Gone to Texas by Randolph Campbell
Widely considered one of the most complete histories of Texas, this book starts in the 16th Century when the state wasn’t a state, or a Republic, or a territory of Mexico. It was a sparsely populated region with more bison than people, and native inhabitants lived like most people lived in the 1500s. Explorers changed all that, of course, and the Lonestar State became a bargaining chip for the powerful of Europe, Mexico, and the United States.
This was a terrific book. Though academic it was very accessible and readable, and I learned a ton about the place I’ve lived for nearly a decade now. If you are a lover of history, Texas, or both, this is a great book to put on your list.
You Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
I had never heard of David Goggins before I read his memoir. Strangely enough, his book You Can’t Hurt Me was more a re-telling of the various ways in his life in which he has been hurt. While early in his life he was numb and overly indulgent, a switch flipped in early adulthood and he became an obsessive ultra-marathoner, Navy SEAL, and pull-up world record holder.
I found the book super interesting, but it sold itself as a way to conquer your mind and overcome odds — and then came across as a guy trying to prove he did that by ignoring injuries to boost his ego by doing stuff ordinary people don’t do (and probably shouldn’t). To be fair, Goggins leveraged a lot of his athletic pursuits to raise money for Wounded Warriors, etc., but his book barely mentions that and comes across more like an Ode to Self.
Fascinating? Yes. But the tone (for me) did not inspire, it made me want to give Goggins a hug and tell him he had nothing to prove to anyone.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I’d had this book on hold at the library for months, and my turn finally came up. It’s been a wildly popular title and while I’d seen the movie, I was excited to read the book. It did not disappoint, with inspiring stories about Stevenson’s work at The Justice Initiative, advocating for falsely imprisoned men and youth who were enduring unfairly harsh sentences.
We need people like Stevenson in this world, willing to do the work of fighting for those most of us don’t spend much time thinking about. I’m grateful for this book and the realities it awakened in me. Strangely enough, he’s sort of a more noble version of Goggins — doing impossibly hard things with tireless energy, but for the good of others instead of himself.