The best parts about this field guide were, unexpectedly, the sections before the field guide proper, particularly a really fantastic overview of evolThe best parts about this field guide were, unexpectedly, the sections before the field guide proper, particularly a really fantastic overview of evolution. The book describes the history of Earth from an empty planet, the birth of the protozoa, to the reign of humankind, and every step in between in a very succinct, nearly at-a-glance way, giving the reader a clear sense of how fishes became amphibians, became reptiles (think dinosaurs), became birds, became mammals, etc. There are also very useful at a glance pages on the various ages (Jurassic, Cretaceous, etc.) and what types of creatures and plants were dominant during each era. The Nature of Arizona also includes some very interesting descriptions and maps of the state's topography and sights....more
Chasing Waves follows the author as she first learns to surf, the resulting obsession, and the surfing adventures that subsequently lead her around thChasing Waves follows the author as she first learns to surf, the resulting obsession, and the surfing adventures that subsequently lead her around the world in search of great waves. This memoir reads more like a collection of short stories about her surfing adventures (albeit, in chronological order) than a cohesive narrative. I wish there had been a little more about how surfing fit into or affected her regular life. Instead, each chapter is only about the next surf expedition. Waeschle does a great job, though, of conveying both the awe and joy of surfing as well as the fear and imminent danger. Her story both made me want to surf and also made me never want to surf....more
This was an engaging, well-written memoir that made me desperately want to hit the trails and escape the real world for five months in the great outdoThis was an engaging, well-written memoir that made me desperately want to hit the trails and escape the real world for five months in the great outdoors. Wild recounts Cheryl Strayed's journey as she sets out--a woman alone--to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through California and Oregon as a way to heal from the early death of her 45-year-old mother four years past and from her just-ended marriage the previous month. When she hits the trail, Strayed finds herself miserably ill-prepared for the intensity of the hike and stumbles into one tight situation after another. And yet she is buoyed by the companionship and support she also finds from her fellow PCT hikers.
I've had my own share of backpacking mishaps, so I could relate to Strayed's many misadventures--though hers, I have to say, are quite over the top. Her ill-preparedness for the journey is laughable and yet completely relate-able. I can see exactly why she thought she could handle it and exactly why she thought she was prepared (except for the whole money thing) before setting out and realizing she was neck-deep in trouble.
For me, Wild wasn't exactly a page-turner. I read it in tandem with a couple of other books and usually only read a chapter or less than a chapter every few days. And yet I was engaged whenever I read it. For me, the ending of the book slowed a bit too much, about when she hit Oregon. (Though a few of the most intense encounters happen in this section.) But I have friends who felt the pacing just continued to increase all the way to the end. I think what slowed it down for me was the slow circling around the "lessons" of Strayed's journey. Her pondering of her mother. Her facing her grief and other issues and letting them go. Strayed's growth was a bit too understated for me and circuitous. But, of course, that's sometimes the way of it with memoirs.
I highly recommend this read to anyone with an interest in backpacking, the outdoors, and self-reflection and personal growth. ...more