Beyond Bestsellers: Metaphorical Journeys

by Marina M.

A journey starts with a single page . . .

As happens with many people that read a lot (or anything at all, really), I find that some books make a difference in my life. They take me on a journey, if you will. Not a physical or literal journey. More metaphorical. Where I’m given a new perspective on a topic.

Take, for instance, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. I was very young when it happened and I don’t remember anything firsthand. Not the haze of the ash covering the state. (Although, current weather conditions seem to be comparable.) Not the mishandling of warnings by politicians and local officials. Not the unfortunate deaths of those unaware that impending danger was actually . . . impending. Except for the stories that everybody knows about Harry Truman and his adamant stance on not leaving his home. But in his book, Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, author Steve Olson not only details the immediate events leading up to the eruption but he goes into the history of the Weyerhaeuser Company (which, if you grew up walking through the woods as much as I did as a kid you know that name and how to pronounce it) as well as the history behind the National Parks, National Forests and/or National Monuments of that region. And my bonus takeaway? The narrator of the audiobook was able to pronounce the location names correctly!


I’m just here for the food . . .

Another book that influenced me is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, where she, her husband and their daughter lived a year eating from just what they produced at home and could acquire locally. While I haven’t gone so far as to grind my own flour I have taken a closer look at what I can produce in my yard seasonally. Until recently, I had a small flock of chickens and ducks for eggs, but I continue to maintain a vegetable garden and have several fruit trees and berry bushes on my property.

Devoured by Sophie Egan is another food related book that has helped evolve my eating style. Similar to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Egan discusses the practices of Americans and their big meals and counters with healthy snacking to prevent a huge intake of calories in one sitting. She also brings a little bit of food problems (Velveeta shortages?), bizarre food crazes (Doritos Locos Tacos, anybody?), some food history, and a discussion of eating habits. No sad desk lunches for me!

. . . and the puppy kisses

The last book I want to share that has given me a fresh perspective is Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey. Now, I’m not one to hold anything against a dog because of its type. Well, not generally. However, if you asked me to be completely honest I’d admit that I’m not a fan of the little dogs. Not a specific breed of little dogs just little dogs in general. I already almost step on my big dogs, I can’t imagine the damage I’d do with a little dog underfoot. Anyway, I was looking into adopting another dog and after two poodle mixes (standard poodles!) in a row I thought why not something different. Growing up, with the exception of a sheltie (I know, a small-ish dog), we always had some sort of big sporting dog or sporting dog mix. Several Lab mixes, a Brittany, the poodle mixes (Poodles originated in Germany as water retrievers). But after watching several seasons of Pit Bulls and Parolees I was becoming enamored with the resilience and inherent forgiveness of the pit bull type. Ms. Dickey’s book gave me some historical perspective, as well as an equal look at both sides of the current debate over the bully dogs. Needless to say, a few months after reading this book I became the proud adopter of a pit bull mix.

How about you? What true life books have shaped a part of your life?

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3 responses to “Beyond Bestsellers: Metaphorical Journeys”

  1. Kathy S says:

    “Guns, Germs and Steel”, “1491”, “Salt: A world history” and “Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science”, all changed my view of the world.

    • Marina says:

      Those are some powerful books, Kathy. Thanks for sharing! I’ve had Kurlansky’s Salt on my list for a while (because who doesn’t like salt!) and I do enjoy most books having to do with food and history so Sugar Changed the World sounds fascinating.

    • Erin says:

      “1491” was an eye opener. I did not know that Native American (North and South) technology was so sophisticated. One take away I got was the concept that soft technologies like textiles etc. can be just as sophisticated as hard technologies that we usually associate with advanced cultures but textiles deteriorate faster so don’t leave as much evidence of the civilization.

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