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.

It is a Fact: We are Wrong About the World

Which of these statements best represents your view of the world today?

A. For most people, the quality of life is declining.

B. The quality of life is not changing much for most people.

C. The quality of life has vastly improved in modern times.

Swedish author Hans Rosling begins Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think with a story from a circus, then tests readers’ views of the world with 13 multiple-choice questions. After you find out your (probably failing) score, he explains that chimpanzees probably would do better on his test than most humans by randomly choosing answers.

Every doomsayer should read this book. Every optimist should read this book. Maybe everyone should read this book; it will change your view of the world–past, present and future.

Rosling uses compelling statistical evidence in his battle against simple views of the world that are based on generalizations that we cling to because they fit our world vision. The facts are presented in vivid charts and graphs that are illustrated by compelling human stories from around the world.

He explains how our instincts affect our impressions about poverty, child mortality rates, life expectancy, deaths from natural disasters, climate change, child vaccination, and more.

If you are a TED talk fan, chances are that you are familiar with the international health professor. Sadly, pancreatic cancer claimed his life in 2017, the year before Factfulness was published. His son, Ola Rosling, and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund, who both worked with the author for years, completed the project.

Opioid, Indiana: A Boy Searches

Riggle, a 17-year-old orphan living with his uncle, is suspended from school for a week for vaping and for his sarcastic tongue.

Opioid, Indiana, is the story of the boy’s week as his drug-addicted uncle disappears and $800 in rent for their apartment is due Friday. As he tells his story, Riggle relates his complicated past that brought him from Texas searching for stability.

As he tries to make sense of his world, the boy journeys back in time when his mother was alive and used shadow puppets to tell stories about how the days of the week got their names. And he shares how his parents died, leaving him scarred, homeless, and confused.

Author Brian Allen Carr guides Riggle and a cast of misfits through a week of adventure and the issues of racism, sexuality, Confederate flags, and the age of Trump. I was both baffled and uplifted by the youth’s life and decisions, but I always wanted to find out what was around the next corner.

And I rooted for Riggle all the way.