Cheryl Strayed is the bestselling author behind the novel Torch, and nonfiction books Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. She started writing the weekly advice column “Dear Sugar” for The Rumpus in 2010, and has since hosted two hit podcasts for The New York Times based on the cult favorite. Her work’s been translated into nearly forty languages around the world.
In the 2012 backpacking memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed traces her treacherous solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to Oregon, following a messy divorce and the death of her mother. An international bestseller that remained on the NYT list for over a year, it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, and adapted by Nick Hornby into a hit film starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.
Throughout the book, Strayed grapples with the grief that led her down a path of substance abuse, self-destruction and sexual promiscuity. Like Brené Brown, she finds strength in changing her inner story:
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
Books are a recurring theme in the memoir, and it was randomly spying a copy of The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume I: California (which she’d later refer to as her “bible”) at rock bottom that inspired her to make the trek in the first place. Mailing herself shipments of supplies at various points on the trip, she makes sure that each box carries a book – which she ends up burning after reading to lighten her load. The back of Wild includes a list of titles that accompanied her along the way.
From William Faulkner to Flannery O’Connor, explore the books that gave Strayed solace along the PCT below.
Cheryl Strayed’s Reading List
The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California by Jeffrey P. Schaffer, Thomas Winnett, Ben Schifrins, and Ruby Jenkins
The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 2: Oregon and Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer and Andy Selters
Staying Found: The Complete Map and Compass Handbook by June Fleming
“Certain lines had become like incantations to me, words I’d chanted to myself through my sorrow and confusion. That book was a consolation, an old friend.” -CS
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
The Novel by James A. Michener
A Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret Drabble
“We all have books on our shelves that we’ve not yet read. I’d never read Lolita. So I thought I’ve got to read Lolita.” -CS
Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
The Best American Essays 1991 by Robert Atwan & Joyce Carol Oates
The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût
“Each of Dermoût’s sentences came at me like a soft knowing dagger, depicting a far-off land that felt to me like the blood of all the places I used to love.” -CS
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
The Awakening by Kate Chopin