The Gutsy Caroline Paul


I’ve never felt so good buying a book from the YA section.

I firstly discovered “The Gutsy Girl” thanks to a blog post by Maria Popova – whose blog is first and foremost a wonderful read per se and an infinite source of bright and thoughtful reading suggestions- that you can read  here (highly recommended).

The book is written by Caroline Paul (one of the first women becoming part of the San Francisco’s firefighting force, experimental plane pilot, adventurer and pioneer more in general) and illustrated by her partner Wendy MacNaughton. It is a sort of memoir where the author narrates some of her unusual and more or less dangerous adventures.

We can read of the milk-cartoons boat she built when she was thirteen, of her attempt to establish a new Guinness world records in crawling, of her Brazilian paragliding experience and of her Alaska’s mountaineering adventure. Each chapter leaves me in awe for how much creative, smart, brave and tenacious this woman is.

The common ground of all those episodes (which are just a tiny portion of the totality of the author’s experiences) is that they all:

“..ended in mishap and mayhem [..] because it is in these moments that I learned the most essential lessons: how to be brave, how to preserve, how to stay focused, how to laugh at myself, and more.”

Imperfection, error and failure, are thus not seen as a shameful and unworthy experiences, but rather as what really constitute the building blocks of our self-development and growth process.

The book is a funny, beautiful manifesto about fighting and overcoming our fears and living a life where we are the ones in charge of defining our own limits. I believe this being an extremely important and timely concept, in a world where failure is stigmatized and we are mostly encouraged to follow a safe and better-known road, and especially for girls, which are too often discouraged from taking risks, be brave and adventurous.

Related to the latter, here a beautiful Ted Talk that illustrates the importance of telling girls to be brave rather than perfect.