“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her Pacific Crest Trail hike, “Wild,” is an unforgettable book. It’s one of those reads that you can not close once you’ve opened, and the buzz it’s been getting from booksellers and readers around the country should come as no surprise. Even Reese Witherspoon is a fan, and has optioned the film rights and is set to star as Strayed herself.
After the death of her mother from cancer, Strayed’s marriage fell apart, and she fell apart along with it. She bounced from city to city for a while, even going so far in her seeking of something to try dating a heroin user. Finally, she found what she was looking for on the PCT, which stretches from the Mojave Desert to Oregon. “Wild” is an unflinching journal of Strayed’s journey and all the people she met, toenails she lost, and things she thought along the way. Not being a hiker, she begins the adventure totally green and with a backpack she can barely lift, but soon gets her bearings and starts to kick some long-distance hiking butt. She’s completely honest about her many flaws as a person, which is endearing. No one’s perfect, and if it takes some people a few months of putting boots to the ground to get over themselves – more power to them.
I liked Strayed, and wanted her to succeed on the trail and in life. Her day to day life on the trail is detailed, and includes things I would have never thought about; such as her reading material. As she goes along the trail, she reads books in the evening, and burns them in her fire (hey, they’re extra weight) or hands them off once she’s finished with them. A booknerd in the woods. Of course I liked her.
It’s a fascinating read, and one I’m tempted to re-read just to experience it all again for the first time. Though I suspect, much like the monumental trail on which it’s set, there’s nothing like the first time.
(Also, in vaguely related news, there’s a fantastic National Geographic special streaming on Netflix about the Appalachian trail and the hikers who attempt it. It’s pretty great viewing.)
Where I got it: At Chicago’s The Book Cellar, off their “Staff Picks” rack.