World’s End by T.C. Boyle
Ever so often I come across a book that’s big enough and good enough that I never seem to finish it. I carried this book around for the better part of a month and was sad when I finally finished it. I picked it up at a yard sale because the back cover told of a protagonist haunted by ghosts of family members and forebearers. As someone obsessed with genealogy, I’ve often felt the same way pouring through old records and stories looking for parallels between my life and those of my ancestors. The book centers around a troubled man named Walter, fresh out of college in 1960’s New York state. The book tells two narratives that slowly come together, and finally merge at the end of the world, in Barrow Alaska. Walter finds himself haunted by waking visions of ancestors that appear around a life-altering accident. He sets off in search of answers but meets every roadblock imaginable. The search for answers reveals links to many of the novel’s characters whose families populated the region for centuries. He seems constantly stuck between forces, those of his free-wheeling radical friends and his stuffy suit-and-tie job, between his life that’s on hold and the visions from the past he can’t seem to shake. Parallel to the story of Walter is the story of his ancestors, who once lived in the same place as him, when New York was still a Dutch settlement. Their troubled lives, plagued by strange happenings and betrayals give insight into the lives of their descendants, far into the future. Watching the dueling narratives finally come together was thrilling. The book is wonderfully well written, well paced and completely worth the month’s worth of reading it took to finish it.
The Art of Non-Conformity – Set Your Own Rules – Live the Life You Want and Change the World by Chris Guillebeua
I was drawn to this book mostly because of the title. but felt an immediate spark upon realizing the author had some of the same values and experiences as I do. He writes about quitting the “traditional” workforce at 20 and seeking self employment, valuing entrepreneurship over monotony and busy work. He questions the established paths towards education (high school, college and graduate school) and sets forth a focused and economical plan for self-education. Honestly the chapter “Graduate School vs. The Blogosphere” is one the things that finally encouraged me to start this blog. The book focuses on the importance on building a life that is worthwhile and focused on work that is fulfilling and leaves a legacy. It challenges the reader to fight authority, question convention, travel as a means to grow and make the world a better place.
The Big Tiny – A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams
To anyone who reads about tiny houses regularly, Dee Williams is a name that comes up often as an influence or source of inspiration. I ordered this book a few weeks ago while busy thinking about tiny houses. I was hoping it would provide some insight. I was surprised by just how easily I related to the author and her experiences falling in love with the tiny house community. The book follows her battle with an unforeseen illness, search for “Tiny House Man” (spoiler, it’s Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed fame), tiny house build and adjustment to a pared down life. She writes often of the simple joys she found in the tiny life and the process leading up to it, such as quality time with friends, meeting neighbors and appreciating and feeling connected to the changing seasons. In the book Dee approaches the tiny house idea with enthusiasm but a normal sense of trepidation, only to find many unexpected benefits of a simpler and happier life. For anyone considering downsizing or seeking happiness through simplicity, this book would be a good read.