Books about walking

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Hibernation season has decidedly arrived and as the cold settles in and raindrops hit the windows, I’m happy to live vicariously from the comfort of my sofa, while I wait for the right season to pull on my hiking shoes and go for a long walk. Here is a short list of books about walking to accompany you in these cold months.

Wild – Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed’s beautiful memoir of how walking can lead you back to yourself in times of deep loss and grief.  It doesn’t sugarcoat the experience of long-term hiking, and it’s funny, desperately sad and hopeful all rolled in one.

Walking: One step at a time – Erling Kagge

I read this book in Italian, I was drawn to its title which is translated as ‘Camminare – un gesto sovversivo’, meaning ‘Walking – a subversive act’,  and therefore appealed to the rebellious part of me. It’s a poetic ode to walking on a day-to-day and a reminder of how slowing down and walking is a powerful way of resisting being pulled into the vortex of ever-increasing speed.

Walking to listen – Andrew Forsthoefel

The true story of how Andrew set out to cross the US by foot and actively listen to people’s stories. He shares stories from people from all walks of life, races, ages, who were generous on his way.  I enjoyed how it reveals a lot about privilege and how stereotypes are put to the test when we realise we are all simply humans trying to live our best lives.

Without ever reaching the summit – Paolo Cognetti

Cognetti’s account of his hike at the foot of the Himalayan mountains makes you feel you are right there with him. I like this book because with no intention of conquering the summit it is focussed on just experiencing the landscape at 4-5000 meters, observing its nature and wildlife, and describing the inhabitants and the human connection born on such a trip.

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Putting together this post, I took a dive in my photography archive to look for some relevant pictures from when I was walking the Camino along the Northern coast of Spain.  Just looking at these photos I am drawn back to the remote places along the path, I can feel the weight of my backpack, the exhilaration of having no other task than to walk 6 to 8 hours a day and the repeated joy of overlooking an amazing landscape after an upwards climb.

 

Not-quite-end-of-year book recommendations

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The first snow has made its appearance in Amsterdam this weekend, and it is the perfect weather for cupping a warm cup of tea with two hands with a good book in my lap. It’s not quite time to review the statistics about all this year’s reading, so for now I’ll just share three recommendations from the last months, as inspiration to read during the cosy evenings of the Christmas holidays!

All the birds, singing – Evie Wyld

I came across this book at the library by chance and it kept me in its grip for the few days I spent reading it.  The story telling is well done and you can really feel the heat of the Australian bush as if you were there. It brought back very clear memories of a trip we took with my family over 25 years ago to a farm in Australia where we saw sheep being sheared, it’s amazing how those images remain ingrained in some deep corner of the brain after all those years!

Tattoos on the heart: the power of boundless compassion – Gregory Boyle

I found this book in a little free library, and though it is written by a pastor it is not at all the ‘religious’ as I thought it may be. This book will warm your heart. It is a bundle of anecdotes from Father Gregory’s time working in Los Angeles in a neighbourhood with high gang activity and his amazing project to find concrete solutions.  It’s a powerful mix of down-to-earth, hilarious stories and deep reflection about hope and how to value every single person whatever their situation. It’s inspiring to read about the effects of acknowledging our common humanity and approaching it with unconditional love.

Vox – Christina Dalcher

This is the latest book we are reading in our book club (great suggestion by Paolo!), about a world very similar to ours, except women can only say maximum 100 words a day, after which they receive an electroshock for every extra word.  The frustration and anxiety you feel just reading about such a situation is a serious reminder of how precious our voices are and a powerful call to activism.

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Previous book recommendations: books I enjoyed lately, books about creativity, non-fiction books, discovering new voices.

Discovering new voices

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Last year in the context of work, I discovered the power of data-driven decisions and started to apply it in other spheres of my life.  In 2017, I aimed to read more books and watch less series, so I started to count and make a list of the books I had read.  Half-way through the year, though I was happy to be progressing on my goal to read more, I realised a large proportion of those books were written by men.

While there is nothing wrong with books written by men, I strive for equality so I decided to balance out the trend. I paid closer attention and consciously chose books written by women, as well as looking out for some voices that were new to me, and in the end, 43,6% of the 39 books I read were by women authors.

Now for 2018 I plan that at least 56,4% of the books I read are written by women.  I’ll report back on how it is going throughout the year:)

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Here are some of my favorite books written by women from my 2017 readings, perfect for curling up on the couch in these days of icy cold weather:

A little life – Hanya Yanagihara

This is one of the best books I read last year.  I keep coming back to the story and its characters who I couldn’t help but care for deeply and their relationships.  Utterly heartbreaking and not for the faint-hearted (there are images of abuse and violence that I still find difficult to shake off today).

The buddha in the attic – Julie Otsuka

The story of Japanese picture brides who moved to the United States in the 1900s. I really enjoyed how their stories are told anonymously and at the same time so personally. It was gripping and fascinating as I had never heard of this part of history.

New people – Danzy Senna

A modern love story about racial identity and figuring out what one really wants in life. I enjoyed the sneak peek into a Brooklyn lifestyle in the 90s and got caught up in the shenanigans of Maria, the main character whose behaviour is both mindboggling and completely relatable.

Salvage the bones – Jesmyn Ward

Day to day life of a family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. So beautifully written and poetic. The characters are great and you really feel like you are there with them.