Book Chat

book chat
This month’s book reviews:

37 Days of Peril Everts YellowstoneWe visited Yellowstone last year and it was amazing. One of the things that surprised me was just how huge the park was. Being from Indiana, I’m used to a “park” being something you can walk across in thirty minutes. Not so out west — I was shocked at how often one would enter a park (via car), only to learn that a certain destination might be 30 miles further in. That’s big!

Also in the past year, I enjoyed the Ken Burns PBS special on our National Parks. While watching this, I learned about Truman Everts, a man who went exploring Yellowstone (before it was a national park) with a group of friends in 1870. Things went well, until he became separated from his companions. He remained lost in the vast park for 37 days, nearly dying before he was rescued. He wrote about his experience in “37 Days of Peril,” which you can read for free thanks to Project Gutenberg.

One thing that impressed me, apart from the fact that he survived for over a month in freezing temperatures and by eating thistles and while evading animals like wildcats, was Everts’ vocabulary. The way he wrote, just as a normal guy, showed me just how far our language has deteriorated in the past 150 years.

When Everts was discovered, he weighed just 55 pounds. Just before his rescue, he had begun to lose his mental stability as well, imagining he saw a companion (see the picture). The “book” isn’t long (it was originally printed in a magazine), but it is a tale you won’t soon forget. I read it after dinner to the family.



Like last month, most of my reading time this month was spent with the 900+ page “Gone With the Wind.” I feel I learned a lot of history from the book — what it must have felt like to be a Southerner during the Civil War and reconstruction. It’s one thing to read a few paragraphs about it in a history book, but when you see characters go through it, and the trials they suffer on account of the Yankees, it really gives you (or at least gave me) some sympathy for them. I could see the civil rights movement and racial tension of the 1950s building up in the book, and much of what happened did make more sense when I read this background. The book amazed me with its constant description of the family’s slaves as “ape-like” and so on: Sam galloped over to the buggy, his eyes rolling with joy and his white teeth flashing, and clutched her outstretched hand with two black hands as big as hams. His watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff.

And yet, for as derogatory as these descriptions sound to us today, the slaves in the book were devoted to their masters, and most didn’t want to leave. It was also pointed out that, while the Yankees did offer the slaves freedom, most Yankees still disliked them at heart and looked down on them, while the “evil” Southerners were the ones who truly cared for them. Interesting …

I really enjoyed “Gone With the Wind,” and perhaps because it took me six weeks or so to read, the characters began to feel like friends. The first day I didn’t have the book to read anymore during my daily stationary bike ride, it felt like friends were missing. For all the annoyances and nasty traits of Scarlett, the heroine, I can’t say I totally disliked her. She was very tough and was able to deal with everything life threw at her (which was a lot). More than once over these past few weeks, I’ve adopted her mantra: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

You can find bits of everyone you know in the cast of characters — the too-good-to-be-true Melanie, the “bad boy” Rhett, the crush who maybe wasn’t as great as you dreamed him to be Ashley, and so many more. Their tales unfolded against the vast background of the Civil War, and I came to see each character as representing a part of that conflict. The book contains many layers which reveal themselves, I am sure, the more times one reads it.

So, if you, like me, haven’t yet read this one, I urge you to. I don’t think you’ll regret it!


Nature Girl book

Do you have a daughter aged 8-12 who loves nature? Animals? Healthy eating? I do, and “Nature Girl” was a great reading choice for her. This book offers fun information on God’s creation and ways we can enjoy it responsibly. It’s full of information on topics like water, air, energy, and recycling. It also includes crafts, Scripture, games, quizzes, and interviews with experts on the topics discussed.

I appreciated the book’s Christian perspective, since many “earth friendly” books and sites don’t have that background.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for a review copy of Nature Girl.


Storm Inside WalshMy sister gave me “The Storm Inside,” by Sheila Walsh. Walsh’s name was vaguely familiar to me. I recommend this book. As the title suggests, it deals with the trials we experience in life, and it’s written specifically with women in mind.

I’ve read many books of this type — motivational, self-help from a Christian perspective. Most begin to blur together, but this one stands out as excellent and I do recommend it. Sheila has a way of relating that is easy to read, and helpful. So many times I’ll read a book like this and feel like, while everything it says is on-target, I’m not really taking much away. I felt this book was truly relevant and helpful, and I think I’ll return to it again.



I was recently a guest at a local writers’ group, where I learned about another local woman writer who has a lot in common with me — Margaret Griffin Porter. She teaches in the same school district where I taught, and, like me, she also was the fortunate recipient of a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship. She used hers to research the life of Theodore Roosevelt. Since I’ve recently become interested in him, thanks to the Ken Burns Roosevelt TV program, I decided to read Porter’s book about Roosevelt’s early years: “The Amazing Bird Collection of Young Mr. Roosevelt.”

This is an enjoyable read! Even if you’re not particularly enamored of Theodore Roosevelt, it’s a fascinating look into the way children (at least some of them) were raised in the late 19th century.

The Roosevelt parents encouraged their children to be the best they could be, although the children did have hurdles. Theodore had severe asthma, and on at least one occasion snuffed out his bedtime candle with water because he didn’t have the breath to blow it out. His father urged him, “You must make your body,” and “Teedee” tried hard to do that, taking up boxing and other sports that perhaps he wouldn’t have had the temperament or urging to do otherwise.

Roosevelt and his siblings were a precocious bunch, acting out various historical events, visiting museums, and the like. Young Teedee was fascinated with animals and birds, and began writing journals and books documenting the various species. He shot and stuffed many to study them more closely, and even began a “museum” of his own. He “never seemed to know what idleness was,” and perhaps not surprisingly, he wasn’t always the most loveable person: “Theodore always thought he could do things better than anyone else,” remembered a cousin. Then again, he went on to become President, and surely such drive is needed for a job such as that.

Many photos from original sources and extensive references — recommended.

Phew … all of you who are still reading, you can see what others are reading, too, at 5 Minutes for Books.

7 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Interesting! We visited Yellowstone back in 2003, and I’d LOVE to go back with my children some day.

    I read a biography of TR back a few years ago, and yes, he was an interesting character!

  2. The first one sounds fascinating. I don’t think I’d survive if I were in such a situation. My husband probably would: he’s very resourceful.

    I’ve not been inclined to read GWTW, but you’re making me incline just a little. 🙂 I just read a similar comment the other day in To Kill a Mockingbird that Northerners were for freedom for slaves but still wanted to keep their distance. So many of those issues are so complicated.

  3. I still haven’t visited Yellowstone; must do that in the next few years. I know the Ken Burns documentary would spur me on to see even more National Parks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed any we’ve ever visited. I’ll have to pass along 37 Days of Peril to my husband for his Kindle; sounds like an adventure story he would love.

    I spent long periods in certain novels this year too (The Brothers K and Les Mis), and once they were finished, it did feel like part of my friends were gone, so I understand how you felt about Gone with the Wind. I read Scarlet a few years ago and enjoyed that as a somewhat-reasonable sequel to Gone with the Wind (but not by Margaret Mitchell). Happy New Year!

  4. Just amazing reviews of books on varied topics – all interesting ones. . . I know when Jill and I went to Yosemite, that place is enormous! We didn’t begin to do it justice.

  5. I enjoyed reading all of the reviews! My favorite was the Gone With the Wind one, because I have seen the movie numerous times and loved it, but I have never read the book. Maybe I should read it this winter,

  6. I read “In Harm’s Way: A View from the Epicenter of Liberia’s Ebola Crisis,” written by a fellow BMM missionary. I recommend it.

  7. Well, thank you so much for your review of The ABC of Young Mr. Roosevelt! I appreciate your thoughts very much. My husband and I just visited Austin, TX, where there was a fantastic exhibit called, “The Making of Gone With the Wind.” Of course, as good as the movie is, the book is better. And I had read about Evert’s adventure in Yellowstone several years ago. We need to get together for coffee!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.