"They have been on the move for the past half-year or so now, starting from their longtime home in the downstairs closet, on to my desk, then to my office floor, upstairs into another closet, back down next to my desk, then back upstairs. I am supposed to get rid of them; Amy almost has more than once. But so far, I have not been able to. Just when I feel I’m ready to immortalize them in picture, and maybe words, one final time before parting, something comes up and back they go. It’s not like I can’t let them go, or won’t — I will. I just haven’t yet. Part of it is procrastination, yes, but part of it, I know, is reluctance to let go, broken down and nearly lifeless as they are now.
These are my Montrail Moraines, the first pair of real hiking boots I ever owned in the Pacific Northwest. Before picking these up, I was scraping by with an old pair of Doc Martens patched on the soles with rubber cement. A picture from 16 years ago shows Amy and me relishing the chill wind and incredible view over Lake Tahoe from atop Mount Tallac, and there on my feet are those old Docs.
But when we came to Oregon in late 1997 and figured we’d stay awhile, hike around, explore, maybe even climb a little, we needed boots. Real boots. Sixteen years ago, before houses and kids and all of the real grown-up stuff, these are the ones that I went with. Without personifying them too much, these are the ones that subsequently went with me — or, rather, took me where I wanted to go.”
Read the rest of Jon Bell’s original essay on the Powells.com blog: http://powells.us/12qKoHa
"Travel and reading go so well together — people just have more time to read while traveling, and the freedom to read whatever they like. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few books I tend to foist upon people whenever I have the chance. For the most part they have nothing to do with travel, or walking, but even so:
Laird Hunt: I was just telling someone about Hunt yesterday, in fact. He’s a Boulder, Colorado–based writer whose dreamy, semi-experimental novels aren’t quite like anything else I’ve read. I recommend starting with Indiana, Indiana, but all of his books, including his new novel, Kind One, are strange and wonderful.
Steve Aylett: Aylett is a British writer who, again, doesn’t sound like anyone else I’ve ever read. He produces some of the most compressed sentences ever made — there are zero wasted words. My favorites of his are The Crime Studio, one of his earliest books set in the maddening hardboiled city of Beerlight, and Fain the Sorcerer.
Kelly Link: Kelly is probably much better known than Hunt or Aylett, but I still think not enough people read her, mostly because I think everybody should read her. Fans of Aimee Bender will love her (although fans of Aimee Bender probably already know about her). Try Pretty Monsters. She’s amazing.
Rory Stewart, The Places In Between: OK, this one actually is a walking book. I recommend it frequently. Stewart, a British writer and politician, walked across Afghanistan in 2002 and wrote about his journey here. It was a massive undertaking, and the book is a really great read.”
The first thing you discover when you write a guidebook is this: You are wrong about everything.
I’ve spent the past several years updating travel guides. It quickly becomes apparent that whoever wrote the previous edition of the book you’re working on was an idiot, even (especially) if that person was you.
This is partly because of the inconvenient fact that books take a long time to publish, and places change quickly. A guidebook’s shelf life may be three or four years, so anything wrong stays wrong for a while. People will write in to let me know the ferry tickets cost two dollars more than the book says, or that there is no crayfish risotto on the menu, and the Rauschenberg goat sculpture is not in the middle of the room or even in that museum at all. This is of course very helpful.
Then there’s the other kind of wrong, when the author’s perception of a place simply doesn’t match the reader’s. One person’s adorable B&B is another’s floral nightmare. Where you see an edgy, no-frills dive bar, somebody else sees the bathroom in Trainspotting. (It is also wrong to use the words “edgy” and “no-frills.” “Floral” is OK.) Heisenberg figures in, too, sometimes: by observing and describing a thing, you’ve magically added it to the backpacker trail, and now it’s ruined.
Making a guidebook, in other words, is — at least for the moderately neurotic author — an acute lesson in the impossibility of capturing “truth” or “fact” in writing, of ever really communicating a vision or experience, never mind a sense of what the food is like. The second you record a fact it squirms away, becomes a fiction.
Becky Ohlsen is guest-blogging at Powells.com all week: http://powells.us/11PB7Z1
Five books related to the young adults in your life, and the issues they care about:
• Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu
This is one of the most important books I’ve read recently. It’s about being gay and Christian in America, by one of the most intelligent, sensitive, unflinching, and gifted writers around. It gets to the heart of one of the most difficult conversations we need to have in this country about sexual identity and faith — a topic that is a huge concern to so many of the college students I meet around the U.S., and to me, too.
• Feed by M. T. Anderson
If you have not read this novel, you are depriving yourself of one of the most chilling portraits of the potential negative effects of technology and its relationship to consumer culture ever written. It is more than a must. It’s practically prophetic. The author is absolutely brilliant, and he’s been awarded with more than one National Book Award nomination for his ability to weave that brilliance into a compelling novel that gets to the heart of some of the most important and difficult topics that face us today — and does so fearlessly.
• Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith
Yes, it’s a publication of findings from a major study so, no, it’s not the easiest read, but it’s really good stuff. It provides super-excellent research on attitudes about faith and spirituality among young adults in America, and I recommend it highly. Whether or not the young adults in your life admit it openly, they care deeply about spirituality and religion, and it’s important to pay attention to this subject in their lives.
• Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
A must-read in thinking about gender, girls, women, and the state of “feminism” today — as it’s been hijacked by people who don’t know a thing about feminism. Levy’s writing is courageous and smart, and she gets to the heart of one of the depressing realities of today’s girls and women — that somehow, what Levy calls “raunch” has come to be associated as “feminist” — and wrongly so.
• Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus by Kathleen A. Bogle
This is an excellent introduction to hooking up — what it is, and how it shows up on college campuses today — by a top-notch sociologist, and someone who cares deeply about young people, too.
Read the rest of our Q&A with Donna Freitas here: http://powells.us/10xq2ZV