#11

I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

I’ll bet you thought I forgot about this whole 50 books thing. No, it’s just that once again, my intentions are much more noble than reality. I have also been rather poor at reporting on the books I’ve read this year, but most of the time, I assume I’m the only one who really cares about all this, anyway.

#11 is I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling, translated by Shelley Frisch. This one landed on my doorstep the other week as the latest in a slow trickle of review books coming in from Library Journal. (You can search for my recent reviews, if you’re so inclined.) A little uncertain about it at first, I quickly found myself lost in the story and read it cover to cover in one sitting.

Kerkeling is a German comedy performer of some renown. Not being up on my European comedians (aside from nearly memorizing all of Eddie Izzard’s routines on YouTube), I hadn’t heard of the fellow before this book. After failing to track down any recording of a performance in English or with subtitles, I gave up. Considering that my German linguistic skills are virtually nil, I’m not surprised I hadn’t heard of him before. (If you are interested, Amazon has a short interview with him in English.)

The book is essentially the diary he wrote while hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2001. It’s not strictly a recording of events and people from the pilgrimage, but the stories he tells about his background and prior experiences add import to the things that happen to him on the trail. By the end of the story, I felt as though Kerkeling was a long-lost friend with whom I had recently reunited over a cup of coffee. In many ways, this book reminded me of Kelly Winters’ Walking Home, and that is a good thing.

Lexington area BookCrosser recomended reading

At last week’s Meetup of the Lexington area BookCrossers, one of our agenda items was to share five of our favorite books as recommended reading. I took notes, and the following is the collective list we created:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry
Clay’s Quilt by Silas House
Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
He, She and It by Marge Piercy
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
I’d Rather Laugh : How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You by Linda Richman
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A Thread That Runs So True: A Mountain School Teacher Tells His Story by Jesse Stuart
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Truman by David McCullough
Walking Home: A Woman’s Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail by Kelly Winters

Bryson v. Winters

A fellow Where’s George? person recommended “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson because I had enjoyed reading “Walking Home” by Kelly Winters. I hate to admit it, but I was not very impressed with Bryson’s tale of his Appalachian Trail experience. Maybe it’s a gender thing. Bryson spent more time focusing on the hardship of the Trail and the politics surrounding the Trail than he did on the culture and life on the Trail. When I was reading Winter’s story, I felt transported into the trail. It was almost like I was hiking along with her through out. On the other hand, I had to force myself to finish Bryson’s story. Should I ever choose to hike the trail, his is the last type of personality I would want to be hiking with me.

Oh, I almost forgot…

I just finished devouring “Walking Home: A Woman’s Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail” by Kelly Winters. That doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Devour is the only way I can describe the feeling I had when I was able to take a lunch break at work and read more of the book. Even though I was sitting in a relatively comfortable room, scarfing down my lunch, I could feel the pain of hunger, the ache in my joints, and the general wearyness that she described throughout the story. At the same time, I could feel a cool wind on my face, and smell the crisp scent of wet woods and dirt.

I have a friend whom I have lost touch with who is probably hiking the AT right now. At one point, I thought about going with her. In the end, I knew that thru-hiking was not my path (for now). It was good to be able to read Kelly’s story and imagine what it might have been like had I gone with my friend.