I live in a house full of resistant readers unless, of course, you count magazines about hunting and fishing. This can sometimes be challenging for me, a self-declared book nerd. So to maintain civility, my family and I have reached an impasse; I won't bore them at dinner with chatter about plots and characters and they won't shake their heads every time I come home from the library with a new stack of books.
But at long last I have found something that could appeal to even my most staunch anti-readers: "If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat?" by Bill Heavey, a collection of laugh-out-loud stories by a well-traveled outdoorsman. Some of you may already be familiar with Heavey's work through his "Sportsman Life" column in Field & Stream magazine, in which he pokes fun at himself and offers an interesting perspective on all things hunting and fishing. This book is more of the same; each chapter is a quick read and the topics are varied.
Heavey is very enthusiastic about his many exploits, however unsuccessfully they might turn out, which makes his brand of storytelling quite appealing. He travels the world in pursuit of hunting and fishing experiences that the rest of us can only dream about. He chases mountain lions in Arizona, whitetail deer in Maryland, elk in Colorado, bonefish in the Bahamas and caribou somewhere above the Arctic circle, just to name a few. All the while we meet the local characters, see the sights and laugh along with Heavey when, more often than not, he is humbled by the Great Outdoors.
Whether fishing his home waters of the Potomac River or haplessly flinging oversized bait at "a log with fins" in Mongolia, the stories are descriptive, interesting, funny and at times touching. Of course, there are also the issues of fatherhood, marriage, life in suburbia and an inexplicable need to own every gadget deemed necessary to pursue big game and...well, you get the idea.
What I liked most is that Heavey knows he's darn lucky to do what he does for a living and he's happy to share his experiences. Though I already enjoy hunting and fishing, I learned quite a lot reading his stories, even if it's what NOT to do in certain situations. In fact, I liked this book so much I found myself reading excerpts out loud to anyone who would listen and even bought a copy for my father (another magazine-only member of my family).
So, if you're not necessarily an avid reader but you enjoy throwing a line in the water or donning camo to sit in the woods somewhere, you will find something very likeable about Heavey's collection of misadventures. I am certain that if you're a fan of the outdoors, you will also be a fan of this book.
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin