How interesting could a book about a long walk possibly be? In the case of Cheryl Strayed's book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the answer is very. Some may have foolishly initially shied away from this book because it's an Oprah's Book Club selection and a memoir, a combination that proved problematic for James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Oprah's Book Club 2.0 is not alone in liking it, as Time magazine named it one of the ten best nonfiction books of 2012.
Cheryl Strayed is the author of Wild and Torch and, most recently, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Cheryl Strayed’s online advice columns for The Rumpus. One wonders whether walking a long, meandering journey helped prepare her for giving advice or if the opposite is true. The title comes from a quote in the book, where Strayed writes, "[...] a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She'll offer you one of the balloons, but you won't take it because you believe you no longer have the right to such tiny beautiful things. You're wrong. You do."
In Wild, her younger self is at a crux in her life where she can't seem to move forward after the death of her mother. She buys a Pacific Crest Trail guidebook and a fateful pair of boots and sets out down the trail and down a path of self-discovery. Before publishing Wild, Strayed sharpened her memoir with reviews and criticism from "the hottest writing group in Portland" which included writers like Chuck Palahniuk and Chelsea Cain. Recently, author Nick Hornby wrote the script adaption for the film version of Wild, slated to be released in 2014.
Read and listen to Cheryl Strayed from the Biography in Context database.
Another recent release about amazing journeys by women is Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog by Steph Davis. Other travelogues that come to mind are The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson and The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Nearly Found Myself on the Pacific Crest Trail by Dan White. Also, 2007 Books for the Teenage selection The Places in Between by Rory Stewart, a somewhat unlikely readalike in which the author walks "across Afghanistan—surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers." Some of the similarities involve the crossing of snowy terrain and the encountering of strangers (and strange dogs, in Stewart's case); regardless, both books make nice companion reads.
On Bibliocommons, I found lists created by users that suggest readalikes and did the heavy lifting for me: Walks Worth Reading and Books burned on the PCT.
Here's the appendix from Wild, "Books burned on the PCT," with links to our catalog.
- cherylstrayed.comThe Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California, Jeffrey P. Schaffer, Thomas Winnett, Ben Schifrin, and Ruby Jenkins. Fourth edition, Wilderness Press, January 1989.
- Staying Found: The Complete Map and Compass Handbook, June Fleming.
- *The Dream of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich.
- As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner.
- **The Complete Stories, Flannery O'Connor.
- The Novel, James Michener.
- A Summer Bird-Cage, Margaret Drabble.
- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov.
- Dubliners, James Joyce.
- Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M. Coetzee.
- The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 2: Oregon and Washington, Jeffrey P. Schaffer and Andy Selters. Fifth edition, Wilderness Press, May 1992.
- The Best American Essays 1991, edited by Robert Atwan and Joyce Carol Oates.
- The Ten Thousand Things, Maria Dermoût.
*Not burned. Carried all the way.
**Not burned. Traded for The Novel.