Book Review: Engaging read about the life of a fire lookout

Book Review: Engaging read about the life of a fire lookout

I was pleasantly surprised about the depth of the book Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout (HarperCollins, 2011).

And I’m thankful to whomever it was who recommended this book by Philip Connors.

I believe anyone who loves nature will enjoy this book.

Beyond learning about life as an actual lookout, what makes Fire Season such a great read is that I got to know about a forest that was new to me—the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. It reinforced the history of the U.S. Forest Service’s protocols about fighting fires.

This lonely existence was captured so well by Connors. I could feel the confines of the 7 foot by 7 foot structure as well as his living quarters. But it was the vastness of the terrain outside his windows that in some ways made things feel even smaller.

Fire lookouts are a dying breed as technology replaces humans paid to scan the horizon for smoke. This would not be the job for adrenaline junkies. This would be a job for someone who is comfortable with themselves.

This was a fast, easy, enjoyable read.

 

Book signing and sales in Tahoe at Valhalla Holiday Faire

Book signing and sales in Tahoe at Valhalla Holiday Faire

Sleeping With Strangers BookIt seems appropriate that my first book signing and in person sales of Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico will occur in Lake Tahoe where the whole hosting adventure began.

I will be one of the 30 vendors at the annual Valhalla Holiday Faire on Nov. 18-20.

In addition to selling and signing my latest book, I will also have copies of my outdoor books: Lake Tahoe Trails: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks, The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, and Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks.

More information about each book is available online and then click on Books on the upper right side.

All books may also be ordered at your local bookstore or online.

 

 

Event Details:

  • Date and time: Nov. 18 4:30-8pm; Nov. 19 10am-5pm; Nov. 20 10am-4pm
  • Location: 1 Valhalla Road, off Highway 89 on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe near Camp Richardson
  • Cost: Fair is free
  • Book prices: Range from $10 to $20. Cash, check or Venmo accepted.
  • Sale: Cosmetically challenged copies of Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons will be on sale for $15—a 25 percent discount.
Book review: Compilation of Hemingway’s writings captivate

Book review: Compilation of Hemingway’s writings captivate

Remember when paperbacks were much smaller and the type seemed microscopic?

I was given one of those books several years ago by someone in South Lake Tahoe who was sure I would love the book. He was an avid reader. Books were something we would discuss; mostly I listened because he read so much more than I.

The type was too little. I just couldn’t do it. And I tried more than once.

I finally decided to see if I could get an audio version. Success. It’s too bad Bill Crawford died a few years ago so I can’t thank him for the recommendation.

By-Line Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades (Scribner, 2003) was edited by William White.

It’s a selection of Ernest Hemingway’s writings from the 1920s to the mid-1950s. Most are his essays originally published in various newspapers and magazine in the United States. Some are about war, some about hunting and fishing, some about life abroad.

Most books that are a compilation take me some time to get through because one story does not necessarily build on the preceding one. It’s not like I’m eagerly waiting to find out what happens next, so to speak. Patience was worth it.

As White writes in the introduction, “As a reporter and foreign correspondent in Kansas City (before World War I), Chicago, Toronto, Paris, among the expatriates, the Near East, in Europe with the diplomats and statesmen, in Germany and Spain, Hemingway soaked up persons and places and life like a sponge: these were to become matter for his short stories and novels.”

Hemingway has been one of my favorite writers for years. But I can’t remember when I last read (or listened to) something he authored. This book was a wonderful history lesson of sorts, but it was also a delight to hear his words. His descriptors are off the charts colorful. I was reminded why I hold him in such high esteem as a writer.

 

Book signing and sales in Tahoe at Valhalla Holiday Faire

‘Sleeping with Strangers’ available in bookstores

When I started the Airbnb hosting gig in 2015 I never thought it would turn into a book. In fact, it took a while for the idea to even enter my mind.

Well, today, the book is a reality.

Sleeping With Strangers BookSleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico went on sale this week. You may order it at your local bookstore for $19.99. The book is also available online at these outlets: Bookshop, IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. It’s available as an ebook for $9.99.

I share my experiences of being a host in South Lake Tahoe, California, and Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Hopefully, it will have you laughing, scratching your heads, and possibly changing your behavior as a guest and/or host of a short-term rental.

I don’t hold back on what it was like to be a host, lauding the good guests, making a strong case for those I’d rather not see again—after all, one chapter is titled Don’t Come Back.

The homes themselves were completely different. In Tahoe it was a room in a single-family residence that was available to rent, while I stayed down the hall. In Mexico it was the bottom floor of a house that was rented, while I lived upstairs. But we did not share any indoor living space—not even the stairs.

Besides pulling back the covers on what life is like as an Airbnb host, I also share what it is like to live in these two diverse locations, making the book a bit of a travelogue.

This is my fourth book. The others are Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks ($20), Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks ($10), and The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes ($15).

I’ll be in Tahoe signing and selling all four books at the Valhalla Holiday Faire on the South Shore, Nov. 18-20. No fee to attend the fair. Cash, check, or Venmo accepted for the books at the fair. If I don’t see you there, I hope to see you at a future event.

Book Review: Biography about Sarah Winnemucca

Book Review: Biography about Sarah Winnemucca

The more I read, the more I realize I know so little about American Indian history. Their history is all of our history. That’s why it matters.

The problem is history has not been written from an objective point of view, let alone all points of view.

I probably would not have read “Sarah Winnemucca” (University of Nebraska Press, 2001) by Sally Zanjani had I not been given the opportunity to borrow a few books from a friend’s library. Her extensive collection is filled with books about and by women.

Sarah Winnemucca (1844-91) was a member of the Paiute tribe living in western Nevada.

She was revered and reviled by her own people as well as whites. She was a staunch advocate for her people, but she also married more than one white man. She was a believer in education and thought her people should learn English. This, too, was met with conflicting reactions.

Winnemucca was complex, which comes through in the book.

What also comes through clearly is the horrid treatment of Indians by the U.S. government, military and others. This obviously was not new to me. But how Zanjani wrote certain sections it drove home the turmoil in a more personal way with Winnemucca at the center of the strife.

One of the things I like about biographies is that they often are history books, too, because they delve into what was going on at the time—explaining how the person being written about fit into a particular time period.

Slowly, I’m gaining a better of understanding of the world before I was born, which helps me appreciate the continuing disparity of today.

 

Book Review: Riveting Hunter S. Thompson biography

Book Review: Riveting Hunter S. Thompson biography

Certain writers define their generation. Hunter S. Thompson was one of those people.

While plenty of people have dismissed Thompson because of his well-documented drug use and penchant to mix opinion with fact, the truth is he was a dynamic writer who had an ability to shine a light on politics in ways few people ever have.

Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism (Hatchette Book Group, 2018) is an interesting biography that is also a bit of a history lesson.

It’s been several years ago since I read many of Thompson’s books. Unfortunately, I did not hang onto them. I finally got tired of moving books so I’m starting over on my library. But that’s another story.

This story by Timothy Denevi about Thompson (1937-2005) is captivating because I learned so much more about the man. I learned how he understood the politics of his time almost in prophetic ways. His warnings about Richard Nixon fell on deaf ears. It made me wonder what Thompson would have written these last few election cycles.

This book is definitely for fans of Thompson’s or those who want to get to know him. Denevi includes plenty of examples of Thompson’s writings for readers to grasp Thompson’s unique style.

Denevi doesn’t make Thompson into a hero. All of his warts, idiosyncrasies and faults come shining through. This book felt authentic, just like Thompson’s writings.

Book Review: ‘Refraction’ illuminates life in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Book Review: ‘Refraction’ illuminates life in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

One thing I love about reading books is learning something I knew nothing about. Refraction: An Artic Memoir by Bruce Rettig did not disappoint.

In some ways Refraction is like a coming of age book. Isn’t that what college years are after all—a time to learn about so much more than what is delivered in a classroom.

For Rettig, part of his education and growth came during the four summers he spent in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, working for Arctic Marine Freighters, a division of Crowley Maritime. The company did work for oil companies.

It is his experiences during this time that fill the pages of his memoir.

It was as though I was transported to the desolate Artic outpost through Rettig’s words. I could feel the monotony of the industrial work, the depth of relationships, and visualize the desolate landscape through his words. His growth as a person is nearly palpable. As he learns about the area, this line of work and life so do readers.

The book kept getting better with each chapter. I kept wanting to know more, and Rettig was accommodating as his life’s story unfolded. Interwoven are the uncertainties that loomed because of the Cold War, as well as the challenges of being so far from family and friends, and questioning what he wanted to do after graduation. Interwoven in the stories are his questions about the environment, personal relationships and life in general.

“The personal connection forever changed how I viewed oil development in Alaska or anywhere else in the world. The words ‘Drill, baby, drill’ scorch my soul,” Rettig writes. After all, where he was working is the largest oil field in North America.

Many of the chapters start with a black and white photo that the Meyers resident took while in Alaska. They bring a stark a reality to the letters on the page.

Rettig started his Alaska work in 1982 as a grunt and finished his last season as one of the last to leave, doing a task in minus 40-degree weather.

As he said, “Living in such rugged territory is challenging and life-threatening.”

Tahoe residents will appreciate his references to the basin, while those with some history to the area will understand the significance to his mentioning MTBE and Shell Oil.

My main criticism is the title of the book. While it’s accurate and descriptive in a way, I’m not sure it is going to get someone to pick up the book. I hope I’m wrong because this is a book worth reading.

“Refraction” isn’t ready for the masses to consume. It is scheduled to be released Nov. 15 by Wayfarer Books, an Eco-Lit imprint of Homebound Publications. While it will be available online via large retailers, Rettig is a believer in buying locally and supporting independent bookstores.

Note: This book review first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Book review: Scary look at how religion is infiltrating U.S. politics

Book review: Scary look at how religion is infiltrating U.S. politics

I kept shaking my head in disbelief. I knew the separation of church and state at the federal level has been eroding, but I never knew to the extent that it was deliberately taking place.

Jeff Sharlet in The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008) is a riveting, scary, educational, thought-provoking must read for anyone who cares about the future of the United States. I’m serious.

I realize this book came out 14 years ago, but it was only this summer that I learned about it from a friend. Wow, just, wow. It explains so much.

Sharlet takes readers on a journey to the beginning of this secret, not so secret group of powerful people in Washington—mostly older, white men—who essentially groom younger white men to follow their beliefs. It’s about influencing others in power—right up the president.

What do they believe? Jesus. They believe Jesus is telling them what to do, how to govern, how to legislate. Jesus is the reason to ban abortions. Jesus is the reason homosexuals should not marry.

They don’t quote much from the bible. In fact, they have stripped down the bible to a tiny book that is just about Jesus.

Sharlet’s book is terrifying.

The Family is the group behind the annual prayer breakfast, an event that has been attended by every president starting with Eisenhauer. Those gatherings are a who’s who of power.

After finishing the book I watched The Family, a five-episode Netflix series on the same topic. It brings the topic up-to-date until its release in 2019.

While the book talked about the global influence The Family has, the TV program brought this out more vividly. John Ensign, the former U.S. senator from Nevada, is prominent in the Netflix version of this story.

The book and series complement each other well, but are interesting alone. I recommend reading the book (it’s hard to get through, so take your time and set it down if you have to) and then watch the documentary.

It’s important we all know what is going on. What to do about it, well, I’m still mulling that over. Knowing who you are voting for is a start.

Pin It on Pinterest