Seven Books From Adulthood That Have Stayed With Me

World Book Night in the UK is an event where volunteers disperse books to people who don’t normally read as a habit, and as a keen reader myself, it got me thinking about which books have stayed with me as an adult. These are the ones that instantly spring to mind:

KRAKATOA THE DAY THE WORLD EXPLODED by SIMON WINCHESTER – Brilliantly researched and well written book that chronicles the regions socio/political and economic history. The gradual understanding of geological processes and elementary evolutionary studies are explained. Numerous sources detail the human tragedy of the volcanic eruption, the repercussions of which still echo to this day. A global event reported through history, science and sociology.

A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS by FANNIE FLAGG – This is a beautiful heart warming story about community, friendship and unshakeable faith. An injured red cardinal enchants a town, befriends a little crippled girl and heals a broken man. When the bird dies everyone feels lost but his spirit returns to help the girl. A fractured community reunites and couples form over a magical Christmas.

SEABISCUIT THREE MEN AND A RACEHORSE by LAURA HILLENBRAND – Another well researched book that chronicles the story of how three people came together and made a champion out of a small misunderstood horse. I felt every emotion reading this equine sports biography, which details how Seabiscuit became “the people’s champion” thanks to a benevolent owner, understanding trainer and intuitive rider. You can read my Seabiscuit blog here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/seabiscuit-arkle-parallels-between-two-once-in-a-generation-horses/

JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL by RICHARD BACH – A beautiful simple book with a great mandate for living that is a perfect example of my mantra, “why be a sheep if you can be a shepherd”. Jonathan remains true to himself and is cast out from his flock as a result. But he receives enlightenment and wisdom which he tries to pass on to future generations. There seems to be a distinct Buddhist element to the story through various levels of consciousness.

UNKNOWN SOLDIERS by MARK LEECH – A Major with no battle experience is deployed to a French village to oversee the clearance of the WW1 dead. Through his interactions with relatives of the deceased and dealing with his battle weary charges, the Major begins to realise the full meaning of soldier solidarity and appreciate the true cost of the war. This is a hauntingly poignant tale which seems to easily convey the colour of World War One, the drab brown of the cloying mud, which engulfed the troops and choked their spirit, but could not destroy the camaraderie of the trenches.

WHO SHOT JFK by ROBIN RAMSEY – Details gathered over the years are condensed into a narrative that offers a brilliant introduction to the subject matter. It debunks ideas along the way, but also highlights areas where evidence has been repeated in different forms. It seems to try to remain objective and neutral throughout, and brings together strands of information from over the “lifetime” of the crime. Depending on your viewpoint the conclusions drawn are outrageous and utterly ludicrous, OR horrifying, audacious and yet shockingly believable.

FIRST MOTHERS by BONNIE ANGELO – Read how a mother’s influence shaped a son’s development until he became the man who called himself President of the United States. This is a fascinating glimpse into the childhoods of boys who grew up to hold the highest political office in the USA. From Franklin Roosevelt to George W Bush, we see how family dynamics and the personalities of the “first mothers” helped mould the characters of their sons, in the formative years.

As a child I was a prolific Enid Blyton reader and my substitute adult equivalent is Maeve Binchy, therefore I deliberately did NOT mention any of her books. I find Dan Brown novels real page turners that provide me with a sense of adventure. The innocent times discovered through my BOBBY BREWSTER childhood reading has been unearthed in the MISS READ series, and the vague sense of wonder I got from Bobby has matured into something more profound in Mitch Albom’s writing. You can read my childhood books blog here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/seven-books-from-childhood-that-have-stayed-with-me/

In closing, an honourable mention MUST go to Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock, which is indelibly seared into my consciousness for having taken a year (at least) to read! My reading style is one book at a time, with sometimes days or weeks passing between my put down/pick up actions. If scientific concepts are involved I like to puzzle over them to fully comprehend their meaning, and so several parts of this book were re-read as a result. On finishing it, my husband laughingly said “you do realise in the time it’s taken you to read this book, you could have completed a Masters course!”

Seven Books From Adulthood. Image credit abmj
              Seven Books From Adulthood. Image credit abmj

 

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YURI GAGARIN 55 Years of Immortality

Fifty-five years ago on 12th April 1961 Yuri Gagarin was launched into the Earth’s orbit and became the first spaceman. Cosmonauts Day in Russia honours Gagarin’s achievement and celebrates all cosmonauts who followed him into the vastness of space.

Gagarin came from very humble beginnings the son of a carpenter and dairymaid. World War II and the German invasion of Russia halted young Yuri’s education. He managed to catch up on his studies after the war and showed a determination to further his knowledge by leaving home. Living with an uncle in Moscow, he enrolled as a 15 year old into a technical high school at Lyubertsy and followed what seems to have been a vocational apprenticeship course (possibly foundation level) in steelworks (foundry man). On completing his two year course he undertook a further four years of study in the same field, and graduated in 1955 aged 21 a fully qualified steel cast-moulder.

Yuri had apparently hoped to be a gymnast and was given the opportunity of following his dream, but decided to complete his four year foundry course instead of attending physical training school. Had he not turned his back on his sporting dream, history would have been very different. For it was during his time at the Saratov Industrial Technical School that Yuri joined the Aero Club. His obvious natural abilities were recognised in the flying club and Yuri was justly rewarded with a recommendation for the Orenburg Military Aviation School. This led him into the Soviet Air-Force in 1956 and being picked for specialist cosmonaut training in 1959 (undoubtedly helped by his small stature of 5ft 2in or 1.57m).

The Soviets used space dogs initially to test the effects of space travel on living organisms, and the successful return of Belka and Strelka after an orbital flight of over 24 hours in August 1960 paved the way for Gagarin. The space sickness suffered by Belka on the fourth orbit of her mission most probably influenced the Soviets decision that man would initially do only one orbit of the Earth. A final orbital flight on 25th March 1961 with the dog Little Star and a mannequin (Ivan Ivanovich) successfully tested the ejector seat system Gagarin would use.

In the early hours of April 12th 1961 the Vostok spacecraft was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome with 27 year old Yuri Gagarin on board. His total flight time of 108 minutes included around 89 minutes in orbit where the speed reached in the region of 27,400 km per hour. Travelling some 327km above the earth Gagarin truly had a heavenly view of our planet and the stars, but all too soon the automated flight systems brought him back, to instant worldwide acclaim. Sadly, on March 27th 1968 just short of the seventh anniversary of this amazing achievement, the Soviets made the announcement of the untimely death of Yuri Gagarin in a training accident aged 34. His ashes are buried in the walls of the Kremlin where he is honoured to this day for his launch into immortality.

The Americans followed Yuri’s epic trip a few weeks later on May 5th, when Alan Shepherd aboard Freedom 7 completed the first-US manned SUB-orbital flight, duration fifteen minutes. Interestingly his mission had originally been scheduled for April, but NASA delayed it to complete more tests on the rocket. Had they been less cautious an American could have been the first human to technically enter outer-space? But Yuri’s pioneering travel ensured that the USA in the early days of the “space-race” was always playing catch-up.

You can listen to my hospital radio space themed tribute to Yuri Gagarin here:

https://soundcloud.com/angies_allsorts/space-theme-from-230316

Treasured mementos from Cosmonaut Exhibition. Image credit abmj
Treasured mementos from Cosmonaut Exhibition. Image credit abmj