Reading this week:
- Truman by David McCullough (in 2020)
- Superpower Interrupted by Michael Schuman
- The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
It’s late at night, and I am bereft of ideas of what to write, so I have decided to just make a short mention of what I think is the most significant book I’ve ever read. That book, as you have guessed from the photo at the top, is Dove by Robin Lee Graham.
The came across the book in middle school, when it was assigned to us by our somewhat eccentric geography teacher. I’m not sure what his exact reasoning for assigning it was; I don’t think his reasons had anything to do all that closely with geography. We were supposed to read it over the course of a couple of weeks I suppose, but I devoured it all that night. After I started reading it I just couldn’t stop until I finished it.
The Wikipedia page for Robin gives a short summary of his adventures, so I won’t bother much with that here, except to say that it is the story of Robin sailing around the world solo. When he did that, back in the 60s at age 16, it made him the youngest person to have ever done it.
I am a huge fan of sailing, and being on the ocean and stuff, and while the book is good for that, that’s not what really made it significant for me. What astonished me about the book is that Robin wanted to do something, so he just went out and did it. He wanted to sail around the world, and despite that being something that, by definition at this point, 16-year-olds didn’t do, that didn’t matter, he just made a plan and went about fulfilling it. I’m struggling to come up with a way to say this without being pithy and flippant, but reading the book was the first time that I really figured out that you didn’t need someone’s permission to go out and be who you wanted to be.
There’s a lot of caveats and explaining here. I realize that not everyone can simply do whatever they want to do, and people have responsibilities that make them choose one path or another. I also realize that there are a lot of pursuits that rely on luck and good timing and certainly things like good health. Money really helps too of course. But Robin saw something he wanted to do, and he did it, without someone telling him that he was allowed to do it. The thing he “should” have done is probably finish school, get a job, save up, establish a safety net for himself. But there wasn’t a rule that he needed to do that, nothing that required him to except the societal pressure to conform, and he simply ignored that. I found that amazing.
This isn’t a blog post saying that you should drop out of school; my own experience has demonstrated a lot of value in education. But what I have always found really important is the knowledge that whatever path I have chosen in life, there is nothing that made me do it. I always had other choices; if Robin could just bounce and sail around the world, then so could I. That means that I am in my path by choice, that I want to be here, and that in and of itself makes the path worth pursuing.
I didn’t state that well. It’d take me a lot longer to formulate it eloquently. But Dove still remains important to me all this time later. It’s a good book.