If you are going to tell your mom a story about how you shared a conversation with a drunken drifter when you were hiking alone you should definitely preface it by telling her you could totally have taken him in hand to hand combat. And really I could have taken him.
But a meeting of the fists wasn’t necessary. We shared life stories and a sweltering trail. We admired a shirtless man on horseback with a glorious tan worthy of any Thanksgiving turkey and found a shady spot to part ways with sweaty handshakes. I left feeling an intense gratitude for fate casting us in our mutual and literal paths so that I could hear a story of an authentic life so vastly different from my own.
Isn’t that why we read really? We want to experience outside ourselves. I guess there are the fantasies and adventures that carry us away from the realities of human life. But the truly satisfying stories are those that capture or reflect a real human life, a truth outside ourselves that casts our own life in new and revealing contrast.
Looking back on my reading at the half point of the year, I realize of the 100 or so books I’ve read so far, my favorites tend to follow this aesthetic.
Here is the list of this year-so-far reads I think about, talk about, quote and sometimes shove in friend’s faces and demand they be read.
Picture Bride – Yoshiko Uchida
The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
Dress Your Family In Denim & Corduroy- David Sedaris
The Peripatetic Coffin -Ethan Rutherford
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Ben Fountain
Tribe – Sebastian Junger
Just Kids – Patti Smith
A Man Called Ove – Frederik Backman
On Cats – Charles Bukowski
The Principles of Uncertainty – Maira Kalman
The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick
Anatomy of a Soldier – Harry Parker
Revenant – Michael Punke
Kira-Kira – Cynthia Kadohata
The Whale: A Love Story – Mark Beauregard
Fox Tossing – Edward Brooke-Hitching
Palm of the Hand Stories – Yasunari Kawabata
How to Be a Victorian – Ruth Goodman