Sunday, January 22, 2012

Travels with Charlie : In search of America

Travels with Charlie : In search of America
By John Steinbeck.

Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travels_with_Charley:_In_Search_of_America
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Travels-Charley-Search-America-Steinbeck/dp/0140053204

Every book that i read is a carefully chosen and has a nice background on why/how i came to read that book. Sometimes my book reading itself is a story (although not as exciting as the book itself). In this blog, i try to document that story while giving my opinion on the book itself.


I came to know about this book while listening to NPR (Thanks NPR!). On that show, the show anchor tried to repeat the same journey as John Steinbeck did in this book. The show anchor wanted to see the world as what John Steinbeck saw and how things have changed since. I think the story can be found here - http://www.npr.org/2010/10/02/130287348/a-half-century-later-steinbeck-s-roads-ride-the-same.
One of the segments in the story both the original and in NPR was about redwood trees and how magnificent they are and how Steinbeck was fascinated and his writings which was read aloud on NPR just blew me away. I think that i can simply attribute this show for my trip to go to Redwood national park in Thanksgiving last year. Had i not heard Steinbeck's lines, i may not have gone. But my story does not end here. I indeed went to the Redwood national park and hiking alone in Redwoods is one of my happiest moments of my life. But before i started my hike, as habitual i am to go to each and every visitor center, i went in and due to habitual sickness, i was looking at the books section when my eyes felt on this wonder. Now, here i am going to begin my 9-10 mile hike and i clearly will not be reading this book and i can buy this book anytime but now i have seen it and i have to buy it. I remember the  ranger/cashier telling me - "This is such a good book!". So without reading this book, i hiked with it for about 9 miles carrying this extra 250grams of luggage all over the hills and in between redwoods. Naturally, a sane person would finish the hike, snuggle under a warm blanket and read this book for it was cold that night and the place seemed just right to read it, but not me. I didnt read it that night, i think that the reason would be that i was happy/content that night and i didn't needed anything.  So, the book now comes back to Mountain view and then travels with me to India, to Bangalore-delhi-bangalore-delhi-ranchi and it is in the train journey from Ranchi to Delhi that i finally turn to this book. And needless to say, the Ranchi to Delhi train went like a blink and i was smiling most of the time on that train while my fellow passengers were throwing curious glances at me thinking that i am a weirdo. I think that "In search of America" in the title (they could only see the cover as i was reading the book) created a little discomforting scenario.

That was the story of how i read that book, now my opinion on the book.

It is a must read. Highly recommended. Why? I think first and foremost it is because of John Steinbeck's writing and his candid appraisal of his thoughts, actions and world around him.  Right from the first para where he talks about his affliction to go on a journey, his journey preparations and vignettes of people whom he meets and conversations, i simply love them. As i have admitted on this blog previously, i am a big fan of journey stories, the slow moving adventure with beautiful landscape in background, it just makes my style.  Without ruining the book, i would just like to mention that my favorites are (a) the conversation about roots of humanity, (b) Talking to the stranger family at the picnic stop, (c) Description of Charlie's actions and his thoughts.

I think i can never describe why i liked this book. You just have to read it and figure out. All i can say is that i am so glad that i have read this book.

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