Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Beaufort Books • $24.95 • ISBN 9780825306938
published June 10, 2013
As a fan of Becoming Odyssa, her memoir of first hiking the AT after college, I was thrilled when I learned that Davis had written a new book, Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph, about her recent record-breaking experience. Certain to entertain readers—fellow hikers or not—this is a story of perseverance and grit, love, dedication and sacrifice. It’s not so much about being the fastest AT hiker ever, as about taking on a challenge, consistently doing your best and allowing yourself to rely on other people to help you along the way.
Readers feeling unsure of themselves or frustrated by societal pressures regarding what they should look like, act like and/or focus on would benefit from reading Davis’ story, which offers plenty of inspiration for becoming a better "me."
Here are Davis’ thoughts after Anne Riddle Lundblad, an accomplished ultra-runner, tells Jen she’s a role model:
"I mean, how does hiking the Appalachian Trail in a short amount of time positively impact anyone? But Anne made me realize that being a role model isn’t about inspiring other people to be like you; it is about helping them to be the fullest version of themselves. The main legacy of this endeavor would not be to encourage others to set a record on the Appalachian Trail, but to encourage them to be the best form of their truest selves. And it just so happened that my best form was a hiker."
"No one seemed interested in what I'd learned or what the most valuable part of the experience had been. Instead, everyone wanted to talk about how I averaged 46.93 miles per day. . . . Why didn't anyone ask about the notions of living in the present or choosing something purposeful and fulfilling over something fun and easy? Or the idea that persistence and consistency can be more valuable than speed or strength? . . . Why did no one realize that the most miraculous part of the summer was not the record, but how well my husband had loved me?!"
If you’ve read Wild, the best-selling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, you know it is about much more than just hiking. Such is Davis’ story, too. The white blaze and rolling mountains on the cover will pull you in, and by the time you reach the end of the trail atop Springer Mountain, you’ll be wondering how you, too, can find your best self.
Next week, I'll be hiking in the Tetons with my husband, and, having read Called Again, I know that I'll be a "better me" while I'm there. What book(s) have inspired you to become a better version of yourself?
Enjoying the summer releases somewhere warm? Well, once these sunny days start getting shorter and temperatures begin to drop, you can be consoled by the knowledge that there's excellent reading heading your way.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Random House). Pessl's debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, became the talk of 2006 and went on to sell nearly 200,000 copies in hardcover. Has Pessl generated another bestseller and avoided the dreaded sophomore slump? Our money’s on “yes,” but we can’t wait to crack the covers and find out.
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (Viking). Author of Me Before You, Jojo Moyes is back with another heartbreaking story of love and loss that links two women separated by nearly a century. (read more)
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (Atria). From the author of Schindler’s List, this is the story of two courageous sisters from Australia who enlist as nurses during World War I.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury). Early champions of this novel, first in a seven-book series, include Ali Smith and the actor Andy Serkis, who has already optioned the film rights. Though Shannon’s dystopian world can be brutal, the magical elements and tough teenage heroine guarantee YA-crossover potential—and the author herself, who studied English at Oxford, is just 22 years old. (read more)
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Riverhead). From the best-selling author of Song Yet Sung is the new story of a young slave who escapes from an abusive slave master with John Brown, the radical abolitionist. Brown believes that he is a girl, and he must hide that secret to stay safe.
After Her by Joyce Maynard (Morrow). The new novel from the journalist and best-selling author of Labor Day and The Good Daughters is set in the summer of 1979 in Northern California, where sisters Rachel and Patty are largely left to their own devices by their distracted mother and perpetually cheating, yet charming, detective father. But when murdered girls begin turning up in the mountains near their home, Rachel and her father embark on separate quests to solve the case.
The Returned by Jason Mott (MIRA). What would you do if someone you loved and lost showed up at your door? That's the premise behind Mott's anticipated debut, which is being adapted for television already.
Claire of the Sea-Light by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf). Danticat's lyrical latest is set in small-town Haiti, where the disappearance of a young girl unites the lives of the residents.
The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd (Picador). Five years after her husband's death, Celia has created a safe, solitary life in her Brooklyn brownstone—until a new neighbor tests the boundaries. Now Celia and the other tenants are being forced out of their safe spaces. Loyd is the former fiction editor of Playboy, and her debut is both provocative and intelligent.
The Road from Gap Creek by Robert Morgan (Shannon Ravenel). Taking us back to Appalachia, Morgan continues the story of his beloved characters from his best-selling novel Gap Creek.
Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit). The author of the Mars trilogy and 2312 returns with the story of a young man's inspiring story of how we lived 30,000 years ago.
Moonrise by Cassandra King (Hyperion). Author of the best-selling novels The Same Sweet Girls and The Sunday Wife brings another novel of dark shadows and friendships set in the mountain retreat, Moonrise, known for its nightly glowing gardens.
Duplex by Kathryn Davis (Graywolf). Davis' imagination is vast and curious, and her latest novel is both mind-bending and lyrical.
The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell (Little, Brown). Set in his hometown, the book was inspired by a 1926 dancehall tragedy whose true cause remains a mystery—and whose legacy still haunts the small town today. Was it an accident, or something more sinister? Woodrell is the perfect author to take on this small-town American story.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Little, Brown). As a teenager, Australian Kent went on an exchange to Iceland and discovered the story of Agnes, a servant woman who was executed for murder in the 1820s—the last person, in fact, to be executed in Iceland. Kent has spent the last 10 years piecing together Agnes' story, which finally came together in a book that she calls a “dark love letter” to Iceland.
Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush (Knopf). In Rush's first novel to be set in the U.S., a group of college friends come together 20 years after graduation in this depiction of the trials and joys of marriage and friendship.
Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (Crown). In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, several elderly patients at a New Orleans hospital were designated the last to be rescued, and subsequently died. Did their doctors hasten their deaths, or end their misery? Pulitzer Prize winner Fink tells the true story of what happened at Memorial Medical Center.
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday). Centering on two strong women, Lethem creates a decade-spanning story of radical families chasing the American dream.
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (Ballantine). The author of the bestseller Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet sets his second novel in 1920s and 1930s Seattle, where a lonely young boy looks for the mother he longs for. (read more)
Someone: A Novel by Alice McDermott (FSG). Subtle and tender, this is the story of one Brooklyn woman's life—a life that runs the course of much of the 20th century.
Enon by Paul Harding (Random House). Tinkers was the dark horse winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. Will Harding hit the bestseller list a second time?
Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III (Norton). From the award-winning author of House of Sand and Fog, this collection of four novellas expresses tenderness and vulnerability of people seeking fulfillment in the wrong places.
Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron (Blue Rider Press). Beloved screenwriter Ephron offers a collection of essays and personal stories both poignant and hilarious, including a remembrance of her late sister, Nora Ephron.
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press). The famously reclusive author’s latest is set in New York City just after 9/11, a time “not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since,” as the publisher puts it. (read more)
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury). Ward, whose novel Salvage the Bones won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction, now offers a memoir about the deaths of several beloved men in her life. This won't be an easy read, but for those who are interested in poverty and racism in America, it will be an essential one.
Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan (Viking). Back with a new novel, Terry McMillan provides a colorful cast of characters trying to survive Los Angeles.
The Quest by Nelson DeMille (Grand Central). An unlikely group of travelers are given the secret location of the Holy Grail—and set off on a dangerous journey.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf). Lahiri's tale of two brothers whose lives take drastically different paths is an exploration of the toll of idealism. (read more)
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner). It's a sequel to King's 1977 classic horror story, The Shining. Do you really need to know more to get on board?
Local Souls by Allan Gurganus (Liveright). Gurganus brings his discerning eye and dark humor to bear on the modern-day South in this long-awaited story.
The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent (Little, Brown). Kent leaves colonial Massachusetts to explore 1800s Texas with a new novel starring a hooker who, refreshingly, lacks the proverbial heart of gold.
Book of Ages by Jill Lepore (Knopf). Both Benjamin Franklin and his youngest sister, Jane, were bright and inquisitive people with deeply held political convictions. Benjamin Franklin became one of America's Founding Fathers; Jane Franklin became the mother of 12 children. Lepore investigates Jane's life in a book that will surely cast new light on the debate about women, work, motherhood, politics and ambition.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking). Gilbert's first novel in years is the story of the Whitaker family—and of a century of scientific discovery, wonder and change.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown). In a new book about "underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants" (as the subtitle puts it), Gladwell explores the relationship between the weak and the strong, and explains how our advantages and disadvantages can shape us—but perhaps not in the ways we think.
The Tilted World by Beth Ann Fennelly & Tom Franklin (Morrow). Set in 1927 Mississippi, there is a lot more to be found around the rising waters than two missing agents last seen tracking down bootleggers.
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson (Doubleday). Bryson turns his attention (and his sharp wit) to a formative year in America's history, when Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone and Herbert Hoover (among others) shared the national spotlight.
The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble (HMH). In her first novel in five years, Drabble presents the hard choices and struggles of a single mother as told through the eyes of the supportive mothers around her.
The Hired Man by Aminetta Forna (Grove). An Englishwoman arrives in a small Croatian village, unaware that her arrival will stir up some unpleasant memories of the civil war that lurk beneath the town's charming surface.
The Rosie Chronicles by Grahaem Simison (St. Martin's). This anticipated first novel is told in the voice of an Asperger's-stricken professor who sets out to find the perfect wife—only to find a woman who upsets all his plans.
The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson (Grove). Based on the 17th-century witchcraft trials at Pendle Hill, this atmospheric novella will deliver Halloween chills.
Longbourn by Jo Baker (Knopf). In today’s modern world, it’s impossible to go too long without a new take on the enduring classic Pride and Prejudice. British author Baker puts a new twist on the story by telling it from the point of view of the Bennett family’s servants. (read more)
Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles (Harper). Jiles, known for her historical fiction, strikes new ground in a future-set tale. Orphaned Nadia Stepan, unhappy with life in this dystopic urban world, strikes out for a possibly mythical island in the Pacific Northwest.
Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois (Random House). DuBois' anticipated second novel is loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox. Entitled, intelligent, charming and a bit careless, American Lily Hayes becomes the prime suspect in her roommate's murder during a semester abroad in Argentina. (read more)
Top Down by Jim Lehrer (Random House). The latest from Lehrer is about the secret service agent who decided to let JFK ride with the top down in Dallas—a nice fictional counterpoint to the deluge of nonfiction books coming out this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
Focus by Daniel Goleman (Harper). The author of Emotional Intelligence gives readers more food for thought as he discusses the importance of attention and what we can do to sharpen our own mental faculties.
Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips (Scribner). Based on the real-life serial killer who preyed on widows in the 1930s, this novel is sure to send shivers up your spine.
The Family by David Laskin (Viking). Laskin explores the history of the 20th century through the three branches of his own Jewish family. From their roots in Russia, two of the three branches emigrated—one to America and one to Palestine—while one remained in Europe and faced the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice (Knopf). With her popular Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice created one of the most influential modern retellings of the vampire mythology. Now, Rice turns her masterful storytelling skills to another classic monster: the werewolf.
Identical by Scott Turow (Grand Central). In this tangle of a mystery, two twins with very different lives are drawn back into an investigation of their young neighbor's murder from 25 years ago.
The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester (Harper). Winchester's first book about America focuses on the men who explored, surveyed and connected the far-flung and highly varied states that make up our union, and asks us to consider whether or not we have truly accomplished the goal of uniting the States.
The Last Dark: The Climax of the Entire Thomas the Covenant Chronicles by Stephen R. Donaldson (Putnam). The conclusion to the long-lasting fantasy series, Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery must stop the Worm of World's End from unraveling Time.
Guests on Earth by Lee Smith (Shannon Ravenel). Smith weaves a compelling story explaining the mysterious fire of Asheville's Highland Hospital, the mental institute where Zelda Fitzgerald and eight others mysteriously died.
Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (Knopf). This fall, Fielding is bringing Bridget back for a modern-day adventure, which we assume will involve facing middle age with the same comic insight that she brought to being a “singleton.” (read more)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown). Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, was a huge bestseller and an instant classic when it was published in 1992—her third novel is set in the art world of New York City and is sure to draw attention. (read more)
Sycamore Row by John Grisham (Doubleday). Nearly 25 years ago, Grisham’s debut legal thriller, A Time to Kill, introduced readers to a fearless, entertaining storyteller. Grisham’s new novel, Sycamore Row, is the sequel to this unforgettable story, as good-guy attorney Jack Brigance continues his unwavering pursuit of justice, once again taking on the prejudices of a small Southern town.
We Are Water by Wally Lamb (Harper). Capturing the spirit of the American culture, Lamb tells a humorous story of family, social norms and the search for the meaning of life.
Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (Harper). What would the story of Eleanor and Marianne be like in today's world? Trollope answers that question in a humorous and enjoyable tribute to Austen.
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón (Riverhead). In the second, anticipated novel from this talented young writer, things are finally going right for Nelson until betrayal and secrets begin to threaten his theatrical success.
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster). Goodwin's latest biography focuses on the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Roosevelt had handpicked Taft as his political successor, but when Taft compromised many of Roosevelt's most cherished beliefs, Roosevelt ran against him for the presidency—a decision with consequences that still echo in our own time.
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (Ecco). It’s been eight long years since Tan published Saving Fish from Drowning. Her next full-length novel is about three generations of Chinese and Chinese-American women whose lives are linked by a painting, and is set in San Francisco and Shanghai over the course of some 50 years.
The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani (Harper). Back with another delicious novel, Trigiani presents the partnerships of old and new world values in a family business based on love and laughter.
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (Harper). Novelist Patchett, who gained many new readers with her memoir Truth & Beauty, returns to the nonfiction form with this collection of essays, which explore "her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband."
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fanny Flagg (Random House). From the author of Fried Green Tomatoes, we return to the South to explore the relationships between mothers and daughters.
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom (Harper). What would you do if your neighbor got a phone call from heaven? Would you believe it? That's the premise of Albom's latest book, and his first with new publisher HarperCollins. (read more)
Stella Bain by Anita Shreve (Little, Brown). Set during World War I, the importance of memory is explored as one nurse's aid discovers her memories gone after being injured on the battlefield.
Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith (S&S). Sleuth Arkady Renko investigates the seemingly unconnected murders of two people in modern Russia.
Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson (Harper). Jackson is known for her insightful, humorous and heartfelt take on the modern world. In her latest novel—her first with Morrow—she tells the story of a woman who falls in love with the wrong man before discovering the right one.
Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich (Random House). Stephanie Plum is back again and being joined by all of her previous cohorts.
Here and Now: Letters 2008-2011 by Paul Auster & J.M. Coetzee
Viking • $27.95 • ISBN 9780670026661
On sale March 11, 2013
If you truly want to know an author intimately, you must read their letters. For example, if you want to discover the man behind Slaughterhouse-Five, you read Vonnegut's Letters, featured in our November Well Read column. I especially love when two writers find mutual respect and creativity through letters—like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Their correspondence begins, aptly enough, with a discussion of friendship. It moves on to the financial crisis (which, mercifully, Auster puts a kibosh on pretty quickly), and then to sports and competition, language and style, American poetry, film, sports again, Israel, libraries and much, much more. By skipping from one subject to the next, the letters never drag or feel sluggish or boring. The time and distance between letters and the frequent changes in topic allow the correspondence both levity and quickness. Meaning: Those who don't spend time pondering Samuel Beckett will enjoy these letters, and those who do will enjoy them, too.
Perhaps my favorite topic was the concept of names. Coetzee writes:
Your name is your destiny. Oidipous, Swollen-foot. The only trouble is, your name speaks your destiny only in the way the Delphic Sibyl does: in the form of a riddle. Only as you lie on your deathbed do you realize what it meant to be "Tamerlane" or "John Smith" or "K." A Borgesian revelation.
To which Auster responds:
We grow into the names we are given, we test them out, we grapple with them until we come to accept that we are the names we bear. Can you remember practicing your signature as a young boy? Not long after we learn how to write in long-hand, most children spend hours filling up pieces of paper with their names. It is not an empty pursuit. It is an attempt, I feel, to convince ourselves that we and our names are one, to take on an identity in the eyes of the world.
Needless to say, I have spent my whole life exploring and meditating on my own name, and my great hope is to be reborn as an American Indian. Paul: Latin for small, little. Auster: Latin for South Wind. South Wind: an old American euphemism for a rectal toot. I therefore shall return to this world bearing the proud and altogether appropriate name of Little Fart.