Travel is such a wonderful way to escape, to learn, to test one-self. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to live vicariously through others. That’s what I did by reading “Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul: Stories of Adventure, Inspiration and Insight to Celebrate the Spirit of Travel” (Health Communications, 2002).
This is a compilation of stories by a slew of writers. It was the perfect thing to read in April while I was mostly staying at home because of the coronavirus. It seemed like my attention span wasn’t great then; all the more reason this was good reading. Normally, a book of short stories or essays is not my preferred reading. This time it worked.
Some of the writers are household names like Maya Angelou and Charles Kuralt, while most are not. Details about the contributors are included in the back of the book.
What made the book interesting is these missives were non-traditional travel stories. That captured my attention even more. Some were sad—like the child killed in a random shooting. But the story is so touching in how his organs were donated. The family was traveling in Italy when this occurred. Another was about a woman traveling to Nicaragua. She took a picture of a woman and brought it to her after it was the developed. The woman wasn’t sure who she was in the picture. She’d never seen herself before—no previous photographs, no mirrors in her world.
In many ways these are slice of life stories. The writers often shared what we might take for granted as actually being a huge deal in someone else’s life. It’s about pausing to appreciate the nuances of life, of travel, and most of all the personal interactions with others.
Drug lords, murder, a U.S. presidential campaign, love, family intrigue – “Borderland” (Wildblue Press, 2017) has it all and then some.
Author Peter Eichstaedt weaves a tale in this novel that while at times is formulaic, at other times offers unexpected plot twists. It is a fast read about life on the border. But it’s so much more than that. The main character is drawn back to the U.S.-Mexico border where he grew up after his father is killed. His newspaper editor in Washington, D.C., allows him the freedom to pursue this personal story.
While Eichstaedt has the credentials as a journalist to write such a story to make it believable, the book could have used better editing.
It was hard to read this after having read his book “Dangerous Divide,” which I so enjoyed. It was a true story looking at U.S.-Mexico border issues. Then again, I prefer nonfiction over fiction. For those who like murder mysteries, “Borderland” is sure to please.
The novel coronavirus forced the cancellation of all of my spring book signings. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get a signed copy of any of my books. Even better, I am waving the postage through July 2020.
For those who would like a signed copy, email me at email@example.com with “want a book” in the subject line. The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes is $15, Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks is $10 and Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks is $20. The latter is a combination of the hiking and snowshoe books. All books are available at local bookstores and other retail outlets. If it’s not in stock, bookstores can order them.
To find out more about my books, join in the remote presentation on June 24 at 5pm sponsored by the Truckee Library. Register online in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the presentation. The talk will be about hiking and snowshoeing in the greater Lake Tahoe area.
“The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” took me on an unexpected journey. Perhaps it touched me more as I keep hearing of stories of how music is helping bring people together during the pandemic.
This book by Mitch Albom (HarperCollins Publishers, 2016) is told from the perspective of music. Music is a talent who chooses certain people at birth, at least according to the author. It’s up to the person to develop the talent and do as they wish with it.
The main character, Frankie Presto, is an orphan in Spain. His life intersects with those of many famous musicians—Elvis, Darlene Love, Duke Ellington, Kiss, Tony Bennett and so many others.
Albom proves everyone will join a band. “As life goes on, you will join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage, or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you will play a distinct part, and it will affect you as much as you affect it. And, as is usually the fate with bands, most of them will break up—through distance, differences, divorce, or death.”
While this is a work of fiction, it is believable in how the power of music could take hold of those have been touched by this talent whether they possess it or are listeners who appreciate it. The book is multidimensional with the story of the boy who becomes a man, his families, the world at that time and human behavior.
It would be hard to find anyone who would say getting outdoors is bad for you. I have three books that will help you explore the greater Lake Tahoe area.
On June 24 at 5pm the Truckee Library is hosting a remote presentation via Zoom about these books. Register online in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the presentation. The talk will include information about The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks, and the combo of the two — Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks.
The books are available at local bookstores and other retail outlets. If it’s not in stock, bookstores can order them. For those who would like a signed copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “want a book” in the subject line. The hiking book is $15, snowshoe is $10 and the combo is $20.
Sobering and alarming are two of the words that came to mind as I kept reading “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It” (Island Press, 2009).
While I don’t know what all has happened in the world of water in the intervening 11 years, I do know it is still a crisis. While the book is about what is going on in the United States, this is a global issue. Water is a limited resource that so many people take for granted.
Author Robert Glennon delves into nearly every facet of water, not just the obvious farming and municipal water uses. Still, he says, “Our existing water law tolerates both wasteful irrigation and mind-numbing sprawl.”
Almost every region of the country is part of the book, exposing just how widespread the concerns are.
Glennon doesn’t hold back when writing about the link between water and energy, how ethanol is a boondoggle, and that wastewater management needs to be overhauled. He talks about how much water is needed for technology. All of the facts and figures are mind-numbing.
This isn’t a quick read. There is so much information in here. That, though, is what makes it a must-read. This is important stuff. The details in the book are things we all need to know and need to be thinking about. It’s time to rethink our relationship water; reading this book is a good first-step to doing so.
Migrant is the last word Lydia ever thought she would use to describe herself. She owned a bookshop in Acapulco, Mexico, while her husband was a respected journalist. Together they were raising their 8-year-old son in a middle class home.
An article about a cartel boss was met with a barrage of bullets that ended that tranquility and forever changed their lives.
“American Dirt” is a novel by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron Books, 2019) that tells the story of several people migrating from Central America and Mexico to the United States. While it’s a work of fiction, there are enough truths to be disturbing.
I was invited to make a guest appearance at my old book club in Tahoe last month. They are doing them by Zoom instead of in-person for the time being. Each participant rates the book for enjoyability, if they would recommend it, and literary merit. Of the 12 there that night each category averaged 7.8. My scores were 8 for enjoyability, 8 to recommend and 7 for literary merit.
Comments from the group were:
It’s a page-turner.
I learned a lot.
I was so afraid the whole time even though you know it is fiction.
I thought it was very informational.
I didn’t enjoy it; it was miserable, sad and devastating. I’ll read the news for this kind of information, not a novel.
I think it’s an important novel to know what is going on.
I didn’t realize it was fiction until I finished it.
I would rather read about someone who actually experienced it.
I’ve already passed it on to four other friends because I can’t return it to the library.
This book was very difficult for me to pick up every night because of all the angst in the world.
Cookbooks aren’t just for learning new recipes. They can be picture books, history books and so much more. Such is the case with “Not Food for Old Men: A Mexican Culinary Adventure” (Sime Books, 2015).
While it has expected chapters like Salad, Soups, and Tacos; Seafood; and Desserts and Cocktails, there are also sections about whale watching, all of the chefs who contributed to the book and more. The book includes how singer Jim Morrison was a regular visitor to Ensenada. I now know the Caesar salad was first created by chef Livo Santini at the Hotel Cesar in Tijuana.
The disappointing section was on the Hotel California in Todos Santos. It says the Eagles song by the same name is about this lodging establishment. That is completely wrong. The Eagles sued the Todos Santos hotel for trademark infringement. The lawsuitwas settled in 2018. Hopefully, future editions of the cookbook will set the record straight.
The cookbook was part of a package I “won” as the high bidder at the Gastrovino event a year ago this month. While there are not a ton of recipes I would use because of being a vegetarian, I’m still not sure I’m ready to pass the book on. Often I can substitute meat/fish for something else like tofu or a portabella mushroom. Mexican spices, sauces and all those peppers are delicious. Plus, there are a few drinks I’d like to try like the Kiwi-Jalapeno Margarita.
While I didn’t read every recipe, all are in Spanish and English. Most of the translations are good, and when they weren’t, I could figure it out. For instance, one place it says to strain things in cilantro when it should have been a colander.
The photographs are outstanding. More have to do with scenes in Baja than the food. All are inspirational to get one cooking cuisine from Mexico.