There was a recent discussion on Twitter about whether or not you avoid reading popular books. Is the fact that the book is popular and “You just got to read it” a turn on or turn off. Whether a book is popular is not really a selling point for me but I’m not going to avoid reading it if it is. Unless it’s an Oprah book. Now bear with me. Oprah’s Book Club has done so much to get people to read and for that I applaud her. It has also been a boom for the publishing industry, it has promoted authors that probably would never get exposure or that level of exposure but as a former bookseller, it made my life difficult. I know, it sounds weird but ask any bookseller. For years, Oprah wouldn’t announce her new pick until she did it on her show. People would immediately come into stores asking for the new Oprah book and we wouldn’t have a clue what they were talking about since we were working and not watching Oprah. And rarely would people who watched the show know the title of the book they must read and would come in with no information. Now, it’s a little easier. Oprah works more with publishers to make sure her picks are ready to go with her sticker already on the book when she makes her announcements. Also, now with the internet, if customers come in for her books and we were left unaware, they could look it up more easily but yeah Oprah. Also I found that a lot of her picks were the same. Different authors but all carried the same theme and that didn’t appeal to me.
Why bring this up? Wild was the first book in Oprah’s book club 2.0 and quickly became the “You just have to read” book. It’s also a memoir and I think we have established I don’t read much non-fiction. So I had no interest in reading it. I still had no interest in reading it when Kate assigned it to me but I’m glad I did. I was truly touched by Cheryl’s story. I was in tears when she was describing the death of her mother. I don’t even want to think about losing my mom and I think I could understand her downward spiral. To decide to go on a three month, thousand mile hike by herself is not only crazy to me but unbelievably brave. To do something like that when you are not really prepared to so is even more crazy and brave. I laughed through her struggles with “monster” aka her pack. I was anxious for her when the reservoir was out of water and she hadn’t brought enough. With every new person she met, I was just as nervous about meeting as she was but most were nice and helpful. As a woman alone, meeting strangers, particular men can be dangerous but the danger was mostly from the trail itself and Cheryl’s own mistakes not from people she met. I enjoyed reading her journey and could see as the hike went on how much she grew. By the time it ended, I knew she would be ok. Not just because I know that Cheryl has had a successful writing career but because through her hike, she was able to see truths about herself, admit the ugly truths and accept things about herself that are unpleasant but all of that, everything that happened, led her to that moment and made her who she is today. Maybe we all should take a break from our lives and go wild.