memoir

Interesting Twist on the Traditional Photo Travelogue

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Rajasthan – India’s ‘Land of Kings’ A Photographic Journey by Mike and Jo Coad

4 star

4 Stars

This short but fascinating photo travelogue by the husband-and-wife team of Mike and Jo Coad is one of many they’ve produced. The book is an entertaining, visual look at Rajasthan (literally “Land of Kings”), India’s largest state not far from New Delhi. It offers commentary and stunning photos of Rajasthan’s best tourist destinations, including Jaipur.

I’ve visited many places around the world but have yet to visit Rajasthan. This photographic journey gave me ample taste of what to expect. I suspect that the authors’ other travelogues offer similar adventures off the beaten path. Though short, their travel journal features beautiful color photos and enlightening personal commentary to help would-be visitors prepare for their own trips.

Publishing a short book with material often featured on blogs offers an interesting take on travel writing. While a novel concept, it faces the same challenges that all travelogues do; that is, a lot of travel information and photos are available online for free. It’s a crowded market. The Coad’s book offers some great information for the would-be traveler or armchair tourist, but it does not cover enough new ground to merit a substantial investment. Virtually everything in this travelogue can be found elsewhere for a pittance. Their travelogue may be worth a pretty penny for those planning a trip to one of their featured destinations, want to know what to visit, see, and do there, and/or want to live vicariously through the Coads. Their photography is also worth a look.

This photographic journal – and perhaps all of the Coad’s travelogues – merit four (4) stars for excellent photos and content. This rating is tempered by the reality that free information about places like Rajasthan is readily available online. Their travelogues may be ideal for those planning trips who want to read more personal accounts of their destinations.

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Lessons for Life in Small, Tasty Bites

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Small Bites 4.0 by Jim Yarbrough

5 star

5 Stars

Small Bites 19058879Many of life’s lessons are packed into this powerful book. Filled with stories, anecdotes and quotes, Small Bites invites the reader to enjoy – no, savor – the author’s wisdom in “small bites.” Broken into discreet chapters and themes, it offers a series of short stories with lessons learned, acronyms, and structured outlines to help the reader remember salient points, and page breaks to give them time to jot down their own thoughts.

At its heart, this is a management book for life. But it’s more than that. It’s a guide intended to help the discerning reader find an easier path on the road of life. Light on spirituality but heavy on profundity, the book weaves the strands of wisdom from many ancient and modern philosophies into a beautiful tapestry of poetry and prose. Few books quote Gandhi, Michael Josephson, Mark Twain, John Wooden, and others with such eloquence.

I enjoyed the personal stories that the author shared showing his humanity and his quest to rise above the challenges that made him a better person. Not many writers are so willing to share some of the most difficult – and compromising – moments of their lives with an unknown audience, but Yarbrough did. And he did it with class, using his own lessons learned to demonstrate a better way the reader can follow.

The author wrote this book for his three children. It’s a labor of love they can cherish forever. He could have kept this treasure to himself or in the family, but he chose instead to share it with all of us. I appreciate his sincerity and learned at least one take-away in each chapter applicable to my own life. This is the kind of book you don’t read once; you read it over and over again to glean new insights. If I have any quibble about this wonderful book, it is this – I hope that the author’s next book will expound more on his own great quotes.

I give Small Bites five (5) stars and highly recommend it to anyone with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and who enjoys wisdom in small, succinct bites.

Small Bites 4.0 is now available at:

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Strayed Stays on Course with “Wild” Memoir

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed

  4 star

4 Stars

As a writer and fan of personal memoirs, I couldn’t wait to read Cheryl Strayed’s personal account of her hike on the Pacific Coast Trail from Southern California to Oregon. After the death of her mother and personal setbacks that made her rethink her life’s direction, the author set out on the 1,100-mile hike with limited trekking experience or knowledge of wilderness survival.

Strayed’s account is harrowing and humoring, sad and satirical as she recounts encounters with scenery, weather, wildlife and humans captivating and brutal. She is a victim of her own naivety in thinking she could prepare herself for a long and difficult journey with only a rudimentary understanding of trekking imparted by a guidebook and veteran hikers who crossed her path. In spite of natural and sometimes self-inflicted adversity, Strayed persevered.

I enjoyed the author’s inspiring story and the life lessons she picked up along the way. I now have a much better idea of what to expect on a grueling trek like the Pacific Coast Trail. Her offbeat, quirky personality and humorous stories and anecdotes make the memoir an entertaining read. With vivid imagery, Strayed takes the reader along with her and shows what it’s like to be at the point of despair in the middle of nowhere. In the end, she redeems herself and serves as a personal example to those who need to find a different way in life.

Unfortunately, the book begins with a series of vignettes so depressing that they risk turning off the reader. In her attempt to underscore personal redemption, the author paints such a debased portrait of her old self that she risks turning off the reader. The Cheryl Strayed who needs to get her life together by hitting the Pacific Coast Trail is not a likeable character. Perhaps by design, the author discourages the reader to continue reading her story by offering such a terrible image of herself that one wonders if she was really so awful or merely embellished. Her strong views gradually worn down by the trail might be a turn-off to those who don’t agree with her politics. Getting through the beginning of the book is like climbing out of a steep valley. It’s better skies ahead once you reach the top.

I give “Wild” 4 stars and recommend it to mountaineering and trekking fans, those who are thinking of embarking on a months-long trek, and those who need inspiration to jump start their lives.

Wild is now available at:

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