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  • BN Editors 4:23 pm on 2020/04/22 Permalink
    Tags: connor knighton, guest post, , leave only footprints, national parks, ,   

    An Exclusive Guest Post From Conor Knighton, Author of Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey through Every National Park 

    The author of Leave Only Footprints joins us to talk about the inspiration for his ambitious project to travel all of America’s national parks.

    Our national parks have been described as America’s “best idea.” But back when I decided to spend a year exploring them all, I was worried the whole thing might end up being my worst idea.

    At the time, I was recovering from a broken engagement and a broken heart. My friends had told me I could use a change of scenery, but I don’t think they expected me to take their advice quite so literally…

    I gave up my apartment, packed my bags, and set off to visit every national park in the country, from Acadia to Zion. It was the journey of a lifetime—one that I’ve recounted in my new book, Leave Only Footprints.

    When I first sat down to write, I briefly considered grouping my experiences in the parks geographically or chronologically. But what stood out to me most were the thematic threads that tie these wildly different places together. When you look at the Table of Contents, you’ll see chapter titles like “Sound,” “Borders,” and “Home.” Alaska’s remote Kobuk Valley—north of the Arctic Circle—and Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley—twenty miles south of Cleveland—both had lessons to teach me about living off the land (explored in Chapter 19, “Food”).

    At Arizona’s Petrified Forest and Florida’s Dry Tortugas, I found stories of people searching for forgiveness. In the deep blue water of Crater Lake and the murky floodplain of Congaree, I searched for answers to unsolved mysteries. These ancient landscapes opened my eyes to new perspectives on everything from God and love to politics and technology.

    While the parks are full of fascinating history, they also share a fragile future. With Leave Only FootprintsI’ve endeavored to capture what I found so inspiring about these protected places—the common ground we all share.

    Connor Knighton at Canyonlands National Park

    The post An Exclusive Guest Post From Conor Knighton, Author of Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey through Every National Park appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 2:00 pm on 2020/03/16 Permalink
    Tags: , guest post,   

    An Exclusive Guest Post From Earl Swift, Author of Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island 

    In the summer of 1994 I convinced my editors at the newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia, to buy a kayak and let me paddle it in a great circle around the Chesapeake Bay. One breezeless and bright morning, I paddled from my campsite on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and saw the silhouette of a wooded island off to the west, across four or five miles of flat water. My chart identified it as Watts—once home to a fishing village, long since vanished. I decided to have a look.

    Before I was halfway, a rising wind swooped in from the west. The seas sprang to three feet. Two exhausting hours later, I beached the boat and staggered ashore.

    Watts Island was about a mile long, a fat crescent edged in sand, its interior thick with loblolly pine and poison ivy. I walked its beach, detecting no trace of a human past. As I reached its windward side, another island came into view, across another four or five miles of even rougher water. That was my first glimpse of Tangier.

    This is what I saw: steep-roofed houses clustered around the steeple of a church; a rust-streaked water tower hovering above; and just offshore, a dozen small crabbing boats tossing in the storm as their captains pulled up the catch. Most of the island appeared to be treeless marsh. The houses were balanced on the slimmest wafer of green.

    I knew a little about Tangier. Everyone in the Tidewater did. Though only ninety miles from Washington, D.C., it is one of the most isolated communities in the East—marooned from the rest of America by 18 trillion gallons of moody water, so profoundly that its people have their own style of speech, a singsong brogue of stretched vowels, old words, odd rhythms. It was reputed to prefer its solitude. Not that it was easy to visit: Most of the year, the only reliable way on or off was the mailboat out of Crisfield, Maryland, twelve miles away. I’d also heard it was a near-theocracy of old-school Methodists. And it was dry.

    I was sorely tempted to paddle there. But the wind was blowing harder now, and the bay was in chaos. I resolved to visit some other time.

    Five years passed before my editors at The Virginian-Pilot sent me. I was charmed—by its absence of cars, streets no wider than sidewalks, the K-through-12 schoolhouse—and by its utter lack of pretension. This was no postcard-ready New England fishing village. It was a factory town, its industry crabs and oysters. Islanders wasted no time competing for yard of the month.

    The people were hardy, courageous, and uncomplaining. They were also worried.  Their families had lived on Tangier since 1778, sustained by the bay and its bounty. The same water was now poised to erase them. In the time it took for an islander to go from diapers to skippering his own boat, erosion whittled hundreds of acres from their already-tiny home.

    Erosion—that’s what most everyone called it, on and off Tangier. The effects of global warming were plain to scientists in 1999, but they had not yet shouldered their way into the public’s consciousness.

    The newspaper sent me back to ring in the millennium on Tangier—it was a quiet celebration, by the way—and again, islanders spoke to me of the existential threat they faced. I could see there wasn’t much real estate to surrender. High ground was sparse, and  high was relative.

    After that visit, I asked my editors to send me back for a longer stay, and they did. On one memorable afternoon, a crabber took me out to Tangier’s beach to show me where he’d played as a kid. The spot was hundreds of feet offshore. And this had happened fast—he was forty-one years old.

    My stories ran that summer. I planned to go back; I’d met people I liked, and whom I cared about. But other stories came along, and eventually I left the newspaper to write books. The demands of parenting consumed me. I had a yard to mow, bills to pay.

    Over the same years, climate change became a global priority. Sea-level rise entered the lexicon. On the coast in Norfolk, I watched the water climb higher up my yard with each northeaster. I remember one brutal November storm that flooded the city and knocked out my power. As I waded in my basement, struggling to restart the sump pump by flashlight, I had a thought: If things are getting this bad on the mainland, they have to be dire out on Tangier.

    So in the winter of 2015, I finally got around to returning. On the mailboat I sat in the wheelhouse, and on the way kept an eye peeled for Watts Island. We were nearing Tangier when I realized I hadn’t seen it, so, puzzled, I asked the captain where it was. He jabbed a thumb at a knob of land off the port side. It had been easy to miss. It had taken me an hour to walk around Watts in 1994. Now, I could do it in ten minutes.

    A few minutes later we pulled into Tangier’s harbor, and I was horrified to see what fifteen years had done to the place—and what an approaching global disaster looks like.

    Earl Swift is the author of Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island, which is B&N’s Nonfiction Book of the Month for March. 

    The post An Exclusive Guest Post From Earl Swift, Author of <i>Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 2:00 pm on 2020/01/30 Permalink
    Tags: book of the month, , guest post, , january, ,   

    Guest Post: The Unteachables Author Gordon Korman Shares A Reading List for Unteachable Kids 

    The surprisingly heartwarming story of a classroom filled with misfits, paired with a teacher counting down the days to retirement, Gordon Korman’s hilarious middle grade novel The Unteachables is B&N’s children’s book of the month for January. We asked the author to share a reading list for “unteachable” kids, and he recommended some excellent must-reads for young readers—including a mix of beloved classics and brand new stories.

    The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald
    Okay, it’s pretty old—but so am I! This series proves that you can be a genius and an Unteachable at the same time. 

    New Kid, by Jerry Craft
    Required reading for anyone entering middle school. Also, Jerry Craft and I have been running into each other at book festivals for so long that we qualify as camp buddies at this point.
    (Editor’s note: This title won the 2020 Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award!)

    Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, by John David Anderson
    Just because you’re an Unteachable doesn’t mean you don’t have heart! 

    Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume 
    Believe it or not, I was a fourth-grader around when this came out. It was the first time I really saw myself in the characters of a book. 


    Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
    Thanks to this book, I actually feel deprived because I never wore braces when I was a kid. 

    Heads or Tails, by Jack Gantos
    For my money, the top middle-grade writer of all time. His Jack Henry series is my personal favorite. The characters are as unforgettable as they are Unteachable. 

    Wings of Fire, by Tui Sutherland
    I have never attended a single children’s book festival, with any group of authors, where this series did not receive the loudest cheer of the day. 

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams 
    I get it—it’s not a kids book. But a lot of kids read it. It’s weird. It’s hilarious. It’s out there. It’s worth it. 

    Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz 
    You don’t have to be an Unteachable to believe that a kid can be a secret agent. 

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney 
    Over the years, I’ve ready every book in the series three times—once with each of my kids. I found something new and different to love on each go-through. (Plus I was once a balloon-handler for the Greg Heffley balloon in the Macy’s parade, which was pretty awesome!) 

    The Unteachables is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Guest Post: <i>The Unteachables</i> Author Gordon Korman Shares A Reading List for Unteachable Kids appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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