Just in time for hibernating for the winter, I'm offering my reviews and recommendations for three books - books which, if I were able, I'd buy for every reading person I know. These are books I want to thrust in front of people: Read this! Read this! You must read this! No, really - you must! You. will. love. it.
Wherever Waters Flow: a Lifelong Love Affair With Wild Rivers by Doug Woodward
I admit I first bought this book because Doug is an unschooling Dad. I missed his book reading while at an unschooling gathering, but figured I wanted to support an unschooler, so before the end of the campout, I purchased a copy. Hmm... kayaking? Not for me. I don't like to be wet and cold, wet undies make me cranky, and I don't like the thought of hurtling through rapids in a lightweight craft that could decide to dump me out at any minute. But, you know... I like Doug pretty well. That night, I couldn't sleep, so I picked up the book, angling it in my hands to catch the shaft of moonlight coming in the window of the cabin. I figured a few paragraphs should be enough to put me out. Two hours, and many contortions to keep moonlight on page later, I reluctantly put the book down to get some sleep.
Woodward, known as one of the founding fathers of kayaking in the Southeast, lured me in with his stories of seemingly impossible survival, and his obvious love for the water he writes about. Stories of building kayaks in the basement, trying new waterways, and being enthralled with it all. His love and gentle spirit shine through the book, making the book more than the sum of its stories... though the stories are plentiful!
Stories of helping the crew of Deliverance find the right spots and film the whitewater scenes in that movie - and ending up as a stunt double. Woodward writes, ""James Dickey changed my life. I met him only once." Doesn't that make you want to read more?
Stories of teaching Jimmy Carter to kayak, stories of first descents, and indeed, stories of friends lost to the river. This is a beautiful, beautiful book. When I finished, I immediately turned to the first page so I could begin it again. This is me, holding this book out to you, saying, "Read it! Read it! Really!"
Who should get this book: Any water enthusiasts - kayaking, canoeing, swimming - or anyone who's ever even tried. Anyone who enjoys rivers for any reason. Any fan of the movie or book Deliverance, or fan of James Dickey. Any nature-lovers. Unschoolers, or homeschoolers. Anyone interested in living off the grid. Anyone who loves a good story. You.
Dixie Lullaby: a Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South by Mark Kemp
Another book that took me by surprise! I had read a few reviews, and I was a little interested because I was familiar with Mark's writing, but... it sounded like a music geek's book to me, not a book that I'd be overly taken by. But from the first page of the preface, where Kemp details learning about the desegregation of his elementary school, I could not put this book down. A harmonious weaving of the political that is personal and the music that sings to the heart of both, Dixie Lullaby took me on a ride through the 60s and 70s as seen through Kemp's childhood reminiscences and the perspective that adulthood brings, on through the 80s & 90s to the early 2000s.
Finding correlations and relationship between his own view of the South, and the music that was made here, I was struck the entire time I was reading it by Mark's heartfelt love for both. Mark has a fine, fine mind and way of thinking that even someone not familiar with this music will appreciate. He successfully intertwines his own story of using and recovery, and making peace with his father into the narrative.
If I could, I would sit in your living room and read this book aloud to you. It is beautiful. Halfway through, I started making myself slow down, so the book could last longer. It's that good. I didn't want it to be over!
Who should get this book: Anyone raised in the 60s & 70s. Anyone from the South, or who knows someone from the South. Any fan of The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, R.E.M or Drive-By Truckers. Anyone who loves music of any kind. Fans of Rolling Stone, or Option. Anyone who's been moved by a song. Anyone affected by segregation or desegregation. You.
Last but not least
Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally by Patti Digh
Oh, where do I begin? I found Patti through her blog, 37 Days. I kept reading references to it on other blogs, until I finally clicked over, read my first post there, and was hooked. I became a fan. When I heard Patti was creating a book that included 37 of the essays from her blog, I immediately knew I wanted a copy. Her amazingly wondrous, moving, challenging essays in a form I could carry around with me? Sign me up!
I was so happy to get the book when it came out - and I found there were exercises after each essay, to help you take action to integrate the point of the writing. I have had friends tell me this book has changed their life. Knowing Patti, and reading her essays, has changed mine.
Patti's writing helps me to be present, fully present, with the people around me. In her preface, she writes that we'll learn "how to know what to care about, how to treat others around you (and yourself), what to question, how to love, what to stand up for, and why you should tell stories and listen to the stories of others." Her writing is personal and helps bring the sacred to the surface of nearly any exchange.
Call me, and I'll read an essay to you over the phone, and keep reading until my throat is dry and words won't come any more. Read. this. book!
Who should get this book: Anyone wishing to live more authentically. Anyone facing death. (and, let's face it, we all are) Anyone facing life. (ditto) Anyone going through a hard time. Anyone exceedingly happy. Anyone wishing to connect more. Anyone with friends, or family, or self. You.
This wasn't deliberate - I just noticed it! - but all three authors happen to be North Carolinians. Go, NC!! Let a little of our Carolina sunshine into your winter days, get these books, huddle under your covers, then let me know what you thought. I know you'll love them.