Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail

A picture of the book cover For Wild By Cheryl Strayed which shows one old worn hiking boot against a white background.A single crumpled leather hiking boot is shown on the cover of this otherwise plain book.

Alone against a white background this setup really makes you focus on the details of the boot’s features. The coating of dirt and deep folds in the leather hints to us about a story of many miles walked in the backcountry.

The red laces are undone and tucked into the top of the boot… does this mean the journey has come to an end or is this just a break between time on the trail?

As someone who enjoys hiking (sadly, haven’t been out in a long while though) the image of a worn hiking boot on this book cover caught my eye right away. The fact that it’s a single boot instead of a pair like you’d normally see was interesting to me as well, and when I got to reading the title and subtitle the choice of a single boot made sense:

Wild, From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail

It’s a title that alludes not just to a physical journey out on a dirt trail but also a journey of personal meaning. Someone who felt lost in life found their way again through their experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, at least that’s the way it sounds to me. Theoretically you could take the subtitle more literally (‘Omg I was hiking and got lost, here’s how I found my way back to the trail’) but to me the book cover tells of a different story.

And a look at the Amazon description for the book confirms the theory:

A picture of Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that she talked about in her book Wild.At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.

Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

The Pacific Crest Trail, it’s a famous line in the dirt that’s epicly long. Hikers from all over the world will plan and often even train for years just for a single trip on the trail. Judging from what the book description says though it sounds like Cheryl Strayed did the trail on a sort of whim, and the experience ended up acting as a kind of therapy that helped her deal with a shattered life.

A picture from a video of Oprah Winfrey talking about the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed as the inspiration for making Oprah's Book Club 2.0This book was a pick for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 so as you can imagine it’s made it’s way into the hands of many, many people out there, and apparently there’s also a movie in the works based on the book. So really the Pacific Crest Trail did more than heal her old life, it’s launched her into a whole new one :).

While I think the book cover for this one is just ok (somewhat forgettable in my opinion, but good enough), I think the story in Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail sounds like a good read. I’m partial to memoirs as it is, but add in hiking and nature to the mix and this is something that really piques my interest.

I’ll be happily adding this one to my reading list for sure, and if I can find an audiobook version I’d be even happier!

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How To Avoid Huge Ships: In Case You Were Wondering

A picture of the book cover for How To Avoid Huge Ships that shows a giant ship in the water in front of you.Lol what? Yes this is a real book.

When you read that title one of your first reactions (after laughing) is likely to be ‘Why would I care about avoiding huge ships?’ But once you see the picture on the cover of this book something inside you might start to reconsider the whole not caring about avoiding huge ships thing.

The cover puts you right at sea level with your neck craning up to look at the sharp tip of a giant sea vessel towering above you. And not only is this giant ship looming over your head but it appears to be moving really fast towards right where you’re sitting. Er, floating.

How long do you have before this unfeeling monstrosity of metal and paint collides with and then inevitably runs right over you?

Minutes, seconds. And oh shit well what kind of evasive action can you be taking right now to try and save yourself in the precious moments that you have left?

Too late, you’re dead. If only you had read that one book you’d seen… what was it called… oh yeah, How To Avoid Huge Ships by Captain John W Trimmer. Alas.

Well, that’s the impression that I get from the book cover anyway. A look at this particular book cover shows that How To Avoid Huge Ships had at least two editions so it must have been pretty helpful to some people out there right? Let’s head over to Amazon and find out a bit more about what this book is all about. The book description says:

Alternate book cover for How To Avoid Huge Ships that shows a blue and white drawing of three ships.Actually there is no book description on any of the Amazon listings for this book. The only clue is another edition of the book that bears the subtitle ‘Or, I never met a boat I liked’ and featuring a blue and white drawing of two average sized ships sailing into the path of and about to be crushed by a gigantic cargo ship.

So maybe instead of being a strange instruction manual How To Avoid Huge Ships sounds like it’s more of a memoir. Specifically the memoirs of John W Trimmer… who used to captain cargo ships maybe? From the perspective of a cargo ship captain it probably seems ridiculous that any ship would ever get into the danger zone of such a huge and obvious vessel.

All speculation of course, but that’s the fun of book covers. And if it really is a memoir it sounds like a pretty interesting one. I’d definitely consider getting this one if I could get a bit of a better sense of what’s behind the cover. If you’re read this book drop me a comment as I’d love to hear some details about it!

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Triumph Of The City: A Book Cover High Above The Lights

Picture of a book cover for the book Triumph Of The City by Edward Glaeser showing a cityscape stretching into the distance.On the cover of this book you are placed high in the air above a metropolitan city. Below you and stretching far out into the distance are an unfathomably large amount of amber lights, each one a window or a streetlight or the headlights of a car.

Behind each light there are people …somewhere at least… though there’s no chance of seeing them from this height.

You can make out tall, skinny buildings reaching up to the sky but what you mainly see is a oneness. Like the mass of this city makes up a single identity so large that you can’t even see the boundaries of it.

The scene is definitely beautiful. Not the beauty of landscape paintings of grassy fields and mountains basking in the bright sun or anything like that though. The light in this scene is almost exclusively coming from the city itself, and the choice of the time of day that this picture was taken, dusk, serves to highlight the self-made light of the city.

In this book the sun is setting and is giving way to a million glittering squares of amber. There’s no mistaking the majesty of the city in this picture and it’s easy to get swept up in the hopeful feeling it projects. And for this I think the photo on the cover of this book was a great choice. One only has to read the title and subtitle to see that it supports the promise of the book very well:

Triumph Of The City: How our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier.

That’s a heck of a title and description. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such an optimistic characterization of cities outside of maybe old 50′s reels about such things as “The City Of The Future”. However, this book cover communicates this level of optimism very well without cheapening it.

Painting of a vision of the typical American city of the future as imagined by someone in the 1950's.Sooo, words like ‘greener’ and ‘healthier’ aren’t the kind of words you usually see being used to describe cities, and that’s something that really catches the attention of the reader.

Large cities like the one on this book’s cover tend to have reputations of being smog laden, tree-less, and even rat infested zones of human congestion. So the curiosity of what makes cities greener and healthier encourages people to come take a closer look and maybe even thumb through some pages of the book.

I’m not sold on it but I think this claim that cities are ‘humanity’s greatest invention’ is an interesting one, and even just the idea of thinking about cities as an invention is something new for me. However, this Triumph Of The City by Edward Glaeser isn’t a book that I’m going to be adding to my reading list. As interesting as the topic and potential paradigm shift about cities seems, this subject feels like it would be better to read as a long essay or blog post, instead of something to sit down and read through in book form.

Even an entire blog dedicated to this topic I think would be more enticing to me because the reading would be spread out over time and a little more varied. Still, it’s got a great book cover :).

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