Reading List: I Promise, This Missive Was Written On Only 85% Vacation Brain
|Amy Widdowson||Jan 6, 2020|
My darlings! It’s been weeks since we last spoke, and how I missed you! I spent the last 14 days on my own personal USMCA tour, visiting my family up in Calgary and then vacationing in Baja California in Mexico.
And let me tell you Mischevians, I'm glad I did. I was in Mexico for a five day yoga retreat with Danni Pomplun and Rocky Heron at the gorgeous Pachamama retreat center in Todos Santos—HIGHLY recommend staying there if you have the chance. It was five days of yoga and amazing food and lots of time to decompress and process 2019. And if you’re ever in Cabo, you must stay at the Bahia Hotel and Beach Club. Impeccable service, amazing attention to detail and two killer restaurants. I spent an evening at Bar Esquina watching their kitchen staff do their magic, and I guess I appeared so enraptured that that the food and bev manager sent over a glass of Prosecco after my meal (which I thanked him for profusely and then traded for a San Pelligrino.)
Which is to say, I avoided going online for the past little while and I guess we’re at war now? Can’t even link to it, can’t make jokes about it, it’s so scary.
So instead of providing any snarky commentary on our current garbage fire reality (COME ON, 2020. I WAS REALLY ROOTING FOR YOU,) here’s my reading list from my trip cuz I devoured five books over the last two weeks and it was gosh darned delightful.
Spoiler alert: it’s not light reading! Sometimes I wonder why I’m single. Then I remember that I consider historical takes on the unique horrors of humanity beach reading. Cuz this cheerful exterior covers up a very dark soul! Weeeee!
Books I completed
Epictetus, translated by Sam Torode, The Manual: A Philosopher's Guide to Life - I’ll be 100 percent honest with you: I’m working on utilizing a more stoic approach to life with my therapist, so he recommended this new translation of Epictetus. A timeless way of approaching life by remembering that you can only control what you can control, and nothing else.
Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road to 9/11 - As y’all know, Lawrence Wright is one of my favorite authors (Going Clear - SO FREAKING GOOD.) So naturally I wanted to read the book he wrote on how the US done screwed up intelligence sharing in the months and years before 9/11. It’s a page turner, but also made me want to scream to high heaven every time Wright describes another point where it could have been prevented, but was not.
Laurence Reed, Auschwitz: A New History - This is an excellently constructed history that portrays an awful bureaucratic chain of justification and one-upping each other, all in the service of genocide. It veers away from previous histories that cast blame on a select few, and instead shows how human creativity, groupthink and obedience can lead supposedly-rational human beings to mechanize mass murder. Not for the faint of heart, but (unfortunately) still very relevant today.
Ethan Rarick, Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West- Based on thousands of primary sources, this history of the Donner Party is my preferred balance between rigorous research and historical storytelling. It gives all participants the benefit of the doubt and describes the great—and shocking—lengths humans will go to to survive.
Alma Katsu, The Hunger - So naturally I had to re-read Katsu’s horror reimagining of the Donner Party afterwards, especially since Katsu based much of her research on Desperate Passage itself. It was SO interesting to read it again with the narrative outlined in Rarick’s book fresh on my brain.
Books I am still working on
Michael C. Carroll, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory - Did you know there was a lab allegedly experimenting with highly infectious diseases in Long Island? Neither did I! Oy.
Shelby Foote, The Civil War, Vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian - Yes, I am back and attempting to consume all of Foote’s epic narrative of the Civil War. As I am about a quarter of the way through Volume 2, I have much ground to cover.
Alex Hutchinson, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance - I’m really enjoying this book on the interplay of the brain and the body when it comes to extreme athletic accomplishment.
Anyhoo, that’s what I was reading / am reading! Until tomorrow my sweets, be kind to each other!