Book Review: The grandma who made the Appalachian Trail famous

Book Review: The grandma who made the Appalachian Trail famous

Walking more than 2,000 miles in tennis shoes, camping without a sleeping bag or tent, no stove to cook food, no GPS. None of that mattered to Emma Gatewood.

Well, it mattered to some extent, but the lack of what we would consider necessary provisions to hike the Appalachian Trail didn’t deter her.

Her story comes to life in the book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (Chicago Review Press Incorporated, 2014) by Ben Montgomery.

Gatewood at age 67 became the first woman to through hike the Appalachian Trail. This was in 1955.

This year marks 50 years since she died. And this is the first time I have heard about her. She got a glancing, unflattering mention in Bill Bryson’s book A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America On The Appalachian Trail. I didn’t remember it until Montgomery mentioned it.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk just keeps getting better. The abuse at the hands of her husband was necessary to understood some of the obstacles that Gatewood overcame. I’m glad I pushed through that part. I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first.

But the first is necessary to understand Gatewood. After all, this isn’t a book just about the trail. It’s about Gatewood and her experiences on the trail, as well as what was going on in the world during her excursion. That makes it a bit of history piece, too.

She is credited with bringing worldwide attention to the trail that goes from Georgia to Maine. Now thousands of hikers do part or all of the Appalachian Trail each year.

Anyone who has an interest in hiking is bound to enjoy this read.

‘Sleeping with Strangers’ book reading in S. Lake Tahoe

‘Sleeping with Strangers’ book reading in S. Lake Tahoe

Everyone seems to have an opinion about vacation rentals. But what is it actually like to live in the same house with these travelers?

Sleeping With Strangers BookI answer that question and so many others in my latest book Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico.

I will be speaking Jan. 24 at 5:30pm at the South Lake Tahoe Library (1000 Rufus Allen Blvd.) as a guest of the local chapter of Friends of the Library. The event is free.

After the reading I will be selling and signing books. Sleeping with Strangers is $20. I will also have copies of my other books 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). Cash or Venmo will be accepted.

If you can’t make it to the South Lake Tahoe Friends of the Library event, the books are available at various locations throughout the greater Lake Tahoe area, can be ordered through your favorite bookstore, or purchased online.

Book Review: Stasiland captures life behind the Berlin Wall

Book Review: Stasiland captures life behind the Berlin Wall

What happens when everything you know no longer exists? What happens when you had control and now you are on the wrong side of history?

In Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (HarperCollins, 2002) author Anna Funder answers those questions to some extent. Mostly she delves into the lives of some of those who worked for the Stasi, the secret police in the former East Germany, as well as ordinary citizens.

This book was captivating. It made me think.

My friend, Penny, told me about the book after she made a trip to Germany last year. My only trip to Germany was in 1990. Part of the Berlin Wall still existed, and I was able to chisel off a few pieces.

But that doesn’t mean my understanding of the two Germanys is great. This book actually made me want to learn more. After all, East Germany was not a country for long—from 1949 to 1990.

What Stasiland reveals are the struggles of the people, the corruption of not-so-secret police agency, and the beliefs of those who lived in East Germany when the wall was built and what happened to them when it came down.

It’s not a political book. It’s a history book by way of the subject matter, but it is not a deep, theoretical boring dive into this time period.

It’s a book about people. That’s what makes it so interesting. Real life people telling their stories, their experiences. Funder weaves them all together in a manner that makes sense and certainly kept my attention.

North State Public Radio and Sleeping with Strangers

North State Public Radio and Sleeping with Strangers

The fact I have a new book out is not news. But what exactly is Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico all about?

To find out more details about the book listen to this interview on North State Public Radio with Nancy Wiegman, host of Nancy’s Bookshelf. 

Even if you have read the book, you will likely find the interview interesting.

The book is available at your local bookstore and online.


Book Review: ‘Vanishing Half’–Choosing A Different Life

Book Review: ‘Vanishing Half’–Choosing A Different Life

Becoming someone else. We’ve all probably thought about it, if just fleetingly.

But what would the consequences be?

Stella and Desiree Vignes are twin sisters who grew up in a small town in Louisiana where the lighter skin you had the better. But no matter how light they were, the fact they were whatever percentage Black still made them Black in the eyes of the law and society. Well, that is until one passed.

The Vanishing Half (Penguin Random House, 2020) by Brit Bennett is the story of these sisters and the other people who are close to them. One decides to cross over—claiming to be white, while the other finds the darkest man she can to marry. The book spans the 1950s to the 1990s.

While this is a work of fiction, it’s easy to imagine people choosing the lives the sisters each picked. The other characters are also believable, which makes the story plausible. Still, something about it truly read like the fiction it is.

It took me twice to get into the audio book. Like any book, sometimes you have to be in the right mindset. So it was with this one. But once I got hooked I was glad I kept listening.

Book Review: ‘Being Mortal’ proves medicine needs compassion

Book Review: ‘Being Mortal’ proves medicine needs compassion

No one can avoid death. So, why then, is it so hard to talk about it?

A large part has to do with how the medical community approaches the end of a person’s life.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being,” writes Atul Gawande in his book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Metropolitan Books, 2014).

Too often doctors promote treatments that don’t really extend a person’s life, and certainly don’t help with the quality of it. They don’t listen to what is important to the patient.

Gawande, who is a surgeon, takes readers on the evolution of him understanding his role as a care-giver should go beyond the scalpel. The merits of palliative and hospice care come into clear focus.

What makes the book compelling are the stories about the people he interacted with, including his father. Reading about the difficult, yet, necessary conversations between patients and doctors, and patient and families made me think about the conversations I have had and the ones I haven’t had.

The book also delves into how nursing homes and assisted living places came into being.

This is a book everyone should read because we are all going to die and we all know someone who will go before us.

In some ways it is depressing. Death always seems to invoke that emotion, so how could a book all about the end of life not at least be sobering.

I thank my friend, Sally, for telling me about this book. It was hard to read at times, but I feel like I am more aware for having done so.

‘Sleeping with Strangers’ book reading in S. Lake Tahoe

Book signing, free beer tasting in Todos Santos

Life is about pairings. What could be better than books and beer?

I will be signing copies of my latest book Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico on Dec. 9 from 4-6pm at El Tecolote Bookstore in Todos Santos.

Sleeping With Strangers BookEach sells for $20 or 400 pesos.

In the courtyard where I’ll be signing there will be free Moschcat Beer tastings. Moschcat is a Baja artisanal brewery. Taste the new Ultra Lager and Vienna Lager.

Militar Galleria next door to El Tecolote will be having an artist’s reception the same day from 4-8pm for Terryl Tagg. Her work will be paired with wine.

El Tecolote is on H. Colegio Militar, very close to the corner of Alvaro Obregon. It’s next to El Refugio restaurant.

If you miss the book signing, El Tecolote will keep stocking the book, or it may be ordered at your favorite bookstore outside of Todos Santos, or online. And Moschcat, it will soon be available on shelves in local stores, restaurants and bars throughout Baja Sur. Track the venues online.

Book Review: ‘Engineer’s Wife’ not on solid footing

Book Review: ‘Engineer’s Wife’ not on solid footing

Historical fiction can fluster me because I’m often wondering what is true and what isn’t—especially when I know little or nothing about the topic. Sometimes I have to tell myself to go along for the ride, so to speak.

Such was the case with The Engineer’s Wife (Sourcebooks, 2020) by Tracey Enerson Wood. In this instance, she reveals key truths and bits of fiction at the end, so that was helpful, informative and a bit disturbing.

Two of the main characters are real—Emily, the engineer’s wife, really did finish the building of the bridge when her husband got ill. P.T. Barnum is also a real person. But what was so alarming is that the author essentially has these two become romantically involved and that never happened in real life. To me, this was too much literary license.

The book is about how the Brooklyn Bridge in New York got built, which was interesting. It’s easy to take for granted things that are already in place. It’s a marvel how so much has been created without the technology or tools of the 21st century.

But there is so much more to the book than learning some of the details of how such an iconic bridge came to be. It’s about women’s rights, it’s about relationships, it’s about war.

The book starts during the Civil War and concludes with the completion of the bridge. That really isn’t giving too much away.

In the middle of the book it seemed to drag on a bit, but I’m glad I pushed through. Most of the time I was eager for more to see how the story would develop. In the end, though, I was left with mixed feelings about the book. My mom, on the other hand, recommends it—which mostly has to do with her fondness for the Brooklyn Bridge and having been an engineer’s wife.

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