American Sniper: The Auto-Biography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (Chris Kyle)

I am glad to have read this book right before this most recent election, which seems to have the entire country at each other’s throats. This autobiography serves as an explicit reminder of those Americans who are fighting overseas, what they are fighting for, and why it is important.

Kyle’s informal writing style moves this book along quickly, creating the illusion that you are conversing with an average American, not an experienced and seasoned academic writer. This enhances the overall feel of the novel, making it accessible to anyone who decides to read it. Kyle continually refers to himself as a regular kid from Texas, attempting to remain modest throughout the tales of his military successes overseas.

As it features a Navy Seal operating in Iraq, this autobiography frequently tests the boundaries of political correctness. Many who have reflected on the book before me have found this to be a real negative aspect of it, but I feel as though criticizing the book in this way speaks to a misunderstanding of the author’s experiences and viewpoints. It is very easy for the average book critic to comment on Kyle’s insensitivity towards the Iraqi people and radical Islamic extremists, but this attitude seems remarkably naive. While Kyle does his best to place his readers in the shoes of the American soldiers fighting in Iraq, how could you possibly relate to this experience without being there yourself?

The history nerd in me loved the play-by-play explanations that Kyle provided of different operations and battles throughout the war. I loved reading about the different stages of the Iraqi war and the ways that different military units operated, both together and independently. It is fascinating to read Kyle’s firsthand account of such things, as you do not get this often enough in the media or in much of the existing material on the War in Iraq.

Of course, Taya’s excerpts help reveal the incredible strain that military life can have on a family. Her frustrations at raising her kids alone and feeling as though Chris could never love her or their family as much as war are both depressing and thought-provoking. In a lot of ways, military families give up their sense of normalcy as one spouse continues to serve in the armed forces. Chris’ difficulty returning to an average lifestyle when on leave is indicative of the further complications that military families must face. Chris’ eventual decision to return home and take on his role as a father was a happy ending to this marital conflict, but it seems as though not all families are so lucky.

This book is a beacon of patriotism and inspires its readers to take a step back and appreciate those who are fighting for our country. Kyle mentions a few times that he is not fighting in Iraq for any reason except that he is loyal to his country and this is where his country has sent him to fight. This seems to be a direct comment to those who protest the soldiers fighting our wars, which unfortunately does happen around the country. Kyle also takes extreme acts of protests, such as burning a flag, as a direct insult and disrespect to himself and other American soldiers. I wish I could encourage all American protesters to think about this before acting in such a way, and remember who, and what, they are disrespecting when they do such things. Where we would be without our military?

 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)

5 Star

This book pulled at all the chords in my heart. This was my first novel by Mark Twain, and although not quite what I was expecting, I really enjoyed reading it. Twain writes a captivating narrative of childhood, or life through Tom’s eyes. From start to finish, it is not difficult to put images to Twain’s writing, clearly seeing the young Tom playing pirates with his friends, or witnessing a crime, or developing the fickle but innocent crushes that only children could. 

Although I had never read the book before, I knew some of the story, such as the bit about painting a fence which has become no less than a cliché throughout America. Tom, although a troublemaker, seems to represent the majority of boys that I work with today, and those that I knew in my childhood, including my own brother. Energetic troublemakers, but undoubtedly good at heart.

While much of Twain’s story expands into the realm of unrealistic, at least by today’s standards, it remains charming and pleasant to read. I loved the part of the story where the boys run away from home to play “pirates” on an island, and I was rooting for Tom as he attempted to find his way out of the dark cave. I am definitely glad that I read this one during the summer, as it almost would’ve seemed wrong to read it during a season unfit for being outdoors.

I enjoyed reading about Tom’s adventures, and I am excited for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, currently sitting on a shelf waiting for me to finish the book I am reading now. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice story that will leave you feeling nostalgic and dreaming of the simplicity of childhood.

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg was the perfect destination for a long weekend away. We spent four days in the charming village, filled with fun and rich history. We chose to visit Gettysburg because it was driving distance away from NY and it was highly recommended by my parents who had spent time there in August. Although we missed the summer months, Pennsylvania is absolutely beautiful in the fall.

We arrived in Gettysburg somewhat spontaneously, without hotel reservations or realizing that it was Parents Weekend at the nearby college. Luckily, we were able to book a room (possibly the last one in the entire village) at The Gettysburg Hotel, right in the center of town. We arrived too late to see any of the historical sights our first night, and instead spent the time exploring some of the pubs and restaurants in Gettysburg.

We dedicated one full day to seeing the battlefields and major historical sites. We purchased an auto-tour, which ended up being perfect for us. We had a great time driving around and listening to the tour, getting a sense of the battle at our own speed. We liked being able to choose which sites we were visiting, as opposed to a traditional guided tour, and even skipped a few to return to the next day. We especially loved Little Round Top, where we spent nearly an hour walking around and reading the informational signs. In addition to the battlefields, we spent some time exploring the national cemetery and the site of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

We had a fantastic time pub crawling through Gettysburg and lounging around our room in the true spirit of vacation. Being in the center of the town, we were in walking distance of all  the restaurants and had a great people-watching view out the windows. It was very cool to explore the historical buildings in town, some of which still have bullet-holes in their bricks, and to learn more about the historical battle that was the turning point of the Civil War.

I would definitely recommend visiting Gettysburg, even if you are not as interested in history as we are, as the village itself is very beautiful  and enjoyable. This is a very low-cost, low-maintenance trip if you live in the Northeast, which was exactly what we were looking for this fall.

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