Spring break reading

ALL reporters

“Into the Wild”

by Jon Krakauer

The cliché, “the book is better than the movie” rings true for the national bestseller, “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

Based on the non-fictional life events of Christopher McCandless, the novel follows the journey of the young man’s voyage into the wild.

Krakauer, a journalist, was assigned the story from the editor of Outside magazine to report on the mysterious death of a decomposed body found by moose hunters in Alaska.

Krakauer investigated the circumstances of the death and revealed the corpse belonged to McCandless, a recent college graduate from an affluent East Coast family who hitchhiked to Alaska. McCandless died from starvation in the wilderness in April 1992. He was 24 years old.

After graduating with honors from Emory University in 1990, McCandless changed his name, gave his life savings of $24,000 to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned his cash and disappeared out of sight. Inventing a new identity for himself, McCandless wandered across North America searching for a life-defining experience. McCandless believed man’s ultimate joy could only be found at one with nature, a prominent theme throughout the novel.

Krakauer follows McCandless’s voyage into the north, stopping along the way to give narratives and family and friends’ opinions of the young man, and he includes McCandless’s personal journal entries and quotes from his favorite authors.

“Into the Wild” is not for the faint of heart. McCandless’s gripping tale entraps readers from the moment they open the first page. His voyage strikes a cord with every person who has shared in McCandless’s quest for something more than an ordinary existence and exposes the explorer in us all.

— Cassandra Adams

“What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us” by Laura van den Berg

“What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us” is a collection of eight short fiction stories. Van den Berg introduces the reader to eight characters as they walk a tight line between reality and something else.

Jean, a failed actress, takes a job as a Bigfoot impersonator and falls in love with her neighbor. Celia, in the title story, swims her way through a trip to Madagascar with her over-the-top mother. Emily, a botanist, suddenly finds herself helping a group of scientists search for the Loch Ness Monster. Or Joyce, who moves to Manhattan from upstate New York for a more exotic existence but makes a total mess of her life by having an affair with her married boss and stealing an expensive death mask from Bali. The characters, although involved in a story uniquely their own, are connected by the unrelenting desire to believe in things they know they shouldn’t. It is impossible not to become invested in each character and want to see their endeavors successfully completed. This is a great little book to read for anyone looking to have an adventure — or eight — over spring break. Van den Berg is a native of Florida and currently lectures at Gettysburg College. This is Van den Berg’s first book.

— Kelley Stoklosa

“Even Cowgirls Get The Blues” by Tom Robbins

In Richmond, Va., where “a typewriter of birds banging out sonnets in the dogwood buds” echoes in the minds of Sissy Hankshaw’s growing thumbs which glide through the air, cars roll down streets and stop when they glimpse those oversized appendages.

It is not that she has a destination; it is “the act of hitching that formed the substance of her vision.”

In Tom Robbins’ weird world, almost obscenely thoughtful observations weave through the roads of this particularly eccentric novel.

It is on these roads, in Richmond, a city of people who would “sell you anything they had, which was nothing, and kill you over anything they didn’t understand, which was everything,” where Sissy waits with patient, wandering thumbs pointed in any direction.

Drifting serendipitously toward a ranch, run by cowgirls, in the Dakota Badlands, she wanders while removing “the freeway from its temporal context” so that “no arbitrary graduations reducing time to functional units” could pass as her life.

But, as the title says, “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.”

—Nicole Hennessy