The best-selling memoir Wild captivates readers with its heart-pounding adventure and emotional arc. When death, divorce, and addiction threaten to dismantle Cheryl Strayed’s life, she decides to journey 1,100 miles across the Pacific Crest Trail. Danger lurks behind every bend, aspen, and boulder, but Strayed keeps going. If you were inspired by Wild and you’re looking for more true stories of courage and transformation, check out these 12 books.
1. Between A Rock And A Hard Place, by Aron Ralston
At 27, Ralston could navigate Utah’s Canyonlands National Park blindfolded. But one day while hiking a remote chasm, an 800-pound boulder shifts, pinning his forearm beneath its heft. Ralston is miles from civilization, his arm isn’t budging, and rescuers aren’t coming. He has only a dull pocket knife, a meager food and water supply, and a choice: succumb to death or attempt survival by the most unthinkable means. Commonly known for the movie adaptation titled 127 Hours, Between A Rock And A Hard Place is a gripping tale sure to ensnare readers with its momentum and introspection.
2. Between Two Kingdoms, by Suleika Jaouad
Jaouad falls in love, graduates from Princeton, and plans to pursue her dream career as a war correspondent. But just when her life is taking shape, Jaouad’s feet and legs start to itch. Extreme fatigue takes over, and finally, on her 23rd birthday, Jaouad is diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors clock her survival rate at 35 percent. After 1,500 days of battling cancer, Jaouad decides she needs the type of healing the hospital cannot offer. She embarks on a road trip. Over 100 days and 15,000 miles, she travels to meet a cancer-fighting teenager in Florida, a grieving mother in California, and a death-row inmate in Texas. Along the way, Jaouad’s ideas about sickness and confinement transform.
3. Black Wave, by Jean and John Silverwood
The Silverwoods take their four young-to-teenaged children on a two-year journey across the oceans. They hope life at sea will teach their brood valuable lessons. But aboard their 55-foot catamaran, marital tensions flare, the teens grow angsty, and their little ones hone in on the tension. Eventually the family adjusts, bonding over the majestic sights and sounds of the sea. But after this brief respite, peril strikes. Black Wave tells the story of the Silverwoods as they realize that, if they want to survive, they must form even tighter bonds.
4. The Final Frontiersman, by James Campbell
Heimo Korth, his wife, and their two daughters settle in a remote corner of Alaska. The Korths choose a nomadic life following migrating caribou. They learn to survive without modern conveniences and among sub-zero temperatures, rushing rivers, and grizzly bears. On the dwindling frontier, the Korths uncover a forgotten way of life. But it comes at a cost as a tragic accident alters their lives forever. The Final Frontiersman is a must read for adventurers and conservationists alike.
5. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
Journalist Jon Krakauer is determined to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, despite foreboding clouds. When bad weather, questionable choices, ego, and ignorance result in multiple tragedies, Krakauer is left wondering, who’s to blame? Is the climbing guide at fault? Or, is a fellow climber and New York City socialite responsible? Did Krakauer’s own actions contribute to lives lost? Into Thin Air takes readers on a wild ascent while contemplating the dangers of nature romanticized.
6. Tracks, by Robyn Davidson
In her memoir Tracks, Davidson travels 1,700 miles by foot across the Australian desert to the coast, battling pervy men and poisonous snakes. Aside from her dog and four camels, Davidson confronts the conflicts of the Australian bush completely alone. But in her isolation, she undergoes a personal transformation, leading her to question the value of companionship, the plight of Australia’s indigenous people, and the beauty of life from moment to moment.
7. Gorge, by Kara Richardson Whitely
Hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is a massive feat. Whitely describes how she makes the trek at 300 pounds. When her Clif Bars freeze into bricks, and the only hiking attire she owns is too small, Whitely is finally forced to confront her food addiction. Against the backdrop of a looming, 19,342-foot mountain top, Gorge tackles topics of self-image, self-acceptance, and complex relationships with food.
8. Following Atticus, by Tom Ryan
After losing a close friend to cancer, Ryan and his Schnauzer, Atticus, travel over 48 New Hampshire mountain peaks in the dead of winter. They are an unlikely pair of hiking partners: A grieving, middle-aged, out-of-shape journalist and a pint-sized pooch. But, despite the icy dangers and their lack of preparedness, the duo presses on, hoping to reach each summit. In Following Atticus, readers witness the formation of an incredible bond between man, dog, and nature.
9. All the Way to the Tigers, by Mary Morris
Morris, a travel writer and professor, is finally gearing up for a sabbatical to Europe after seven long years of teaching. Then a shattering injury threatens her ability to walk. Morris spends much of her recovery confined, wondering if her opportunity to jet to remote corners of the earth has come and gone. While lying in her sick bed, Morris hatches a plan. When she is well enough, she will travel to India, “all the way to the tigers.” Morris’ travelogue to Pench, India, chronicles the difficulties of spotting the elusive tiger and her own quest for self-acceptance after catastrophic injury.
10. Trace, by Lauret E. Savoy
Savoy travels through fault lines, Southern plantations, national parks, Native American burial grounds, and fraught borderlands. In addition to natural wonders, she seeks her own eroded history. Savoy is descended from enslaved Africans, European colonists, and indigenous peoples. The stories of her ancestors have largely been lost or even deliberately erased by time and injustice. As instances of racial inequality intersect with environmental concerns, readers cannot ignore the poignancy of Trace.
11. An African in Greenland, by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
When a deadly green snake bites Kpomassie, he falls to the ground. The venom takes hold, and he remains unconscious for days. Desperate for his recovery, Kpomassie’s father brings him to an animist snake cult where pythons slither around Kpomassie’s unconscious body. He finally wakes, traumatized. Years later, Kpomassie finds a book about Greenland, a land without snakes. He longs to travel to the Arctic Circle, and after a decade of trying, he finally arrives. Living among an Inuit community, An African In Greenland details how Kpomassie learns what he wasn’t prepared for: myriad Inuit initiations and ancient, nearly extinct traditions.
12. Catfish and Mandala, by Andrew X. Pham
In Catfish and Mandala, Pham and his family experience their share of hardship: war, immigration, and inequity. In the wake of another family tragedy, Pham feels compelled to reconnect with his cultural identity. He quits his job, sells his belongings, and takes his bicycle across Mexico, South Korea, and Vietnam – 2,357 miles in total. Along the adventure, Pham questions if he has the stamina to continue, and he wonders if his journey is “pilgrimage or farce.”