Book Review: The Oregon Trail A New American Journey

51xuy5BQbrL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_This book impacted me in such a significant way that after I read it I listened to it on Audible to further soak in the harrowing quest that the author undertook. It is the most quintessential American journey and included all of the elements of a story that I love: history, pioneers, nature, hiking, overcoming obstacles, sibling time, perseverance… just to name a few.

Rinker Buck and his brother Nick set out to complete the Oregon Trail in the original mule and covered wagon set up common to the time. Although now the trail has many modern inconveniences (highways, private land) these brothers had the gumption to take on the American West. The interweaving storyline of their journey sprinkled with the historical accounts of everything from the food that pioneers ate, how mules came to be such a commodity, the types of wagons, heroes on the trail – most interestingly in my opinion Narcissa Whitman – were researched so thoroughly that I could so easily picture the journey that American ancestors embarked on.

In some ways, this book encouraged me to take my own American adventure (documented here). I drove 8,000 miles around the American West from my hometown near Seattle down the Oregon and California coast, into the desert of Arizona, up through the mountains in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and finally the home stretch of Montana and Idaho until we were home again. My own trip took 2 months (vs the 4 months it took Rinker and Nick Buck – using a different route and means of transportation obviously) and we drove through some of the land that the heroes of the book trekked. I cannot express how much value this book added to my life and the trip I took.

The collective American Dream might just be a crazy-ass (a term that Rinker uses regularly to describe his recklessness) choice, throwing caution to the wind and embracing our American roots: risk-takers, adventurers, and curious about the natural world.


Book Report: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

tumblr_inline_nmijx1iYow1s3uo67_500Due to the recent events of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, I decided to finally finish this incredibly enthralling ode to a person who inspires so many people: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In this sassy book, full of pictures, visual aids, and timelines, we explore her childhood, education, and career and the challenges she faced along the way. Inspired from the popular Tumblr account, two authors – Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik – create a book that engaged an audience not normally aware of the lives and positions of SCOTUS members.

I especially enjoyed reading her dissents including in the Voting Rights Act case, with the authors’ annotative analysis emphasize the points supporting her minority view.

To end, I have included two images I took from this book of RBG and Scalia together. RIP to RBG’s “best buddy.”

photo 1  photo 2

Book Report: The Presidents Club

61iyNBdczoLThis is a highly compelling book that I would recommend to anyone, those interested in politics and history or simply someone looking for a good read. The common knowledge that many if not most people hold about presidents are generally limited to the hits, the crises, the scandals and the triumphs. This book illustrates the multiple angles of the relationships strategic and otherwise of the presidents before, during, and post office. This exposé reveals an interesting mosaic of presidents in a light that humanizes them.

“Only the president himself can know what his real pressures and his real alternatives are.” – JFK

Book Report: I Am Malala

51dVLcrS0gL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Chances are you have heard of Malala Yousafzai. She is the Pakistani girl who is an advocate for girls’ right to education and was shot by the Taliban. Since then she has written a book, received a Nobel Peace Prize and created a foundation in her name… and she is still only 18 years old. I am beyond inspired by her life story, her courage, and her relentless pursuit for the right of girls and women to receive an education. I Am Malala is a book that will change your life forever. Malala has become a symbol of hope in a world ravaged by violence and brutality.

I also would like to highlight a recently published FastCompany article (photo cred) that talks more about the foundation in what they have been able to accomplish under the leadership of Meighan Stone, President of the Malala Foundation.

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Book Report: Boomerang

58905a1d444db99566542d2e8a24Everything from doomsday naysayers to eccentric millionaires that stockpile gold, Michael Lewis will take you on a compelling trip around the world into the finances of governments in dangerous and powerful positions, and how they got there. A subject that normally does not attract a wide-ranging audience, Boomerang delivers a colorful illustration of the rise and fall of economic and financial realities that shook nations and is still affecting the outcome of our world market today. I highly recommend Boomerang to anyone who enjoys a quick, entertaining read.

Book Report: If Mayors Ruled the World

barber_comp-rev-1-678x1024I enjoy studying different governing structures and was intrigued by the elusive title If Mayors Ruled the World. This book, written by Benjamin Barber, was well researched and had many fascinating anecdotes and mini-biographical accomplishments of a few selected mayors. It was thought-provoking and opened my eyes to various world-wide city executive roles, however, I feel that many of the so-called accomplishments of the mayors were credited when it was not solely a local achievement, often times with the help of local business and state, national and even international governance and leadership.

I am, however, open-minded and enjoy daydreaming about how different society would be if we had a different government structure and if politics were less important. Personally, I find that local government is the most over-looked yet the most impactful element of government for citizens’ day to day life. (This past August primary  Washington State had only a 24.37% voter turnout… yet these are the elections that arguably generate the most powerful impact on Washingtonians directly.)

The Freakonomics blog explains, “[m]ayors, Barber argues, are can-do people who inevitably cut through the inertia and partisanship that can plague state and federal governments. To that end, Barber would like to see a global “Parliament of Mayors,” to help solve the kind of big, borderless problems that national leaders aren’t so good at solving.”

Parliament of Mayors… I’d be interested to see how that goes, if it ever gets off the ground!