Got through a couple more books.
First up, Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. Ms. Bruder spins a journalistic investigation into a full-length book about how people (many of them older) are taking to the road and living in RVs, Campers, even modified Priuses. You may have an image of happy retirees rolling about in their RV, but these folks are rolling around looking for work. They host campsites on federal land, harvest sugar beets, do seasonal work at Amazon fulfillment centers and whatever other odd jobs need doing. If you think it's odd that you have people in their 50's-60's-70's doing hard work like that and living out on the road...that's kinda the point of the book. The Great Recession crushed the finances of a lot of baby boomers and their only way out was to radically downsize, get mobile and start hustling for work.
It's not like these people weren't trying to save up for a retirement. Many of them have a pretty solid resume. A former executive at McDonald's is now working NASCAR concession stands. But age-ism is a thing and the social safety net that used to provide for retirement keeps getting chipped away. The people Ms. Bruder interviews are all pretty positive, upbeat people, they have to be, but it still seems like an incredibly raw deal even if they do get to wander all over America. Ms. Bruder plays a pretty even hand here -- she clearly admires the independence and ingenuity of these "houseless" folks, but she does dig into the reasons why people take to the road and the kinds of jobs they can get and that's not such a pretty picture.
The book makes me fear for my own retirement. So...I recommend it, but it's quietly alarming.
Back to the safe embrace of fiction for me!
Since I'm feeling apocalyptic, this seemed right up my alley: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker. The basic premise is that the UK (and much of the northern hemisphere) catches a hail of asteroids and gets upended. Our hero, Edgar, tries to save his family, but he's out when they're evacuated to the coast. Now he and a few other odd survivors have to run from Edinburgh to Bristol, over 300 miles in a few weeks. The ultimate couch to 5k.
This book. Man, I was sold on the premise, but Ed is such a complete neurotic misery. If it'd just been "running, especially when you haven't done a lot of it, really takes it out of you", then fine. I could've gone with pages and pages of trying to find another step in you, but on top of that, Ed continually bemoans his failure as a husband, father, man, and human being. Ed doesn't like himself that much and there's not much growth in that direction either until near the very end after a long "runner's high" segment that didn't come off as well as I bet the author hoped.
There's another weird thread in here a, "none more zealous than converts" kind of deal. You know how this kind of book (usually nonfiction) goes -- the author's life is a mess and then a magic something gives them focus and turns their life around. Obviously, it's all about the running here. Again, it's a little weird that Ed doesn't have his life turned around by the magic of running much sooner, but he felt a bit like a Reverse Mary Sue, not an idealized version of the author, but more like his least-idealized version -- so that the Magic of Running changing this loser's life seems all the more impressive.
The writing is pretty good which is why I struggled through to the end, but man, I'd have a hard time recommending it to other people.
So...yeah. Luckily, I've got the new Max Gladstone on deck so I'm hoping the next review has some more uplifting stuff.