Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer | Book Review

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Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is the 205 page non-fiction account of Christopher McCandless’ life and adventures throughout American, specifically focusing on his time in Alaska.

I watched Sean Penn’s adaptation of Into The Wild a number of years ago now, and it quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. The breath taking scenery and heart wrenching story sucked early 20’s me straight in, dragging me in by my naive wanderlust. Do I wish I had left it there, not having read the book behind the film? Do I wish I hadn’t delved deeper into this story I loved so much for years? I haven’t decided yet, but…probably.

**the remainder of this review will contain spoilers**

Christopher McCandless was a young man fresh out of college in America when he decided to just ditch his entire, more than a little privileged life and hitchhike his way up to a remote area of Alaska. He donated all the money in his bank account to OXFAM, a charity who focuses on famine and hunger, which is ironic really in hindsight, left for Alaska without telling a soul he was going, and never looked back.

Now here is where my problems begin with this book, I mean a beautiful film is a beautiful film, I also love Titanic, but if I stopped to think about the hundreds of lives lost in that real life situation I’d be completely shook, which is pretty much the situation I am in now that I’ve read this book. The movie, as do parts of Krakauer’s writing to be fair, deeply romanticise the fact that a young man, younger than me, decided to walk out of the lives of every single person he knew, and live in a wilderness he knew little, but not enough about, to satisfy his intense craving for adventure. We all have needs, we all desire to travel the world, and I guess the idea of waiting and saving for months to escape to a new part of the world for a 14 day holiday doesn’t appeal to all when one thinks of travelling, but McCandless took it to the extreme.

I fully understand why this book divides people into those who love it, and those who think Chris was a selfish, egotistical example of white privilege. Chris travels in and out of various communities on his way to Alaska, some times sticking around long enough to gain a job and get to know people. Some of these people are featured in the book, interviewed by Krakauer, and give their thoughts and opinions on him. The general feeling from those who met him on his journey seems to be similar in all instances, they are older people, some with children Chris’ age themselves, who cared about what happened to him, tried to help him, and ultimately cared for him even though he was basically a drifter.

I would love to travel America, I would adore to visit Alaska, maybe trek into the woods, camp out for a couple of nights maybe, but I don’t think I’d ever just vanish into the void of adventure. And after all Chris experienced, after all the wilderness he trekked through and survived,  he died in what he assumed was the middle of nowhere, just six miles away from civilization. He wasn’t as into the wild as he thought, and that is another reason why this book shattered the illusion that the movie produced. This story takes place in the early 1990s, we aren’t talking about an adventure in the 1800’s in which a man sets out to discover and map out the new world, the world was already mapped, but I don’t think Chris quite saw it that way, I think he wanted to experience the simplest life possible, in the most natural way possible, and discover a land untouched by man.

I gave this book three stars on GoodReads, this isn’t really down to the story and the fact I’m pissed the book shattered the movie magic for me, but because I feel like the author really stretched to flesh out the book. Krakauer originally wrote about McCandless in a magazine article, and that kind of shows up clearly in the way the book is structured. You start off with the origins of the story, getting to Alaska, the build up to it, and then Chris is abandoned and we move on to other explorers whose stories have some parallels to Chris’…not too annoying, because its interesting to hear that this isn’t an isolated incident, but then we get entire chapters about Krakauer’s own near-death climbing experiences and it basically turns into the writer thinking, ‘okay I’ve run out of his life story, lets chuck a bit of mine in there for dramatic effect, really show the reader I knew what McCandless was feeling/thinking’. Once you know the book was spun from an article, it is quite easy to see the author in the writing, fleshing out bits of other stories to try and produce a full book.

All in all, I did enjoy this book, I found it interesting, factual, and it gave me a new, albeit conflicted insight into the life and times of Christopher McCandless. I still love the film, I think I’ll always love the film, but now after reading the book, I no longer feel the romanticized pull towards the actions of a man who left everyone he knew and that loved him, to die of starvation (maybe) a three hour walk away from civilisation.

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2017 Reading Resolutions

I know what you’re thinking. Nathan mate, your last post was literally a half an hour rant about how you didn’t meet any of your resolutions last year, well, here we are, plot twist, here are my 2017 reading/bookish resolutions.

  1. Read Whatever The Fuck You Want – Last year as I discovered Booktube, blogs and everything else, I became very aware of a hell of a lot of books for the first time. People were discussing new releases, favorites, classics, etc and I thought, oh shit, I really don’t know much about any books at all. So I panicked thinking I was the worlds worst reader and that I needed to buy and read ALL THE BOOKS EVER. This was dumb. I ended up buying a lot of books I haven’t looked at since, that if left to my own devises I probably never would have encountered, and most certainly never have read. That kind of idea that I need to be reading what everyone else is and keeping up with the books everyone is talking about has very much floated off into the atmosphere and is no longer a factor for me. Booktube and book blogs are incredible sources of recommendations and reviews, and of course I’ll still be watching out for this type of content, but I won’t be trying to buy everything ever mentioned because if I don’t I’m the worst reading in the world and I might as well burn down a library with myself inside (sorry, that went very dramatic very quickly). Basically, I’m going to read what I feel I’d enjoy, because I WANT TO READ IT not because I have to. Putting pressure on myself reading wise is going to be a running theme throughout this I can see it now.
  2. Do Not Make Unrealistic Goals For Yourself – This is one that sums up pretty much all of my 2016 resolutions. Like ‘Read 60 Books’ WHAT THE FUCK NATHAN. There are only 52 weeks in a year when on average do you EVER read more than one book in a week?! Honestly I’d like to time travel to the year younger version of myself who wrote that and throw 60 books at his head one by one until he realises how outrageous he was. I mean, uni finishes next year, maybe I will be able to read a huge amount of books, but I don’t be stressing myself out about a goal and not meeting it. This year saw me reading awful graphic novels just so I could add one to my read list like I was in some kind of race and competing like WHO THE FUCK CARES HOW MANY BOOKS YOU READ NATHAN CALM YOURSELF DOWN.
  3. Do Not Be So Precious About Books – My books stay EXACTLY the same from when they’re bought to when they are read and put back on my shelf. No corner is turned, no spine is cracked, they are perfect little soldiers lined up in rows. WHY. Why do I make myself uncomfortable whilst reading for the sake of breaking the spine of a £6.99 paperback? And WHY OH WHY do I keep every book ever. If it was trash, and I didn’t enjoy it, it just goes BEHIND THE OTHER BOOKS. Why? What is this corpse of a crappy novel staying on my shelves for? Hidden behind it’s stronger brothers like the runt of a litter, no, they’re out. I won’t be keeping every book I’ve ever bought anymore, because that my friend is not practical in a two bedroom flat in which my boyfriend is acutely aware is slowly being taken over. In short, if books get fucked up it doesn’t matter as long and they’re readable, and any books I don’t like or don’t want anymore will be OUT.
  4. Continue Using The Library – Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been using the library quite a bit this past year. I’m not saying I used to effectively, but I used it. I mainly used it for the point raised in number 1, to get hold of that new release everyone is talking about so I can read it NOW BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE IS OVER IT AND I’M AN IRRELEVANT FOOL. Reality is you’ve always been an irrelevant fool Nathan sit down. I’d like to use the library as a source of FREE BOOKS. I mean, I just walk in, flash a card, and I own (for the next three weeks at least) a shit load of new books. What isn’t to love about that? I’m not someone who likes to splash a huge amount of cash at new books (because what even is council tax really I mean do I need to pay it or can I please just go to Waterstones instead?!?!), so the library is a person resource for me. My local one is absolutely tiny, but I can order books in online for like 10p so there really is no excuse not to fully take advantage.
  5. Stop Trying So Hard (You Fake Fuck) – Well, yeah. Honestly in 2016 I tried so fucking hard to become Book Blogger/Tuber/Instagramer/Tweeter OF THE FREE WORLD. I followed account after account hoping for a follow back, I made SHIT blog posts like ‘Quote of the Week’ scouring Google for a fucking life affirming quote from a book I’ve never read by a guy I’ve never heard of, I went to the library and took out a butt load of newish and popular books JUST SO I COULD DO A TBR/HAUL. Just so I had something to talk about on my channel. Just so people wouldn’t think that I’m that douche still trying to get through the 10 books I said I wanted to read last month but have no desire to open. I had a resolution of reading a classic every month, wanna know a secret? I’VE NEVER READ A CLASSIC I ENJOYED. Wuthering Heights was OKAY but I mean STOP WHINING (I saw in a post of 100% whine). So yup, this year I’m going to just chill my book bean, read at my own pace, read the books I genuinely want to read, and just relax, because I’ve come to the realisation that numbers on a screen have nothing at all in life to do with my enjoyment of a book. If people like my content, then they like it, but it’ll be genuine and from me because I wanted to create it, not because I feel I have to.

As you can see, my resolutions are basically ‘Do not do anything you did in 2016’. I also aim to be more consistent in my blogging and vlogging but honestly if I vanish for months on end it is simply because I haven’t read anything or that I have nothing to say. My blog might even evolve next year into content not book related because I might (heaven forbid) never feel like picking up a book again in my life You just don’t know. But yeah, by the end of 2016 I had a lot of realisations about myself and what I was up to and now that I’ve addressed them I feel really excited about the year to come.

Let me know how you got on with your resolutions this year below, and until next time, happy reading guys.

2016 – Wrap Up

2016. What a year. She really wasn’t joking was she…

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But lets not dwell on all that messy stuff we saw, we are here for the books! (Or lack there of).

2016 was very much a rollercoaster year when it came to my reading and the amount I read. I kicked off the year really excited about books, I had just started really getting into this blog, I was considering a Youtube channel, I ate, breathed and slept thinking of books and book related content. I did alright, I set myself a GoodReads goal of 50, I was working my way through the ‘Around the World in 52 Books’ challenge list and really enjoying that. I was on fire.

Then summer came, I had shed my second year of my Open Uni course, which meant the text books were packed up (I wanted to set them alight at dance around it but I needed them to revise goddamnit), and I was free to read whatever I liked. I took part in the Book-Tube-AThon, in which I think I read five books in a week, which..what? How? Who was that person? I read many novels, I was interacting with other Booktubers and bloggers, really getting into the swing of the community and loving my bookish life.

Then, Summer went away.

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The days grew shorter in the blink of an eye and suddenly I found myself drowning in children’s literature theoretical essays, stylistics texts, and all the not-so-fun things that came with my third year modules starting. This year is so intense compared to the previous two. Also you’re technically only meant to do one module a year but I want my degree in three years like a normal human being so I’m taking on twice the work load of the average OU student (don’t worry, I don’t deserve your sympathy, I brought this on myself. You played yourself Nathan). So basically since September I have had no time to read anything other than course related texts, thus bringing my flying reading start to a screeching halt. To be honest with y’all I have two essays due in the first week of the new year and I only have two days off over Christmas (eve and day of) so I have no business exerting energy into this subject now but I need to just not think about that or I’ll never pick another book up again as long as I live.

So Nathan, blah blah blah no one cares about your reading failures, lets get to the wrap up!

Here are a few little stats about my reading in 2016 (please note these numbers do not include any university based reading) –

ORIGINAL GOODREADS GOAL – 50 Books

I thought this would be a challenging but realistic goal. Almost a book a week, and I am not the fastest reader in the world let me assure you of that.

ACTUAL GOAL MET – 39 Books

Only 11 off the goal, not too shabby if I do say so myself. I honestly think I could have reached my 50 goal if I hadn’t grossly underestimated the lack of free reading time I’d have once the summer break was over

BOOK BREAK DOWN –

Short Story Collections – 4

My favorite of which was Carys Bray’s Sweet Home 

Classics – 5

I had set myself the goal of reading a classic a month, that didn’t work out quite the way I planned but I’m still five classics down! 

Poetry Collections – 2

Not many at all, but I’m very much a beginner when it comes to poetry, and the two collections I read this year were absolutely haunting and beautiful. 

Graphic Novels – 6

Not gonna lie, apart from Saga which I enjoyed, I think I just tried to fire through some graphic novels to get my goal count up because I’m a dirty rotten cheat and I panicked when I saw what was going to happen uni wise.

I completely forgot until I remembered I set myself a classics challenge, I made a blog post about my 2016 resolutions! Lets see how I fared –

  1. Read at least 60 books – It seems I was very optimistic and then chickened out when it came to setting the GoodReads goal
  2. Update my blog at least twice a week – HAHAHAHA
  3. Have a monthly TBR – I tried for Jan/Feb, didn’t like not just picking up a book in the moment
  4. Have a monthly wrap up – HAHAHAHA
  5. Spend more time when writing a review – I think I reviewed 10% of the books I read this year…spend ANY time would have been more appropriate
  6. Use a TBR jar every month – My TBR jar now contains caster sugar
  7. Read every book I own in 2015 in 2016 – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  8. Read a classic a month – 5/12 not too bad, not too good either
  9. Re-read Harry Potter – I read the illustrated edition of P’s Stone if that counts
  10. Finish The Song Of Ice And Fire series – HAHAHAHA 1.25 books down
  11. Be more active within the book blogging community – I abandoned you all I’m sorry
  12. Visit more book shops – Nope.
  13. Use the library more often – I actually did this! Quiet a lot in 2016
  14. Go to a book festival – 😦
  15. Don’t worry so much – I’m a 3rd year student I do nothing but.
  16. Read for ME – I’m very much down for this idea still, still working on it, I find I slip sometimes but I’m getting better.

Right this wrap up is very much all over the place. I’ll wrap up this wrap up with a list of a few faves from the year –

Favorite Book –

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Favorite Fantasy –

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Favorite BookTube Channel –

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Honestly I wouldn’t stand a chance choosing just one. I’ve discovered so many content makers in 2016 and I am so excited for what they come up with in the new year

Right I’ve rambled enough. I hope you had a wonderful year, have a beautiful christmas, and an incredible new year.

Fun idea if you’re planning on drinking this new years eve, read this post again and every time I cry about the fact I’m a student, take a shot. I can guarantee intoxication by 1/4 of the way through.

Thanks for an amazing year guys! And I’ll see you all in 2017.

Reading & Homosexuality

Okay, so this is a completely random idea that popped into my head when I finally got around to watching some YouTube videos about books (BookTube videos as they are better known) for the first time since I got bogged down in the mundane life of a third year student.

It has always been apparent to me, even though I cannot be certain of this as to collect the appropriate facts I would have to scour the internet for every book related video on the internet and honestly I have dedication issues when it comes to minor projects so that one is just a non-starter, that the majority of the content on BookTube is created by women. Now this is by no means a complaint, those ladies are making incredible content and are fascinating people, this realisation was more a case of me thinking ‘I wonder if there are any other males watching and creating content of this kind’. And of course there are, I’m just a small fish in a very big pond of male BookTube creators who are blogging and vlogging about their literary adventures.

Now, I had answered my own question, there may be a female majority in the creators of bookish content, but there are definitely some guys out there too. That’s it…curiosity cured.

Oh…wait.

Here is the thing, and I don’t mean that I’m stereotyping or discriminating or whatever offensive things that might be construed about what I’m going to be saying (because even as I type I barely know what I’m saying), but as I began to discover the other men of this community, it became more and more apparent to me that most of these lovely guys just happened to be gay. I’ll list some videos here so you can get a feel for what I’m describing appallingly (and please content creators let me know if you want your link removing for any reason) –

George Lester’s A to Z of LGBT Books  – George gives a beautifully creative and informative run down of some of his favorite LGBT novels and non-fiction reads. George is a lovely man whose content about all bookish things are hilarious and wonderful.

Simon Savidge’s 8 LGBT Books for the Summer – Simon lists some books inspired by Pride Week 2016 to read over the summer months. Simon is an incredible content maker, currently producing a book every day in December for vlogmas, as well as consistently uploading fascinating literary themed videos.

LeeReader’s Rainbow Flag Book Tag – Lee is an avid reader and a huge supporter of LGBT fiction and representation, in this particular video he creates a lovely inventive tag in which he asks book based questions all relating to a colour within the gay pride flag.

Now obviously it isn’t just gay men who talk about LGBT books and themes and what not on BookTube but these three gents are just a few examples of the kinds of guys you can find within this community (as well as little old me). Nor am I just assuming these fine gentlemen are gay purely because they feature LGBT books on their channels, all are opening gay and have referenced their sexuality in their videos themselves. 

Now that was a very long winded way of explaining what I mean that the majority of men creating book based content on Youtube are homosexual (from my experience). Like I said before, there is no way of me knowing exactly now many men are out there discussing books online and what percentage of them are gay. Maybe because I’m a gay man myself within the community, that is the reason I gravitate towards these specific people rather than straight men instead of the facts being that there are just less of them out there. I know that men are the minority in this sect to begin with, I have been mentioned in Twitter on more than on occasion in reply to someone actively seeking out other male Booktubers because they couldn’t find any of us to begin with.

This idea, because I’m an over-think-this-to-death kind of guy, produced many a question into my nosy and curious brain.

  • Do gay men read more than straight men?
  • Do straight men not discuss their reading so openly as gay men?
  • Are straight men embarrassed by reading?
  • Is reading over all considered a feminine past time?
  • Am I just not looking hard enough?

These are all questions I couldn’t find the answers to. When Googling ‘Gay Men vs Straight Men Reading’ I was met with…

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…and many other religious results which didn’t answer my question at all.

I do follow a couple of straight men that have wonderful BookTube channels, who I discovered through my incessant scouring of the internet, and I am in no way discrediting their content because their videos are wonderful, I just want to know why I have experienced such an weighted balance towards homosexual men opening discussing books and reading.

 

Maybe this is just an over thinkers ridiculous ramble, or maybe I have uncovered something that hasn’t been widely discussed, I dunno, enlighten me, please.

 

 

 

I Came. I Read. I Didn’t Conqure

Well, look what the procrastinating, over worked, under slept, under-read cat dragged in.

Hi guys, remember me? I used to read, blog, and vlog about books.

I could spend hours just raining down on you the reasons in which I haven’t been present, why I haven’t uploaded a video or a blog post or so much as an Instagram picture in months, but I won’t bore you with the laborious details.

The short story is, final year of university happened

#someonepleasesaveme

Third year is super intense, and I don’t utilise my time well at the best of times, so trying to balance that and having any ‘reading for pleasure’ (what is that? is that a German dipping sauce? I don’t recall that) time is absolutely impossible. I started the year well, with a decent goal of 50 books, and I was hurtling towards that finish line. I had set up a book blog dedicated twitter/Instagram/Youtube channel. I was making connections with people and taking part in tags and all those sorts of things, but then it all came crashing down after the summer. The reality set in, and I had to abandon this ship to then board on in which I spend my days bouncing from deadline to deadline flailing, winging my way through assignments and text books and just about keeping myself from going over board.

But I have not forsaken you.

I will return.

I’m slowly getting ahead with my university work (it only took me three years), I’m slowly getting organised and balancing my life, I’ve had a 2017 diary since early November so you know I mean business.

I’m hoping to get fully back into the swing of things, and create lots more book related content, as well as branching out into other relevant parts of my life, I mean…CAN WE TALK ABOUT WESTWORLD FOR A MINUTE?!

But yes, I am here, I’m still reading and watching. I’m sat here watching Booktubers going Vlogmas thinking, I couldn’t upload a video in four months BUT YOU’RE UP HERE BLASTING OUT DAILY…D-A-I-L-Y VIDEOS?! I want you to share with me what magical creature cast this magic on you to make that possible. But yes I’m here, silent but most certainly not deadly (I son’t get enough sleep these days to be anyone’s assassin. And be assured, that if you’ve stuck with me, you will see me rise from the ashes of 2016 like a majestic phoenix, but until then, I hope you’re all having a wonderful December.

 

Book Review – Undying (A Love Story) by Michel Faber

GoodReads Rating: 5 Stars

This devastating book of grief and loss, death and heartache, has seeped its way into my very soul. This is the first Michel Faber book I have read, and as bizarre as it may sound, I think he instantly became one of my favorite writers after reading this collection, if not, one of my favorite poets of all time (although this is only the second poetry collection I have ever read for pleasure and not for education, so my experiences with poetry are extremely limited). His words, his emotion, everything about every single poem in this collection drew me in so hard, and catapulted me back out feeling like the poem itself had absorbed a small part of me, and I of it.

Undying is a collection of poems written by Michel based on his experiences with losing his wife to cancer, Eva died in 2014 of cancer of the bone marrow. The book is split up into two parts, the first an adventure in waiting for death, and second in dealing with the aftermath. The reader is taken on a most personal insight into the life of a man who is forced to watch the most important person in the world to him die, powerless to intervene.

Having never had to deal directly with cancer, being one of the very lucky people who have yet to lose someone to this most horrific disease, I was hugely effected by this collection. The themes of grief, of loss, love, hopelessness, sadness, and anger, all spoke to me in a way that poetry never really has before. If someone is looking to get into poetry, then this would be an ideal (but heartbreaking) first collection. These poems don’t just make you think about yourself and your situations in life, but because you know that Michel is speaking from his own, horrendously sad experiences, it hits you as hard as it would if this story of loss were a documentary. You can see his pain, can see the candid ways in which he would carry on his own life after the death of his wife, Eva. His poems give you an insight into the logistics of losing someone, which can just solidifify the loss in your mind.

‘The helpline man

refuses to help

because I am not you.

He needs – by letter – proof

that you are dead, he needs

to see your name and your disease

and the date your suffering ended’ 

from Account Holder by Michel Faber

Michel Faber’s story of the loss of Eva has touched me in the very deep and personal way. I still think about the words, they linger with me as I go about my day. They make me want to reach out to him and help, to reach out to anyone going through anything like that and try to help them through it. I wish Michel all the happiness in the world, because nothing is as devastating as the loss of human life, and I applaud him for channeling those feelings into the most touching piece of literature I have ever read.

Undying deals with illness and death in a way that society should learn to do more often. We often sweep death under the rug, we donate and fundraise for all these cancer charities, without ever stopping to think properly about what it takes to go through that, what the person suffering, and their loved ones actually feel. More people need to stand up to tell their stories like Michel, from the domestic duties of care, to the process of trying to live in a world without the most important person you’ve ever known by your side.

Undying is available now, published by Canon Gate books.