I have my friend Sara to thank for introducing me to Beryl Markham. I was skeptical when she first pressed her memoir, West with the Night, into my hands, but for years I've harbored the desire to spend a year or so living and working in Africa, so I decided to start reading and see where it took me. Thankfully, Markham's exhilarating life and way with words was the type of book that I virtually lived in.
Originally published in 1942, the book chronicles her remarkable, early life. She was known as an adventurous pilot who became the first person to fly non-stop from Europe to America and the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic. While her stories of learning to fly are fascinating and her description of actually crossing the Atlantic wrought with tension, it's her life as a whole that I find so motivating.
Imagine being a woman in the 1920s/1930s and how limited your options supposedly were. I don't know if anyone tried to hold Markham back, but if they did*, she clearly told them to shove off. Not only was she an accomplished aviator, she was amazing with horses, becoming Kenya's first female licensed horse trainer as a young adult. She also seemed to own her sexuality, living passionately and supposedly carrying on several well-known affairs throughout her life.
If you're looking for something awesome to dig into during Women's History Month (or, let's be real, any month), pick up a copy of West with the Night. I made sure to share my copy and spread the love, pressing it into another coworker's hands last week.
*I read the book several years ago, so I've lost some of the finer details.