Books always take us on a journey. Story is in our blood–whether it’s the latest novel you can’t put down, a film you enjoy over and over or the events your friends and family recently experienced and are eager to tell you. It’s all about STORY. What’s really helpful for the personal journey is non-fiction that not only teaches, makes you aware of disciplines, experiences, places you haven’t traveled but does so through the mesmerizing medium of story. Boomer Highway’s Part 2 presents four non-fiction books taken from TIME MAGAZINE’S All-TIME Best Non-Fiction Books and two recently released books. All six are packed with information and story.
In Bill Bryson’s A WALK IN THE WOODS, the writer’s openness about his personal failings and poor decisions is laugh-out-loud funny as he and a friend walk the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Oh, he gives you the chance to pause and take in the history and ecology of the trail too–but this keen-eyed storyteller also introduces you to the people he meets along the way, making this journey colorful and memorable. You might never walk the trail, but you’ll feel like you did.
Rachel Carson’s SILENT SPRING published in the early sixties helped ban the use of DDT and opened the eyes of the public to other chemicals affecting the purity of our air, water and land. A landmark book of the 20th century, Leo Hickman writes: “…it also reflected wider concerns at the time – a period that saw the birth of a ‘counter-culture’ – that modern technologies, combined with rampant consumerism, were causing environmental problems that had otherwise not been widely noticed or, worse, suppressed by vested interests.” Carson’s book is beautifully written but terse in its basic message: “If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.”
With THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES, Siddhartha Mukherjee has written a biography of cancer, his skills as a physician, science writer and researcher making this a most readable book. My friend Sue, an RN who fought and lost to ovarian cancer, praised not only the research but the form the book takes. Cancer is the protagonist of centuries, attacking a Persian queen’s slave and Mukherjee’s own present-day patient, Carla, suffering from leukemia. The book recounts the history of diagnosis, treatment, gains and losses. It looks into the bright future of new treatments and examines the positive and negatives of the “war on cancer”– which though proclaimed three decades ago–is still ongoing.
In FAST FOOD NATION, Eric Schlosser traces the incredible growth of fast-food restaurant chains and how they have changed not only the way we eat, but the industries that provide their meat and ingredients. He raises the problem of food safety and the short cuts taken to save money. But as a culture, maybe we don’t care. Rob Walker quotes a customer in his review of the book:”If you don’t know about a problem,” the man observes, ”then you don’t have to deal with it.” Maybe and maybe not. Our fast food nation means we are drinking strawberry shakes made with flavoring that came out of a test tube, eating foods that are making us obese and drawing lines between the rich and poor in this country. Also a documentary film, Eric Schlosser’s FAST FOOD NATION provides excellent research and reporting and will make you wonder if that Big Mac really tastes that good.
Danah Boyd’s new release, IT’S COMPLICATED, was labeled counterintuitive by THE WEEK magazine. We Boomers can use such information and we can benefit from Boyd’s ten years of research as a Microsoft resident of social media. The result of her study is a book that “punctures baseless fears about cyberbullying, online predators, and Internet addiction.” Oh, Boyd knows that these online dangers exist, but the purpose of her book was to study the behaviors of teens online–what they are really doing and experiencing. As reviewer Cory Doctorow says this book is “the most important analysis of networked culture I’ve read.”
Friend and fellow blogger, Mary Eigel has just released SILENT COURAGE–a book about living with and conquering pain. As a result of being born with bi-lateral hip dysplasia, Mary single-handily and silently endured this condition and chronic pain. Unaware of the cause as a child because her parents did not share the diagnosis with her, Mary learned how to keep up as best she could through school, the teenage years and college. She became a competent artist and teacher and raised a family–pain her constant companion. Her understanding about what it’s like to navigate these waters inspired her to share with others what she has learned on this long and tumultuous journey.
I would love to know if you’ve read any of these books or when you do, what your responses are. Keep a book always at your side–waiting in the doctor’s office, waiting for that car to be repaired–for we all need armor for our journey.
Thanks to Google Images