A simple walk through nature seems to always clear the head and lighten the spirits. If the weight of one’s thoughts begins to feel a bit too heavy, a step outside often does the trick. There are, of course, a few individuals who have taken that aphorism just a bit too far and have found themselves fully and dangerously immersed in the natural beauty that this world has to offer. These memoir authors tell the tales of their excursions—everything from the backbreaking steps to the internal revelations. In these authors’ quests for survival and self-exploration, readers are given a glimpse of hope. These impressive trekkers motivate us to step outside, reach out of our comfort zone, and not be afraid to get lost along the way. And in between steps, why not read a few gripping pages of their awe-inspiring stories?
Set on a life of solitude, author Karen Auvinen commits to living in a primitive cabin amidst the Rockies. Believing that embracing the beauty of nature would open space for an independent life as a lone writer, Karen is up for the challenge. But when a fire takes all of her possessions, including every piece of writing she has ever created, Karen is left with only her beloved dog and her truck. Karen must confront her true human need for community despite her desires to be alone. This beautiful story of resilience truly shows the unpredictability of forces of nature.
In the bestselling tradition of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Helen MacDonald’s H Is for Hawk, Karen Auvinen, an award-winning poet, ventures into the wilderness to seek answers to life’s big questions with “candor [and] admirable courage” (Christian Science Monitor).
Determined to live an independent life on her own terms, Karen Auvinen flees to a primitive cabin in the Rockies to live in solitude as a writer and to embrace all the beauty and brutality nature has to offer. When a fire incinerates every word she has ever written and all of her possessions—except for her beloved dog Elvis, her truck, and a few singed artifacts—Karen embarks on a heroic journey to reconcile her desire to be alone with her need for community.
In the evocative spirit of works by Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich, and Terry Tempest Williams, Karen’s “beautiful, contemplative…breathtaking [debut] memoir honors the wildness of the Rockies” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). “Rough Beauty offers a glimpse into a life that’s pared down to its essentials, open to unexpected, even profound, change” (Brevity Magazine), and Karen’s pursuit of solace and salvation through shedding trivial ties and living in close harmony with nature, along with her account of finding community and even love, is sure to resonate with all of us who long for meaning and deeper connection. An “outstanding…beautiful story of resilience” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Rough Beauty is a luminous, lyric exploration, “a narrative that reads like a captivating novel...a voice not found often enough in literature—a woman who eschews the prescribed role outlined for her by her family and discovers her own path” (Christian Science Monitor) to embrace the unpredictability and grace of living intimately with the forces of nature.
Rising from the depths of a tragic accident, Colin O’Brady was determined not only to heal but also to exceed every expectation of those surrounding him. Prior to his excursion, no individual had made the trek across Antarctica alone and only using human power—Colin was determined to be the first. This solo journey across a seemingly endless frozen land forced Colin to confront his fears and reflect on the past experiences that led him to this very adventure. To match struggle with even greater intensity, during his voyage Colin was pit against a British polar explorer, Captain Louis Rudd, who was in a similar pursuit to be “the first.”
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Colin O’Brady’s awe-inspiring memoir spans his triumphant recovery from a tragic accident to his gripping 932-mile solo crossing of Antarctica.
Prior to December 2018, no individual had ever crossed the landmass of Antarctica alone, without support and completely human powered. Yet, Colin O’Brady was determined to do just that, even if, ten years earlier, there was doubt that he’d ever walk again normally. From the depths of a tragic accident, he fought his way back. In a quest to unlock his potential and discover what was possible, he went on to set three mountaineering world records before turning to this historic Antarctic challenge.
O’Brady’s pursuit of a goal that had eluded many others was made even more intense by a head-to-head battle that emerged with British polar explorer Captain Louis Rudd—also striving to be “the first.” Enduring Antarctica’s sub-zero temperatures and pulling a sled that initially weighed 375 pounds—in complete isolation and through a succession of whiteouts, storms, and a series of near disasters—O’Brady persevered.
Alone with his thoughts for nearly two months in the vastness of the frozen continent—gripped by fear and doubt—he reflected on his past, seeking courage and inspiration in the relationships and experiences that had shaped his life.
Honest, deeply moving, filled with moments of vulnerability—and set against the backdrop of some of the most extreme environments on earth, from Mt. Everest to Antarctica—The Impossible First reveals how anyone can reject limits, overcome immense obstacles, and discover what matters most.
Believing she had hit rock bottom with no light in sight, Cheryl Strayed made an extremely impulsive decision backed by very little preparation and even less experience. She would hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone. At just twenty-six years old, Cheryl had lost her mother, fell down a slippery slope with drugs, and destroyed her marriage. WILD tells the powerful journey of a young woman persevering despite all odds being stacked against her. This memoir truly encompasses the healing power of losing—and then finding—one’s self on the trail.
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.
Escaping a painful and overwhelming life in the city, Paolo Cognetti retreats to the rustic solace of the Italian Alps. The breathtaking stillness of the mountain peaks brings Paolo back to a simpler life. With this change of scenery, Paolo begins to uncover his true rooted values in life. Matched by beautifully written prose, this memoir is a testament to the powers of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.
A young man escapes his painful past by retreating to the rustic comfort of the Italian Alps in this gorgeously wrought memoir from the internationally bestselling author of the “exquisite” (Annie Proulx) novel The Eight Mountains.
When life in the city becomes too overwhelming for Paolo, he decides to take refuge high in the Italian mountains. Returning to the breathtaking Valle d’Aosta—known for its snowcapped mountain peaks—after a decade’s absence, he rediscovers a simpler life and develops deep human connections with two neighbors. In this stunning landscape, he begins to take stock of his life and consider what he truly values.
With lyrical and evocative prose, The Wild Boy is a testament to the power of the natural world, the necessity of an ever-questioning mind, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Returning to America after twenty years, Bill Bryson makes the decision to walk the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail. As Bill attempts to reacquaint himself with America’s natural beauty, he is met by an assortment of trekkers, each equipped with their own laughable personalities. Between humorous tales, Bill intertwines the fascinating history behind the trail and his captivating plea for natural conservation.
A middle-aged duo attempts to trek the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail in Bill Bryson’s hilarious travel memoir, meeting a motley assortment of fellow hikers and black bears along the way. Robert Redford produces and stars in the film adaptation, with a supporting cast that includes Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. No word yet on who’s playing the bears.
Release date: September 2, 2015
National Geographic Explorer Sarah Marquis embarks on a ten-thousand-mile hike across the remote Gobi Desert—and she does it all on her own. Sarah survives unimaginable threats that arise as a lone woman treks through the vast, desolate area. Extraordinary dangers march her way, but, nevertheless, she continues. Truly alone in the wild, Sarah challenges herself to be free, alive, and strong enough to overcome any obstacle.
Just finishing college and disgruntled by a difficult home life, Suzanne Roberts and her two friends decide to hike California’s John Muir Trail. In addition to confronting bears, injuries, equipment mishaps, and weather hazards, Suzanne also must face the struggles of traveling alongside female friends. This memoir is a true coming-of-age story that reflects on both the perils of heading into the natural world and Suzanne’s individualized and feminine view of nature.
Photo Credit: Sabine Hortebusch/iStock