Three Books Top My Best List for 2022

I discovered a wealth of great reading last year and I reviewed the books I recommended on this website, Books and My Backpack (See List of Book Reviews in the menu).

Three stand out. If adventure is what you seek, North to Alaska is for you. Trevor Lund, a young Englishman, writes about his 16,276-mile bicycle journey from the southern tip of South America to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. Going the opposite direction in a van, Mary Hollendoner weaves a compelling story of her family’s van journey through Central and South America in Monkeys on the Road.

Lund and Hollendoner endure challenges that would send most of us home and they bring home experiences that transformed their lives.

If you are weary of people who put happy faces on even the most difficult times, you will be drawn to my third choice, Toxic Positivity, by Whitney Goodman. This book more than lived up to the hype it attracted.

Click on the titles to read my review about each book.

What were your favorite books of 2022?

Book of the Year: The Winner Is…

I have read many good books in 2021, but Jerry Steimel’s Chasing Zorba jumped out at me for my book of the year. You will enjoy getting to know Jerry and his journey will intrigue you on several levels.

Oh, by the way, one follower of this blog found the answer to my find-the-book challenge within minutes. Well done, Jeff.

I am pleased to republish my discussion about Chasing Zorba below.

In 1972, Jerry Steimel graduated college, jumped in a VW Beetle with his lifelong friend, and set out to live his dream, a cross-country trip to California. But his VW Bug had other ideas, quickly ending the trip with mechanical breakdown.

Steimel’s dream wasn’t deterred. Forty-five years later, he jumped in another Volkswagen, a 1973 air-cooled van, and set out from his home in Massachusetts for another try, this time solo. But Jerry Steimel hardly traveled alone.

In Chasing Zorba: A Journey of Self-Discovery in a VW Bus, he is guided by author Nikos Kazantzakis and his book, Report to Greco, whose life lessons begin each chapter. He names his van Zorba after Kazantzakis’ book Zorba the Greek. Steimel’s goal: California. And so much more.

Some call his plan lunacy. But Steimel is out to discover comfort in taking risks rather than living as if he is just waiting to die. He doesn’t hurry, neither in his writing nor his driving, and his literary and physical journeys are a meander. But, in the end, the book rushes up and grabs readers before leaving them with memories anchored in what it means to live life to its fullest.

Steimel goes to great lengths to find places, like the West Virginia site where four high school boys launched rockets and their lives to heights beyond their wildest dreams. It is the site of the film October Sky, which Steimel watched a dozen times. That figures, you see, because Jerry devoted 45 years to social work, lifting kids who needed an extra push.

Steimel weaves places and American history with the people he meets as he drives mostly back roads, having to stop more than now and then to take Zorba to mechanics for adjustments. The journey tests Steimel and Zorba in ways they could never have anticipated.

The author and his VW Bus still miss the turn of the key every morning. And I miss wondering what is around their next turn.