The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
It’s no surprise that this book lands in nearly every “Top biographies” list you find on google. The story follows the enigmatic and mystical Christopher Knight who disappears in his twenties into the woods and doesn’t interact with humans for another 27 years.
Immediately, you are drawn in by the intrigue of “why”. Is he crazy? Did he commit a heinous crime? This is then followed by the equally perplexing “How” as he disappears into the wilderness in Maine, with winters that reach a crippling -20 degrees.
The book explores not only Knight’s experience but pokes at the idea of “normalcy”. Why is it that our society feels completely content with someone going to work 40 or more hours a week at a soul-sucking desk job, but living peacefully in nature seems indicative of mental illness?
Overall, I think we are fascinated by people that choose to live “fringe” lives as it gives us a glimpse into a broader human experience.
I found the tale both intriguing and oftentimes sad. Ultimately, it is a brisk, worthwhile read on someone who accomplished a task few in history have emulated.
An Unlikely Trust: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Improbable Partnership That Remade American Business by Gerard Helferich
The book dives into the lives of iconic president Theodore Roosevelt and financial tycoon Pierpoint Morgan. We are taken back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, were a few men possessed unparalleled wealth with the rise of oil and railroads. Glimpses of a time before worker protections and rights leave us thankful to be a part of the modern workforce and not the robber baron days of old.
Within the first few chapters we witness a man, Morgan, who is so wealthy, the government of the United States itself depends on him to resolve financial calamity.
The rest of the book shows us a world where money and politics are tightly interlocked, not dissimilar to our reality today. The book served as a stark reminder of the evolution of political parties and even media entities, as we are taken through stories of the New York Times staunchly defending monopolies and Laiz a Faire economics.
Overall the book was an interesting look at two remarkable figures in history and had good readability for a book tightly focused on a non-fiction and historically accurate telling of events.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
I picked the book up about a week ago but I didn’t start it right away. I would wake up each day and look at it on the shelf with a hint of excitement. It was like a present I was waiting to unwrap.
Something in me knew I would like it. It sounded like it was about storytelling. About rough and tumble, grit and resilience, imperfection and growth. I finally sank into it today and finished it in one go. No breaks.
It didn’t disappoint.
The book is about Matthew McConaughey’s life. It starts with a childhood that is a mix of violence, old-world hard knocks, and pious principles. It starts with love and contradiction. Along the road it teaches you a lot of lessons.
You learn that love can be messy.
You learn that what choice you make is sometimes not as important as making one.
You learned that stealin’ might be a mistake but lying is the real sin.
You learn that sometimes people don’t need advice, they just need to know they are not the only one.
You learn that hugs can heal.
You learn it’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you accept the challenge
You learn that finding out who you are, starts with finding you who you are not.
You learn that you can’t enjoy the light without the shadows.
You learn to not be scared to re-invent and re-brand yourself.
You learn that whatever you choose to do in life, don’t half-ass it.
You learn that gambling on yourself is not just a good choice, it’s the only choice.
You learn to not invent drama because it will come on it’s own.
You learn that to go far, sometimes you need to slow down.
You learn that sometimes having your plans interrupted is a blessing in disguise.
You learn that it’s okay to lose yourself, just not to stay lost.
You learn that life is full of chapters, and change is coming.
I think at a core level this book resonated with the restlessness inside of me. The craving for adventure. My love of stories and mistakes. Near misses, and legendary comebacks.
That spirit of uncertainty that battles with the celebration of the moment. I left this book feeling a lot of peace. Peace in knowing that uncertainty is part of the game. You feel it, I feel it and the A-list actor feels it.
But it also was a celebration of “doing”. Getting your shoes dirty and taking chances. Living a life that is worthy of stories when you get old.
I have had the same three life goals since I was 13. Every year I reassess, and ever year they are still the same.
Live a life rich in memories.
Define success by how much I have helped other people.
Seek, embrace and celebrate happiness.
This book left me feeling like I am on the right track.
A Life: Ruth Bader Ginsbug by Jane Sherron De Hart
A thorough and inspiring look at the groundbreaking life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Unlike other books that focus purely on her legal career and judgements, this biography starts from her childhood and takes a comprehensive dive into her legacy.
While the book packs a punch at nearly 700 pages, it is a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to truly understand Ruth’s life. The book talks about her relationships, her hardships, her successes and her failures. The book talks about the immense hurdles she overcame and about her tenacity in the face of systemic barriers.
The book also gives a glimpse at Ruth the human being, with her foibles alongside her laudable characteristics.
Overall, this book is not only the story of a pioneering woman, but a story of achieving great things and doing so with grace.
Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran by Christian Giudice
The book covers the gritty upbringing of a Panamanian boxer who rises up from the streets to become a global icon. The narrative includes lots of interpersonal details about Roberto’s life but maintains a focus specifically around his boxing bouts. Later on, we see the impacts of fame and where that can lead.
Duran is painted as a complex figure, who on one hand showed incredible strength in overcoming adversity and on another, always grappled with his inner demons.
This book is definitely for the boxing aficionado and I would recommend it if you are interested in the sport.
Solitary by Albert Woodfox
It is the autobiography of a man who spent over 40 years in solitary confinement and still, somehow, maintained his sanity. It is a story about institutional racism, structural prison issues and unimaginable human resilience. The story takes you through the gamut of emotions.
You will feel rage at injustice, sadness at suffering and hope through the amazing power of the human spirit. One of the first things that stood out to me, was Albert’s idea of the Black Panthers (A group that becomes a core part of his identity). Going into reading this book I knew very little about the organization.
My high school history books left me with approximately two facts I could recall: Malcolm X was one of their leaders and the Black Panthers took a more militant approach to fighting racial injustice issues versus the more peaceful approach of leaders like Martin Luther King.It turns out, that is a horribly inadequate understanding of the movement.
The root of the Black Panthers was centered around issues like fair housing, access to equitable legal services and opening up educational opportunities for young black men and women. The Black Panthers supported self-defense and self-dignity, but did not preach violence as a vehicle for change.
Albert’s life story is a must-read.