  Her sons were just slightly older than mine at the time of their death, and her husband, an academic, only slightly older than mine.  The story was heart wrenching, but I couldn't put it down.  Something inside me needed to know Deraniyagala would work through her grief and that she would share that process in the memoir.