Books That Took Me on Adventures in 2016

The finished books

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

This book took me off guard. It took my attention from the very beginning. The story of this multi-national family is both eye-opening and funny. I enjoyed reading in the perspectives of each of the main characters.

Based on the recommendation of a friend, I opened this book with absolutely no idea what it was about. Everything I Never Told You is the story of a teenage girl… and her brother… and her father… and her mother. As the reader, you’ll get the chance to delve into each character’s life – before, during, and after the mysterious disappearance of this teenage girl. You might think this story has been told before, but I guarantee it hasn’t been told in this way.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

First off, adventure-seekers of all kinds would most likely be fascinated by this true story of a man who sold all his possessions, left his traditional life behind, and chose to live a life off the grid and in the moment, taking each day as it came.

One of my greatest enjoyments and frustrations with this book is the amount of emotion it brought out of me. Unsurprisingly, the emotions were not always good ones, but I consider it a success when a story has the power to do that.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

You may be more familiar with the name The Golden Compass, as the controversial film (starring Nicole Kidman) was named. Unfortunately, the film trilogy was never completed, due to some supposed anti-Christian material.

This book series includes The Golden Compass (a.k.a. The Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. This story had such a powerful message. In my opinion, Philip Pullman didn’t send an anti-Christian message. More so, he suggested to the reader the idea of seeing a bigger picture that is not reliant on, or confined to, conventional religion.

The series, so full of adventure and action, reminds me that we are humans with the ability to act in the ways that we choose. We must use our own logic to decide how those small actions will affect the bigger picture.

The story follows loudmouthed, tomboy Lyra from adolescence to young adulthood, as she travels the world by foot, boat, balloon, and bear. She bounces from one world to the next, with an ever-changing mission, meeting friends of all ages and species. The twists and turns are endless. I would highly recommend losing yourself in this series for the next few weeks.

 

A Journey North by Adrienne Hall

Adrienne Hall wrote a well-researched book about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with her boyfriend. The reason I say “well-researched” is because there are a LOT of facts in this book – scientific facts about plants, wildlife, and the environment. I was disappointed by the imbalance of the facts compared to the author’s memories of actually being on the trail. I found myself craving more story, and less science. However, I learned quite a bit about these topics, and I would have been a lot more bored had I not been interested in them.

Here’s an important heads up before you go out and read this book: It is not so much a thru-hiker’s memoir, as it is a conservationist’s soap box.

Two Coots in a Canoe by David Morine

My library has absolutely no adventure books. I must be the only person in twenty miles who enjoys this kind of story, because I’ve searched for dozens of titles with no luck. The only outdoor, adventure books I could find were A Journey North by Adrienne Hall and Two Coots in a Canoe by David Morine.

I checked this book out of the local library, based solely on the title. Once I saw the name, I burst out laughing and showed my wife (who also thought it was pretty funny).

I wasn’t sure if I would actually read the book, but I ended up doing just that.

The one satisfying thing about this book is that the title is incredibly accurate. Two Coots in a Canoe is about two funny, old guys (or just two old guys who think they’re funny) looking for an adventure, so they decide to take a trip down the Connecticut River in a canoe. The hook is that they stay with a different generous stranger each night of the trip.

It’s been a few months since I read this book, so I jolted my memory by reading a few reviews. I had forgotten how bothered I was by David Morine’s judgment of anyone who doesn’t live the traditional life that he lived. Throughout the book, Morine made very questionable comments about women, sexuality, mental illness, and about the current (as of 2003) expressive fashion trends. I guess I struggle to identify with the author (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but some of his judgmental comments made me cringe.

On a separate note, there was quite a bit about environmental conservation, as the author is a conservationist, himself . Morine brought to light a number of environmental issues that the reader might not be aware of, involving the pollution of our waterways and the state of the creatures living in them.

Overall, Morine entertained me with his tale. It was a different story than I had ever read before, although I’m hesitant to recommend it because of the reasons I mentioned earlier.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

This is the best Appalachian Trail thru-hiker book I have read so far. If you have ever hiked the Appalachian Trail, or plan to, you may have heard of David “AWOL” Miller. He is the author of one of the trail’s most popular guidebooks entitled The A.T. Guide, which he updates every year.

Miller hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2003, and AWOL on the Appalachian Trail is his detailed and honest travelogue. I am so impressed by how Miller managed to keep such a consistent record of his hike, as if the hike itself wasn’t trying enough. I can’t say for sure, but I remember thinking that he didn’t skip a day of journaling.

I enjoyed this book so much, because Miller gave the reader what he promised: a day-by-day account of his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. He didn’t get too off topic at any point in the book, but he also didn’t write boring, monotonous details. For those reasons, he had my attention from beginning to end. I would highly recommend reading this book!

National Geographic: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka

I would not recommend reading this book, UNLESS you have a great interest in backpacking. It’s not frilly with stories, although Andrew Skurka does provide readers with a few bits from his adventures, as they pertain to certain gear items. For the most part Skurka sticks to the point of providing us with his gear picks, why he recommends them, and how they are useful in the field.

This guy has got tens of thousands of miles of backpacking under his belt. He has had such a variety of adventures, it’s almost silly to gloss over his advice. If you’re planning a thru-hike or an extended backpacking trip, pick up Skurka’s book at your local REI. You can also find some of his talks on YouTube.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis

You have probably heard of this book if you are planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and you might have heard of this book even if you aren’t planning on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. It has been fantastically marketed! The Appalachian Trials website (which is now called The Trek) pops up on the top Appalachian Trail page list of most search engines.

That totally useless information (unless you’re a nerd about hiking, like I am) said, this is not a memoir of Zach Davis’s thru-hike. It is a lighthearted, motivational book about how to obtain the psychological stamina required to hike the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end. Davis was smart enough to name his book accordingly. You’ll also find how-to-hike-the-Appalachian-Trail information, too. Davis gives his best advice on the more physical side of hiking.

The style of this book might throw you off, though, as it’s written more like a blog than a book. Luckily, I am a blogger so it didn’t bother me!

Overall, I enjoyed the book and read it from cover to cover very quickly. It’s an easy read, and it was refreshing to hear about Appalachian Trail thru-hiking from a different perspective.

The unfinished books (with explanation!)

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Okay, I’m a big fan of the television series. What a story! The books… I’d go either way on the books. I still love the story, but sometimes George R.R. Martin goes a little too far to the obscene side for my liking. That said, I probably would have continued with the books if it were a different time. I’ve just got my mind on the Appalachian Trail, and have been primarily craving hiking books.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I do not have one bad word about this book. I’ve read more than half of it and I plan to finish it. I will probably read it again and again. It’s that kind of book.

Elizabeth Gilbert is such an interesting author, and I absolutely love the way she writes.

But here’s my warning: It is nothing like Eat, Pray, Love so don’t buy it thinking it will be.

This is the first of two motivational books I read this year, and I enjoyed this one thoroughly. Much of her writing, in this book, is about writing. Unsurprisingly, I (a lifelong writer) love it for that reason. But the book is also about creativity of all kinds.

Gilbert encourages the reader to grab hold of creative ideas, and to delve into them immediately. I absolutely love her theory on the relentless movement of these creative ideas. If we don’t own them and use them, they will move on to someone else.

Two Tents Down’s recommendation: Buy this book!

The current books

I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

I finished this after the year ended, so I’ll call it a “2016 current book”. Anyway, I loved it! One of my coworkers recommended it to me, a few months ago. She read it in German and found that it was also published in English, so she suggested I read it.

I very much enjoyed this book about the famous German comedian, Hape Kerkeling, who decides to take a spiritual walk on the Camino De Santiago. He starts all alone, but gains various walking partners along the way.

The book is really funny! There’s no shock there. I like that Kerkeling doesn’t make jokes at anyone’s expense (unless he feels they deserve it). The greatest reason I liked this book, is because of Kerkeling’s clear transformation along his journey. His conscious and unconscious efforts to change himself physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially made this book very interesting to read!

The Harry Potter Series audiobooks by J.K. Rowling (voiced by Jim Dale)

No need for an introduction, here. I read them as a child, and then again as an adult (Check out the review I wrote last year!). Now I’m listening to them on audio. Talk about mixing it up! It’s such a refreshing way to explore this story!

I’m currently on book number five: The Order of the Phoenix. Of course, this is the part of the series where it gets really intense and serious. The narrator, Jim Dale, is fantastic! His voices will get you laughing, crying, or shaking with anger.

Two Tents Down’s recommendation: Please try this series on audio! I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

The next book

The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley Maclaine

On top of reading the stack of hiking books that just arrived from possibly every library in the state (other than my own), I plan to read about Shirley Maclaine’s spiritual pilgrimage on the famous Camino de Santiago. I found out about this European walking trail when I watched the movie The Way, and was intrigued by it, ever since. Now that I’ve finished I’m Off Then (the book by the German comedian), I’m hungry for more!

From the reviews I’ve read, this book is… different. A lot of people down-talk it, because of Shirley Maclaine’s non-traditional ideas about spirituality and extraterrestrial life. Well, I think it’s all the more reason for me to read it!

Hungry for more books?

Take a look at 19 Books That Took Me on Adventures in 2015.

What’s the best book you read in 2016??

Leave any comments or questions below, or feel free to email me! I promise I’ll respond! 🙂

Who am I?

My name is Lauren! I created and run Two Tents Down. I love all types of adventures, but mostly those of the outdoor nature (Get it?). Find out more about me, in my about page.

My next big adventure is going to be epic! I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end with my life on my back. My journey starts in March of 2017. Follow my thru-hike on social media by clicking one of the buttons to the right, or clicking on one of the links below.

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As always, thank you so, so much for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

 

 

19 Books That Took me on Adventures in 2015

I’ve been an avid reader since I was young. The time I spent reading subsided in high school and college, when I was usually too busy doing homework and working various restaurant jobs to read books for pleasure. After graduating from college in 2012, I moved to England and reintroduced myself to a passion I’d been too far away from for too long. This 2015 year has been filled with time spent reading.

Books Devoured


1. “
Zeitoun” by Dave Eggars

What a fantastically-written, true story about a Syrian man and his experience before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I was inspired by the kindness this man showed to others, and appalled by the lack of kindness shown to him. This is a sad, but eye-opening tale of a horrific natural disaster in New Orleans, through the eyes of one man.

Note: I feel compelled to share an article I just read, about Abdulrahman Zeitoun. The book is still amazing, but this article is leading me to believe the story might have some holes in it. I’ll let you be the judge.

2. “Harry Potter and the Scorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

Clearly, you’ve heard of this book which is the first in the “Harry Potter” series. I first read “The Scorcerer’s Stone” when I was a kid. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas, based on a great tip from my mom.

I immediately started reading it, only to return to Lutheran grade school where my teachers wouldn’t allow me to read it, due to the obscene amount of brainwashing dark magic (Sense my sarcasm?) contained in the book. The graphic and violent Stephen King books I frequently toted around were okay, of course.

Anyway, I did what many kids would do when they are told not to do something. I read “Harry Potter” anyway. Mostly at home, though.

3. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling

Returning to this book series was one of the best things I did in the year 2015. I alleviated any post-travel boredom by losing myself in tales of flying on broomsticks, making friends with house elves, and eating fabulous meals in the Great Hall.

4. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling

One of the most impressive elements of the “Harry Potter” series, is the way you can grow up with the books. Not only do the characters mature in both age and magic, but the language becomes more adult, and the subject matter becomes more serious. Never did I recognize these things more than when I binge read the series as an adult in 2015.

5. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling 

Many years after first reading “Goblet”, I opened the book and found little bits of grated Parmesan
Cheese in between the pages. My mind returned to a moment in my childhood house, where I was sprawled out on the living room floor, devouring popcorn topped with Parmesan cheese while reading the exact same copy of “Harry Potter and The Goblet of fire”.

6. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling

This is the book where things start to get really dark and serious, and when the reader might realize that some of these magical world issues are not all that different from “muggle” world issues.


7. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling


8. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling

9. “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” by Stephen King

Stephen King has been captivating my imagination with his stories since I was young. His writing  makes me feel like I’m in each book next to each character. To this day, I have a great amount of respect for King. Unfortunately, I don’t read many of his books with the same enthusiasm I once had as a young adult.

“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, however, never fails to capture my whole attention (of course, any book about the Appalachian Trail has an excuse to draw me in). Although, the little girl in the story seemed unrealistically intelligent for her age, at times, I absolutely love the psychological adventure she goes on in the woods, somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. Her will to survive, and her critical thinking skills, are almost adult-like, yet her school-girl Tom Gordon crush and her need for her family remind the reader that she is still a 9-year-old child.

10. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

The only reason this book is number ten on the list, is that I’ve put the books in the order in which I read them throughout the year. But, quality would put this book near the top. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s get to my review.

As soon as I saw the preview for “Wild”, the movie, I had to see it. As soon as I saw the movie, I had to read the book. I waited weeks for a copy of this book to be delivered to my library, and when I finally picked it up off of the shelf, I tore into it with a hunger I hadn’t had for a book since… Well, since I read the Harry Potter books, a few months earlier. So it wasn’t that long, but it was still quite a fierce hunger.

That hunger was fed and eased in such a satisfying way, by the quality of Strayed’s storytelling. I was absolutely enthralled by her portrayal of her childhood, her deep loss and the poor decision-making that followed, and her detail-by-detail experiences along the Parcific Crest Trail.

If you are looking for a great adventure book, I highly, highly recommend this one.

 

Books Read (as opposed to devoured)

I’m not meaning any harm by the title of this section, but there are certain books I connect with more than others.

1. “Divergent” by Veronica Roth

I started reading this book after seeing the movie in theaters. I didn’t really know too much about it, other than the fact that I was entertained by the first movie. My wife read the whole trilogy first, as I was reading the “Harry Potter” books. Her response to the “Divergent” books wasn’t great, but I decided to read them anyway.

Fortunately, the story has some great ideas in it. Unfortunately, the implementation of those ideas was not enjoyable to me. I finished the trilogy only to get to the end, which isn’t really how I plan to read books in the year 2016.

2. “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth

3. “Allegient” by Veronica Roth

4. “A Thousand Splendid Sons” by Khaled Hosseini

This was a very great, but very hard, book to read. It was heartbreaking. The story is about two womens, and how their lives become intertwined in a very unexpected way, during the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.


5. “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson

I read this book based on the excitement I had after seeing a preview for the movie, and also based on a friend’s recommendation. I love Bryson’s humor and his obvious passion for the Earth, the plants and animals that occupy it, and the way people treat it.

However, I struggled through his lengthy rants about specific species of plants and animals along the Appalachian Trail, the historical lessons on the creators of the Trail, the towns and parks along the way, and the Appalachian Trail itself. I liked learning about those things, but I would have preferred those sections to be shorter, and to have been able to read more of his stories about actually hiking along the Trail.

6. “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary 

It was a pleasure to read this book for the second or third time in my life. It was as lighthearted, imaginative, and adventurous as I needed it to be at the time, when I had just finished a few books with very heavy topics.

I am not ashamed to admit that I still periodically read Children’s books. There’s no denying the wildness of the adventures you find in many of them, and that’s why I love them.

I’m pretty sure we read “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” as a class when I was in grade school or middle school. I can remember my plump, white-haired teacher in a conservative flower-patterned dress, standing behind a podium at the front of the classroom. She would call on students to read, paragraph-by-paragraph. When it came to reading, my hand was always flying high in the air, in hopes of being chosen next.

As the school’s literature teacher, she also read the “Narnia” series to my class when I was younger. Many of these books I was required to read, fed and enhanced my imagination and my desire for adventures.


7. “When Love Hurts” by Shaquanda Dalton

I am happy to share the title of the first book of Shaquanda Dalton’s “Jaylen and Jessica” series with you. Dalton is not only my coworker and friend, she is a great writer who inspired me to get serious about my own writing.

I was immediately reeled in by this love story. It’s well-balanced with love, friendship, drama, romance, passion, and jealousy. Jessica is smart and determined, and struggles to find a path that satisfies both her heart and her mind.

8. “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk

I was very disappointed by this book, especially because of how much I loved Palahniuk’s “Fight Club”. Although I know it’s part of Palahniuk’s style, I thought “Choke” was unnecessarily vulgar. Also, by the end of the book I still had unanswered questions, which really bugged me.

 

Books Attempted

My wife read an article earlier this year about how to be happy and content in your life. She of course shared it with me, knowing that I enjoy happiness and contentedness too… Who doesn’t? One of the tips in the article was to stop reading a book when you aren’t enjoying it.

This is my list of the books I had to let go, despite emotional connections to both of them:

1. “The Shining” by Stephen King

I have no issues with this story, the writer, or the movie, but I just don’t think it was the right time for me to read this book. My heart wasn’t in it, so I had to let it go.

2. “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg

The story in this book is my go to story, whenever I am feeling bummed out. “Fried Green Tomatoes”, based on the book, has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life, I’ve had it on both VHS and DVD. I felt that I owed it to the creator of the story to finally read the book.

Well, as much as I love the story, after seeing the movie so many times, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the differences between the movie and the book. I couldn’t see my beloved characters in different lights. I couldn’t learn about new characters, or read the weekly gossip column. Worst of all, I couldn’t have the relationships I love so much, mean something different in the book.

With much hesitation and disappointment, I let the book go. The story, however, will always remain with me.

Ending on a great note

1. “Blame” by Michelle Huneven

I’m closing out 2015, after reading this incredible book about a woman who is imprisoned by both the state of California, and the guilt of having killed a mother and a daughter in a drunk driving accident. This book had me after the first or second chapter. It’s not just a book about a crime, it’s a book about a woman’s life and what she does with it.



What books took you on adventures in 2015?
Share your favorites in the comment section. I’d love some recommendations!

Thanks to all my readers, for taking the time to read my 2015 book list! I’m looking forward to another fabulous year of reading (and of course, writing) in 2016.

Happy New Year to all!!

You always know where to find me! I’m Two Tents Down!

Email me at twotentsdown@yahoo.com or follow me on social media by clicking on one of my social media buttons in the top left corner of this page.