4.5 Stars
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed

I really enjoyed "Wild." Cheryl Strayed's prose is witty and funny and definitely keeps you engaged from start to finish. I finished "Wild" in one sitting, and I'm not a fast reader. "Wild" is Strayed's memoir about her mid-twenties following the death of her mother. After essentially hitting rock bottom, she decides almost on a whim to hike the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon. Her story is sad, funny, and she holds nothing back in telling it. She shares every detail, no matter how personal, and her experiences both on and off the trail are definitely personal. Anybody timid about sexuality might want to look for something else. Or not, you could probably use a little shaking up. Anybody with an interest in backpacking would enjoy her story, but I imagine even "indoor kids" would get a kick out of this book. Strayed herself is not an experience backpacker so the story is one of a beginner, and her intended audience is not a bunch of wilderness experts. I'm making an effort right now to try to read more works by women to help balance out my literary foundation and am very glad that I picked Cheryl's memoir to read.

Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing Short Fiction

"1.Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2.Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3.Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4.Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5.Start as close to the end as possible.
6.Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7.Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8.Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."


Hank Green is the best

5 Stars
High Fidelity
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

I first read High Fidelity when I was sixteen and I immediately knew it was my favorite novel. Hornby might not be the most complex writer, but I firmly believe in the value of doing simple things well over difficult things poorly. The amazing thing about High Fidelity is that as far as the plot goes, nothing particularly exciting happens, but that doesn't matter. The strength of High Fidelity is in the main character Rob Gordon, and Hornby's ability to put you in Rob's head as he tries to understand where his top five relationships went wrong, while reorganizing his record collection. He makes sense of the world by ranking everything into "desert island top fives" while debating the merits of old b-sides and hunting for limited edition singles and LPs to add to his near Alexandrian sized collection.



If you're anything like me, you'll read this book and feel an instant connection to Rob, particularly as he struggles to understand himself and his identity. Like most of Hornby's books, High Fidelity focuses heavily on the theme of poorly defined masculinity. Rob is essentially a thirty-something year old teenager, who's inability to enter adulthood continuously sabotages his relationships. The novel asks the question, In a society where masculinity is no longer defined by providing or protecting, how do boys become men? I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much as a teenager (and still do) is because I was comforted by seeing this adult, almost on the verge of middle-age struggle with many of the same emotions and confusions that I and probably most boys experienced as a young adult. High Fidelity tells us that it's okay not to know who you are, to take our time growing up, and to remember that maturity is a process, not an overnight transformation.

American History
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West - Cormac McCarthy

I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" and it brought to mind some interesting ideas about how we perceive our own history. "Blood Meridian" is an intense take on the classic American western, where every attempt is made to depict the complete utter lack of respect for human life that existed during the mid 19th century; I don't recommend it for the faint of heart or stomach. The graphic and disturbing violence of the story is drastically different from the typical western most of us are familiar with. There are no sequin shirts or lively and vibrant saloons. The characters are almost all destitute, insane, and bloodthirsty to an extreme most of us would find uncomfortable. It's as if McCarthy watched a John Wayne movie and decided to make a book to counter and contrast that image, focusing on the mayhem and lawlessness of the West. "Blood Meridian" is a reminder that often our interpretation of a specific historical event is not consistent with fact.


As Americans, we often want to assume the best of our own history, and paint it in as positive a light as possible. We romanticize our past in a way that is problematic, often lying to ourselves or ignoring certain details because they are problematic to the vision we want to believe in. Take for example the story of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree just so that he could prove his commitment to honesty when confronted about it. Most of us know that this story is just that, a story, but it still affects our view of our country's father. Columbus is another example, a man who paved the way for an American nation and is still remembered with a federal holiday, while the fact that he murdered and enslaved countless Native Americans is usually an afterthought. This kind of historical embellishment inspired it's own counter-culture in the writing of Nathanial Hawthorne who challenged this romanticized view of history with works like "The Scarlet Letter" which shed light on the negative aspects of puritan life. McCarthy's work similarly does that with the Western, showing the other extreme that often gets ignored, or deemed too graphic to be profitable.


What I kept asking myself while reading "Blood Meridian" was why do we feel this need to exaggerate history? All entertainment aside, why is it so hard to accept that the past is complicated, and that a straightforward interpretation is impossible? Our founding fathers weren't perfect, a fact they acknowledged themselves when they designed our government. I don't understand our obsession with taking an all-or-nothing view of history, where if you don't believe in the perfection of the past then you are somehow a cynic or unpatriotic. Our past is checkered, just like each of us is a complicated individual with virtues and flaws, and pointing out that we have flaws doesn't diminish our good qualities.



A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines

Ralph Waldo Emerson