Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was alone. I was barefoot. I was twenty-six years old and an orphan too. An actual stray, a stranger had observed a couple of weeks before, when I’d told him my name and explained how very loose I was in the world.

Cheryl Strayed’s story is pretty well-known at this point, since her memoir was an Oprah Book Club pick, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE, as the cover of my paperback edition proclaims. In her early 20s, she lost her mother to cancer; after that, what was left of her family drifted apart, and then her marriage ended. In the depths of a Minnesota winter, she happened upon a guidebook to the Pacific Coast Trail. With seemingly nothing to lose and nowhere to go, she made an impulsive decision to hike the trail that summer in an effort to rebuild herself.

The memoir unfolds in mostly chronological fashion, beginning with her mother’s illness and death and following Strayed’s trek up the trail. As she travels, though, vignettes of her past appear, doling out the details of her life before the PCT gradually. Strayed is an excellent storyteller, making what was largely an inner journey into riveting reading. She does not ignore the risks that come with being a woman traveling alone through remote locations, but while she has at least one scary encounter with a man on the trail that could have ended much worse than it did, most of the challenges she faces are the result of the mistakes of a neophyte hiker. She takes a wry tone in relating her misadventures, treating her younger self with humor and love.

I heard about this book a lot before I finally got around to reading it. Really, it wasn’t high on my list of things to read, probably because of an overdose of hype. One evening in May, Lil Miss and I were taking a walk to break in our hiking boots before our family trip to South Africa, and I found a paperback copy of Wild in a Little Free Library on our way. How could I resist a book with a hiking boot right in the middle of the cover? On our flight back to the States, the film version was one of the options, so I watched it while I failed to sleep in my seat. Once we got back, I picked up the book off my desk and read it in a day or two, and I really enjoyed it. Good call, Oprah.

Source: Found in a Little Free Library

Challenges: Counts for Read Harder 2018 (Task #13: An Oprah Book Club Selection)

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Book Review: Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn

The city’s comedians have been out writing signs. One says: WHAT ARE YOU ALL RUNNING FROM? Another says: YOU’VE GOT GREAT STAMINA. CALL ME. 1-834-555-8756. Yet another reads: IN OUR MINDS, YOU’RE ALL KENYANS.

Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth

Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the world of distance running, athletes from a single country have been getting a lot of attention over the last several years. The East African nation of Kenya has produced some of the fastest runners on the planet. English journalist – and runner – Adharanand Finn wanted to find out what the Kenyan secret was, so he packed up himself, his wife, and their three young children and moved the family to a village in Kenya. There, he met runners. He interviewed them, he observed them, and he trained with them. Through it all, he puzzled over what element could be the key to the success of Kenyan runners (genetics? diet? culture?), and he wondered whether it was possible to improve his own distinctly non-Kenyan performance.

I am a big fan of the whole “quirky memoir” genre, in which the author tries out some experience and writes about it. Through Finn, I got to explore Kenya and take a peek inside the lives of runners whose names I see all over the running magazines. I enjoyed the easy, conversational tone of the first-person present-tense narration. Each chapter is headed with a small black-and-white photograph of people or events discussed in the book. This is not a book to help you improve your own running times, or even really one that thoroughly explores every facet of Kenyan running (a subject of academic research in its own right). It is an enjoyable tale of what one man’s attempt to understand what it means to be a Kenyan runner.

Source: checked out from the public library

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