Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

We review Cheryl Strayed’s popular novel Wild, sharing a few reasons why you should add it to your reading list.

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Wild Cheryl Strayed book cover

Wild book cover via Amazon

If you watched the Academy Awards this weekend, you were probably just as impressed as I was by Reese Witherspoon’s simple and elegant gown. But more important than her ensemble was the fact that Witherspoon was nominated for her performance in the movie Wild. While she unfortunately didn’t win the Oscar, she still gave a remarkably heartfelt performance in the film.

As an English major, I always feel the need to read the book before I see the movie, so of course I did the same with Wild. Before I was blown away by Reese Witherspoon’s performance, I was swept along the PCT with Cheryl Strayed and her stunning story of courage and triumph in the face of adversity. Wild is a memoir that chronicles one woman’s decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon, and Washington alone, and with no previous hiking experience.

Cheryl Strayed’s life had gone downhill in the years following the death of her mother: her siblings and stepfather lost touch, her marriage fell apart, and she began using drugs. Her decision to hike the PCT was an impulsive one that would introduce her to a side of nature, and a side of herself, she had never seen before.

You’ll love this book because…

  • The descriptions of nature in this book are absolutely unreal. Whether you’ve got a natural wanderlust or have never really had an interest in camping, hiking, or backpacking, this book will get you itching for the great outdoors.
  • That being said, Cheryl’s adventure wasn’t an easy stroll along a nature trail. She pushed her body to staggering extremes every day on the trail as she hiked miles and miles through untamed wilderness. Her encounters with a “moose,” a snake, and a fox are only the beginning. Her blisters and lost toenails are a testament to how tough she is; I’m certain I couldn’t handle a trail like this, let alone while carrying an enormous pack nicknamed “Monster” on my back. Her tenacity is truly admirable.
  • Her story of life on the PCT is interspersed with tales about her childhood and adulthood before her decision to hike the trail. Her reflections made me put the book down at times and think on my own life, wondering if I was living it how I really wanted to be living. Was I treating the people in my life right, letting them know how much I loved them? Was I living like a person I would be proud of? It may sound silly or cliche, but Wild is an eye-opener.
  • This book might just be the kick you need to jump feet-first into your own adventure. Nervous about moving to a new city? Unsure about applying for that competitive internship? Reading about Cheryl and how completely uninhibited and courageous she had to be on the trail is truly inspirational. Her spiritual, mental, and physical transformation might just be the encouragement you need to dive into whatever adventure you’ve been looking for!

While on the trail, Cheryl refuses to let herself be afraid of what is in front of or behind her, simply focusing on what she needs to do to get through each next step. It’s this determination, her sheer will to succeed on her own, that kept me glued to her memoir, needing to know if she finished the trail.

The simple writing style makes this an easy read, and you’ll be as eager as I was to get to the end and find out what happened to Cheryl. If you’re looking for some inspiration in paperback form, this is definitely the book for the job.


Have you read Wild, or seen the movie? What did you think about either? Are you wiling to give this book a chance? Leave me a comment and let me know; I’d love to hear from you!

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