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Freedom by Sebastian Junger

Bones26

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Freedom by Sebastian Junger, 147 pages, published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 2021

For much of a year, Junger and three friends—a conflict photographer, two Afghan War vets and a dog—walked the railroad lines of the east coast. It was an experiment in personal autonomy, but also in interdependence. Dodging railroad cops, sleeping under bridges, cooking over fires and drinking from creeks and rivers, the four men forged a unique reliance on one another.

In this rather short summer read, Junger weaves his account of this journey together with his ruminations on primatology and boxing strategy, the history of labor strikes and Apache raiders, the role of women in resistance movements, and the brutal reality of life on the Pennsylvania frontier all loosely woven together in the context of how as humans we are driven by the quest for two cherished ideals: community and freedom. However, as the author observes, the two don’t coexist so easily, and while we value individuality and self-reliance, we are also utterly dependent on community for our most basic needs. It is this tension that lies at the heart of what it means to be human, that the author contemplates during this journey.

As noted, coming in at only 147 pages, this is a rather short book and, in that sense, is ideal as a quick summer vacation read. The writing like the book itself is short & concise and is divided into three books, (i.e., chapters) “Run”, “Fight” & “Think”. The author various diversions into somewhat random historic and anthropological areas that he uses to flesh out a particular point are in and of themselves mildly interesting, and while offering no profound insights, do reinforce the central premise of the book regarding the tension that can exist between community and freedom and how other cultures and societies have (or have not) adapted accordingly.

Rating 6 out of 10.

Sebastian Junger is the New York Times bestselling author of Tribe, War, A Death in Belmont, Fire, and The Perfect Storm, and co-director of the documentary film Restrepo, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He is also the winner of a Peabody Award and the National Magazine Award for Reporting.
 
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