Tuesday, June 19

Book review on the run: Wild

Last weekend two full days of flash flooding kept me indoors. It probably comes as no surprise that I like to be outside. I get cabin fever if I am cooped up for more than a day, so I needed a good book to help me maintain some semblance of sanity.

I mentioned my dilemma, and a friend recommended Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The timing couldn't have been better. Another friend is through-hiking the PCT right now, and I've been following his progress through scheduled email "newsletters." Needless to say, I've got a bit of PCT-envy this summer. (I've hiked sections of the trail, but never more than day hikes.)

I finished the book in less time than it took the author to get through her first 20 miles on the trail. Wild was one of those tales that kept me up well past my bedtime, so I could read "just one more chapter."

In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I will not go into vivid detail, but I will say that the author Cheryl Strayed makes some very poor life choices before starting her trek. I started the book wondering whether I wanted her to finish the hike or not. Thankfully, unlike so many other authors, Strayed takes full responsibility for her bad behavior (or at least doesn't try to blame anyone else).

I should warn readers that Wild is nothing like sappy-happy Eat, Pray, Love. There is no upper-middle-class ennui. There are no superficial-seeming spiritual experiences. While divorce kicks off both books, and both authors go on a journey, the similarities end there.

That is not to say that fans of Eat, Pray, Love will dislike Wild. In fact, I think Wild takes the elements of EPL that everyone loved (travel! adventure! life changing journeys!) and ups the ante with a lead character who is at once both more frustrating and more lovable (not to mention more believable).

One of my favorite passages:
... and then there as the real live truly doing it. The staying and doing it, in spite of everything. In spite of the bears and the rattlesnakes and the scat of the mountain lions I never saw; the blisters and scabs and scrapes and lacerations. The exhaustion and the deprivation; the cold and the heat; the monotony and the pain; the thirst and the hunger; the glory and the ghosts that haunted me as I hiked...

In my humble opinion, Wild is every bit as gritty and compelling as a backcountry trek should be.

But don't just take my word for it... Read it yourself and let me know what you think!

What book has kept you awake at night to read "just one more chapter?"
What did you think of Eat, Pray, Love - love it or hate it? I thought EPL was an entertaining "beach" read, but I didn't particularly like it.


  1. I am like 4 books behind... otherwise I would jump all over this. I'm not gonna lie, Hunger Games trilogy got me. Yes, I know. As well have Dan Brown books in the past.

    I love reading running books, but those I can generally put down and pick back up at any time.

  2. I read books about dumbass hikers* and laugh at them. But then, they got out there and did it and I'm sitting here reading about it, so I have to tip my hat. This book was fun to read and I got more insight into the camaraderie of the PCT than I'd known about. I thought she got a little bit "bloggy"** in sections and I have to say I'm a bit surprised she's a writing instructor now. I found it a very compelling story but was not thrilled by the writing itself. But hey she's on the Oprah train now so it really doesn't matter!

    *Other books about dumbass hikers that I've enjoyed:
    A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
    Listening for Coyote: A Walk Across Oregon's Wilderness, William L. Sullivan (this guy wins the prize for worst decsion-making ever)

    **As this is a blog, I don't want that to seem insulting. But a blog and a book are two very different means of communicating.


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