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“The Camper Book: A Celebration of a Moveable American Dream”

  • By Dave Hoekstra, foreword by Jeff Daniels, photographs by Jon Sall
  • c. 2018, Chicago Review Press
  •  $24.99, $33.99 Canada; 186 pages

All summer long, you tried to get away. But the timing was wrong. Work needed you, extended family needed you, friends needed you. Weekends were filled with obligations, while weekdays were filled with dreams and now the summer’s almost over. But in “The Camper Book” by Dave Hoekstra, you’ll see that getting away can happen any time.

Nine years ago, a certain kind of bug – a VW Beetle – bit Dave Hoekstra. He was visiting his friend, Bob Waldmire, who’d been a nomad in a converted van, a Route 66 devotee, and was dying of cancer. The loss of a guy like Bob – and loss of both his elderly parents – made Hoekstra begin to think hard about “place” – specifically, “Is a place stored in your memory, or is it something in the moment?”

In early 2016, he decided to find out. He bought a cargo van, had it converted into a home on wheels, and on June 5, 2016, he set out to meet his fellow wanderers. First stop: Carthage, Missouri, and a campground that was lovingly built by two people who live in (guess where?) a camper.

In Idaho, Hoekstra met two families that travel separately but that always get together when they find themselves in the same area. In Madison, Wisconsin, he met a traveler who “inherited” a childhood treasure; in Arkansas, he visited a gay-friendly camper resort; in Minnesota he met a man who lives in a camper, year-‘round. He spoke with the president of the National African-American RVers Association. He found families who travel all year and home-school their kids. He attended a Thanksgiving potluck in one campground, a Valentine’s Day feast in another spot, and celebrated a State Fair with thousands of other travelers.

In short, Hoekstra found community. Living in a camper was fun, and so was visiting places he’d always wanted to see and meeting people he never would’ve otherwise met. RVing, he learned, allows you to see America in a unique way. And if you don’t like where you are, you can just take your home to the next place …

For months, you’ve been thinking about chucking it all and hitting the road, but job obligations are a real thing. You’ll be happy to know, then, that some jobs are made for travel; “The Camper Book” tells you more.

Don’t come here for a how-to, though; there are things to learn in this book but, judging solely by what you’ll read, if you like people, you’ve already got half the skills needed to be a happy RVer. Indeed, author Dave Hoekstra tells a homey tale of fun, fellowship, and friends you haven’t met yet, and that’s wonderfully mixed with nostalgia.

He also peeks into the future: will Millennials someday embrace camper-living, or is this the end of the road?

There are hints to answer that question, lots of pictures, and a feeling of comfort inside this book that should make it appealing to travelers and homebodies alike. Even if it’s on paper, “The Camper Book” is a nice getaway. 

“Can You Learn to Be Lucky?”

  • By Karla Starr
  • c. 2018, Penguin Portfolio
  • $27, $36.00 Canada; 288 pages

Your lucky penny is in your bag. Or you’re wearing your lucky shirt or socks or tie, and you performed your lucky dance before you left the house. What else could you do? You need certain things to happen, so you pulled out all the stops but if you read “Can You Learn to Be Lucky?” by Karla Starr, you could win without them.

Every day, your life has ups and downs. You made the last second of the green light, and wasn’t that lucky?  Then you got stuck in traffic; bad luck always happens to you. Then you were lucky enough to get a parking spot close to the door. Could you control any of those happenings?

Maybe but, says Karla Starr, mostly they “just happened … they’re called freak accidents for a reason.” Even so, accidents notwithstanding, you can nudge life in a direction that’ll make you feel like the luckiest duck in the pond.

Studies show that when contests are being judged, the winners are more likely to have been at the tail-end of the entries. Don’t, therefore, volunteer to go first; take your time and embrace being last.

By that time, you’ll have achieved Starr’s second important point: become familiar. Even introverts can do this by just being somewhere day after day, which can make others more comfortable. You don’t have to do anything; “just be there.”

Don’t use hunches (intuition is fallible) but understand that others may be judging you. To offset incorrect first impressions, “flaunt cues that you’re trustworthy, reputable, and safe … ”  And if you’re not blessed with good looks, don’t obsess; you can still do things with wardrobe and attitude.

Know yourself and your surroundings and be confident. If you’ve already blown your chance, “Go elsewhere”; there’s always another opportunity. “Find your thing” by paying attention to the activities you do when you don’t have anything else to do. Gather and use every ounce of self-discipline you have. Nurture your curiosity. And finally, understand that sometimes, luck really is the only explanation.

In those cases, “ … life is simply not fair.”

You chant “Stay green, stay green, stay green” but you still hit the yellow light. Your favorite shirt is a spill-magnet. If the cat’s going to hairball, she’ll do it just before you walk out the door. You have the rottenest luck but you can change that – and with “Can You Learn to Be Lucky?” you’ll laugh while you’re doing it.

Indeed, luck is a funny thing and author Karla Starr uses humor-infused curiosity to best illustrate the many ways you can tip the scales and get what you want. That’ll take some people-watching skills as well as introspection, but Starr makes it fun.

Call it manipulation, call it nudging or guiding, call it common-sense, but there are things in this book that can enhance your day-to-day and give you the edge. So rub that lucky penny before you give it up for “Can You Learn to Be Lucky?”.

With this book, good fortune is in the bag.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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