The Pacific Crest Trail Provides Too

David Smart, aka Stayin’ Alive

Just as long-distance trekking grew on David Smart, his book, The Trail Provides: A Boy’s Memoir of Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, grew on me, page by page.

At 24, David was dissatisfied with his digital marketing job. He had plenty of money, parties, and women, but he felt that his life lacked purpose. His 26-year-old college buddy Bradley had an answer: Walk the Pacific Crest Trail with me.

Bradley, who brings intensity to life and to the trail, influences his younger friend right from their start on the USA-Mexico border. He walks barefoot, and David follows, despite great pain and suffering. But David, who eventually gets an apt trail name, Stayin’ Alive, develops confidence and his own trail identity.

David Smart lets readers into his experience with honesty and entertaining, easy-to-read narrative. He begins as an ordinary 20-something and grows immeasurably. As someone who has walked five long-distance trails in Europe, I admire people like David who trek 2,600 miles over six months, all the way to Canada.

Pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain like to say, “The Camino will provide” when the going gets tough. For David Smart, the Pacific Crest Trail will provide for the rest of his life.

Hermann Hesse’s Journey of the Heart

Narcissus, a young adult, lives a sheltered life in a monastery with other monks who value quiet contemplation. His faith and lifestyle travel a path relatively free of pain and suffering. And passion. He is tied to a sense of duty.

Narcissus welcomes Goldmund, a teen-ager, to the cloister and guides him to peer deep inside himself. Goldmund discovers his own artistic talents as well as his restless soul. He leaves Narcissus to live the life of a homeless, faithless man who endures great pain and suffering. Passion is his driving force.

Whose life was superior? Happier? More worthy?

After many years, Goldmund returns to Narcissus and from the messiness of Goldmund’s life, the monk finds his own clarity and realizes the depth of his love for his former student. His revelations will give readers pause.

Narcissus and Goldmund. German philosopher/author Hermann Hesse at his best.

What? Are Cats Goners?

A doctor tells a young postman that he has brain cancer and just days to live. As the postman considers what to do with the rest of his life, the devil appears, wearing an Hawaiian shirt and offering a deal: Give me permission to take something from the world and you get an extra day to live.

If Cats Disappeared from the World, a hand-sized book of 168 pages, takes the unnamed protagonist on a journey of discovery as he adds days to his life, but learns that some things are more important than life itself. Japanese author Genki Kawamura’s first novel sold more than a million copies in Japan and was adapted for film in 2016. Eric Selland wrote the English translation of the book.

The light, humorous story takes readers deep into the postman’s life while he contemplates relationships, mortality, and his cat, named Cabbage. Suspense builds as he sees the results of his deals with the devil.

No spoilers here; I won’t name the things the devil chooses to take from the world. I will say this: If Cats Disappeared from the World is the best book I have read in 2020.

Henry David Thoreau: A Life

Who was Henry David Thoreau?

He has been labeled a naturalist, farmer, author, lecturer, recluse, tax protestor, philosopher. Moody, introverted. Passionately antislavery. Longtime friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In Henry David Thoreau: A Life, Laura Dassow Walls goes beyond the labels and reveals a sometimes insecure man who struggled to find out who he was. Walls takes readers on a journey through Thoreau’s journals and other writings. His walks, inner debates, friendships, and two years at Walden Pond come to life in a way that will enthrall and surprise even the most learned Thoreau scholar.

The 500 pages passed quickly and left me yearning to reread Thoreau’s most famous book, Walden. My new copy of the classic just arrived and as I began reading, I felt a fresh appreciation for one of the world’s great thinkers. I will let you know how it goes, but I am in no rush. I want to savor the moments that his words bring.