Book Review

A Woman Alone: Travel Tales From Around The Globe

Publisher: Seal Press
Genre: Non-fiction, Travel
Pages: 302
Format: Paperback
Buy Local
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

What is it about a woman traveling alone that sparks such mystique? From the camaraderie of a “ladies compartment” on a train bound for Bombay, to one writer’s passion for the vulgarity of Las Vegas, A Woman Alone: Travel Tales From Around The Globe explores both the exotic, and not-so-exotic parts of the globe from the perspectives of solo female travelers.

Students, scorned lovers, and ex-nuns share their stimulating experiences while exploring both the good and bad that comes from hitting the road. These women writers recall forming unexpected friendships in Belize, saying “yes” to surprising suggestions in Paris, teaching in mountain villages in Bhutan, and battling feral dogs.

Edited by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick, and Christina Henry De Tessan, A Woman Alone documents the freedom, exhilaration, and even the danger and loneliness that can come from traveling without a companion. Told by a diverse group of women, these twenty-nine true tales capture the essence of travel whether it be by plane, train, or camel. 

Thoughts

The allure of heading into the unknown will surely have readers of this collection pining for the thrill of whatever adventure might lie around the next corner. I know that I was left with a strong urge to strap on a backpack, grab my passport, and make a mad dash for the airport! Written in inspirational, bite-sized chunks, this book kept me entertained during my own daily travels. 

What I found impressive was the diversity of the writers’ backgrounds, and their even more diverse reasons for wanting to go solo. While immersing myself in their stories it was easy to discover some kindred spirits. 

This collection also raises questions—and provides enlightening answers—about cultural differences and the sometimes surprising ways in which we interact with each other. While the concept of women traveling alone has become more commonplace since this book’s publication date of 2001, A Woman Alone still has the power to inspire those to strike out on their own.

Book Review

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Publisher: Anchor Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Buy Book
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

In this nonfiction book, journalist Jon Krakauer uncovers the story of Chris McCandless, a young man from a successful family who donates his money, abandons most of his possessions, and adopts the name “Alexander Supertramp” on an adventure across the States and into the Alaskan wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.

Four months after his descent into the wilderness, a moose hunter found his body, and several news stories follow, stirring up public criticism about his supposed reckless behavior.

Krakauer follows clues to discover more about McCandless’ adventure and to answer the questions he has about this young man. What exactly was McCandless’ motivation? How should we understand his surprising death? What can we learn from his story?

Thoughts

My first interaction with the true story of Alexander Supertramp was not from Krakauer’s bestseller, nor was it from the 2007 award-winning movie adaptation. Instead, I learned about his legendary travels through my older sister Jessica, who adores this story so much that she begged our parents to stop by the famous Slab City and Salton Sea (which Chris McCandless visited on his journey) on the drive home from a vacation. 11 years old at the time, I hadn’t read the book or watched the movie, nor did I appreciate this lengthy detour in our already long drive. However, it proved extremely memorable, filled with bizarre creations and interesting caricatures, including Leonard, an artist of the desert.

Jessica and Leonard Knight, the artist behind Salvation Mountain who crossed paths with Chris McCandless

Now, almost a decade later, I’ve returned to the story with Krakauer’s book for a proper explanation of Chris McCandless…and a new understanding about why Jessica dragged us out an hour and a half into the middle of nowhere. (Jessica, I might not have been grateful for this detour at the time, but thanks for urging us to take this mini adventure while Leonard was still around!)

I enjoyed reading this book, not only for an explanation of this Slab City visit, but also for Krakauer’s excellent, detailed storytelling and writing style.

Krakauer’s Into the Wild is a book about a journalist’s interest in a young man’s adventure as much as it’s a story about McCandless’ travels into the wild. While it details clues about McCandless, it also provides a deep look into Krakauer himself as he reflects on why Chris’ story resonates with him so much. He even reserves two chapters to discuss his own story and the connections he feels it might have to Chris’ life.

Throughout the book, the author includes pieces of evidence to explain how he constructed an understanding of the Alexander Supertramp adventure: postcards, letters, a journal, photographs, book annotations, and several eye witness and family interviews. Later, when he tries to pinpoint the cause of Chris’ death, he even describes his encounter with researchers and critics as he explores different possible explanations. Since Krakauer unravels little pieces along the way, it sometimes reads more like a mystery than nonfiction, adding intrigue and a need to continue reading.

Each chapter begins with a passage, either from Krakauer’s own choosing or, in some cases, a passage highlighted in one of the books McCandless carried into the wild. Krakauer points out these highlighted passages to show a progression in the traveler’s ideology, ending in his famous scribbled annotation: “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.” I found this detail extremely interesting, and, being a bookworm at heart, it makes me wonder if Chris would have drawn the same conclusion if he were carrying a different set of books with him into the wild. That is, was this revelation a discovery bound to occur from his life experiences, or were these books essential to creating this understanding?

Now that I finally took the time to appreciate a more concrete telling of McCandless’ story, I’m excited to watch the film, which gives more details about Leonard himself, to learn more about the Supertramp adventure.

If you’re not much of a nonfiction reader, it’s worth noting that the author’s prose often reads more like fiction than dry facts, which made Chris’ story beautiful and enjoyable to read. I’d recommend this book to any lover of nonfiction, adventure, or mystery.

Book Signing: Faye Hamilton’s “Rescue 12 Responding”

Looking for action and emotion amidst starkly realistic events? Come to Changing Hands Phoenix on Tuesday, August 6th at 7 p.m., where local Arizona author Faye Hamilton will be signing and speaking about her book, Rescue 12 Responding—a novel based off her decades of paramedic experience.

Hamilton’s book follows paramedics David and Jonathan, whose lives are profoundly impacted by a call about a drug overdose at a teenage party. Answering deep questions and provoking poignant memories from various characters, Rescue 12 Responding reveals the surprising depth of emotional complications and insights of paramedics.

Read more information here.


Location: Changing Hands Phoenix, 300 W. Camelback Road

Date: Tuesday, August 6

Time: 7 p.m.

Price of the book: $15

Author Event: Elizabeth Segal’s Social Empathy

book cover

If you want to understand others, read on: Changing Hands Bookstore is hosting an author event with Elizabeth A. Segal, a professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University, with her latest release, Social Empathy.

In this essential guide for anyone navigating a multicultural world, Segal’s explanation cuts through misconceptions to provide an illuminated picture into understanding across social groups, covering both the necessity of the skill of empathy and also how to achieve it. Founded on cognitive neuroscience, sociology, and psychology, Social Empathy provides a guide to overcoming barriers of fear, skepticism, and power structures to broaden perspectives, allowing individuals to move out of their narrow groups and become advocates for justice.

Read more information here.


Location: Changing Hands Tempe 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe

Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Time: 7 p.m.

Price of the book: $35