It’s the summer of strong women (or maybe even the decade). With the astounding work of women like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria O’Casio-Cortez, the undeniable prowess of the U.S. Women’s soccer team, and the Tony Award–winning musical Hadestown giving writer and director Rachel Chavkin much-deserved recognition, we’re constantly inspired. In that spirit, we couldn’t help but harken to some of our favorite stories—both fiction and memoir—about strong women going against the powers that be. Whether it’s finding your love in the middle of the ocean after a hurricane, or deciding in your old age to trek to the ocean for the first time, these stories demonstrate strength and will keep you turning the page.
Women in the Wild: 9 Stories of Survival and Adventure
Young, troubled girl falls in love and follows her dreamboat into the dangerous jungle. Okay, that might sound cliché, but listen: in INTO THE JUNGLE, young Lily Bushwold is as resourceful as a person comes. She escapes endless foster care by moving alone to Bolivia and supports herself as a teacher. Along the way, she befriends other broke, rudderless girls, and faces off in some thrilling scenes with anacondas, poachers, and yes, her own feelings.
In this “hypnotic, violent, unsparing” (A.J. Banner, USA TODAY bestselling author) thriller from the author of the “haunting, twisting thrill ride” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author) The River at Night, a young woman leaves behind everything she knows to take on the Bolivian jungle, but her excursion abroad quickly turns into a fight for her life.
Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.
When the gig falls through, world-weary Lily decides to stay in Bolivia when an intense passion finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.
When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Lovestruck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle—its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.
“Gripping, breathtaking, and exquisitely told—Into the Jungle pulls you into another world, returning you forever transformed” (Wendy Walker, USA TODAY bestselling author).
If you don’t call this a modern womanhood classic, then you might need to change up your definitions. In this heartbreaking and heartwarming memoir, Cheryl Strayed checks out of her life (a divorce, a scattered family, addiction, etc.) and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail (2,653 miles). Alone. Doing battle against the voices saying she can’t, and the wilderness breaking her down, Cheryl’s story is uplifting for any time in your life.
A solo thousand mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State taken by an inexperienced hiker is a revelation. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
Last year, you may have seen the vivid, terrifying film starring Natalie Portman, but you really haven’t stepped into Jeff Vandermeer’s world until you’ve read ANNIHILATION. Written as a first-person account, we go in-depth into the psychological speculation on each of the five women sent to map out the deadly and mysterious zone known as “the Shimmer.” This is the smartest scary book you might read this summer
If you live in a place where you can’t escape the heat outside, then this romantic thriller set in Antarctica is just the thing to cool down your summer. Deb Gardener has long valued the partnership and romance she shares with Keller Sullivan during their annual trips to study Emperor and Adelie penguins. When Keller doesn’t show up and Deb finds out he is in danger, she must step into the role of rescuer and find strength within herself.
An unforgettable love story that pulls readers deep into one of the most remote places on the planet. Deb and Keller are researchers with a complicated history who spend a few weeks each year studying penguins in the Antarctic. When Deb discovers Keller is trapped aboard a sinking cruise liner, her role changes from researcher to rescuer as she sets out to save him.
Sometimes, when you feel like you’re in a rut, you just have to put on your boots and walk out of it. Eighty-three-year-old Etta does just that when she decides she wants to see the ocean before she dies. She sets off from rural Saskatchewan on a two thousand-mile hike, leaving her husband and longtime admirer behind with big decisions of what to do with their pasts and their hearts.
Read the full review of ETTA AND OTTO AND RUSSELL AND JAMES.
This quiet novel moves from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion; from trying to remember to trying to forget. It is an astounding literary debut of unlikely heroes, lifelong promises, and last great adventures.
Already used up your summer vacation and bored with office life? FORCE OF NATURE will spin your reality into thrills, as it takes you on a corporate retreat laced with a suspected murder. Five women leave for the wilderness and only four return. What happened to the missing woman? Can anyone sort through the web of personal and professional suspicion to save her?
Still hung up on the ending of TITANIC? Think there was room on the door for Jack? ADRIFT spins you a new tale, as lovers Richard and Tami set sail from Tahiti to San Diego. Along the way, Richard sends Tami belowdecks when they encounter a storm, but when the waves calm, Richard is nowhere to be found. Tami is left to find him and find home, a heroine in her own right.
On a more somber, and even more inspiring note, we have GIRL IN THE WOODS. This true story is about Aspen Matis, who was raped on her second night of college, and then, in a brave move of self-reliance, chose to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to find her own strength, and learn to trust again.
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.
VESSEL is a novel about a woman alone in space for ten years with no memory of what happened to her NASA crew. This is Catherine Wells’s story; in VESSEL, she returns to her life on earth, trying to put back together the pieces of herself she can remember, and answer what happened to her in space, and what is happening to her now.