It’s easy to romanticize the hustle and bustle of big-city living, but sometimes you find yourself jostled around on a crowded New York City subway car and the glamour abruptly drops; suddenly, you remember the litany of frustrations that come with city living: the sea of crowds, constant diversions and compulsions to see everyone and do everything. It’s moments like these I find myself reaching for books with women who have deliberately chosen to pursue their own adventure, their own truths. These women live way outside the norm—in fact, they’re often way off the grid. Inspiring and thought-provoking, these memoirs offer the perfect solace for those moments when you need to expand beyond your everyday life and remember that there’s a whole world outside of that crowded subway car.
A nearly unbelievable odyssey, TRACKS is Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her perilous expedition across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian territory from Alice Springs to the Western coast, including a meticulous account of years preparing for a solo journey with only her four camels and her dog for company. Davidson also deliberates on personhood, the natural world, and the rampant sexism and racism she encounters, especially against the indigenous Aboriginal people whom Davidson reveres as much as their landscape. Read for both the story of self-discovery and Davidson’s ability to brilliantly capture the heartbreakingly beautiful outback.
To successfully reach the peak of Africa’s tallest mountain—and one of the illustrious “seven summits” of the world—you need resilience, strength, and mental fortitude. It’s even more difficult when you also weigh 300 pounds. In this unflinching memoir, Kara Richardson Whitely takes readers to the dark roots of her overeating, seemingly insurmountable weight gain, and the uncomfortable emotional journey and physical training needed to accomplish what she worried might be impossible: not reaching the summit, but realizing she had the strength to reach it all along.
After a devastating trauma her second night at college, Aspen Matis knows she must take drastic action in order to move forward with her life. She decides to hike 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail (the same trail Cheryl Strayed followed in WILD). The physical demands of the trail allowed for deep reflection and for Matis to discover her own “trail magic”—the inner strength to heal and be herself.
If you’re having a hard day, look in the mirror and channel the spirit of a badass pioneer, Martha Gellhorn. A legendary journalist who traveled the world from the 1940s to the 1970s, this memoir follows her time documenting military conflicts, and dodging bullets with “another,” a man she refused to let slow her down: the enamored Ernest Hemingway. Fearless and brazen, we may not be able to literally follow in Gellhorn’s footsteps, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to follow her example.
American Blair Braverman was always drawn to the north. Her memoir details her time as an exchange student in Norway: becoming a dog sledder, working on an Alaskan glacier, and her repeat visits to a remote Norwegian village in the Arctic circle. But you’d be fooled to think this is only a tale of adventure and exotic icescapades: Braverman illuminates gender politics, meditations on fear and survival, and her own search for identity. This book will give you chills in the best possible way.
“Never to get lost is not to live,” instructs Rebecca Solnit in A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST. Putting aside the truism of journey-as-destination, this ode to wanderlust is filled with essays on navigating modern life when your point of navigation is a moving target. In gorgeous prose and through unexpected paths, Solnit illustrates how sometimes the best way to find what you need is to get lost.