One of my goals while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was to do as much reading as humanly possible. While I decided not to bring my Kindle with me on the hike, I did take full advantage of audiobooks. I mostly utilized the app Overdrive to get audiobooks from the library, but I also had a few books on Audible and the “Audiobook” app on my phone.
Altogether, I read 50 books while on the trail, and a few additional titles that I just simply couldn’t finish. Here are my short and sweet reviews of those books.
YAY = Amazing book and I completely recommend it.
MEH = Just ok, I wouldn’t reread.
BLAH = My advice, skip this one.
Italics = This is a book I reread on the trail.
BLAH The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish – I think Tiffany Haddish is hilarious and super talented but I just couldn’t get into this book, man. I always get frustrated by stories when the main character or author doesn’t seem to learn from any of their mistakes (which is a major reason why I’m not a fan of Wild or Girl in the Woods, both books about the PCT) and Haddish just seemed to make the same unwise decision over and over. It got to the point that I just found myself rolling my eyes at points that I guess were supposed to be funny. Still a fan of hers, though!
YAY Wildflower by Drew Barrymore – Admittedly, I went into this book expecting fluff and came out learning a lot. I knew Drew had a troubled past but having heard what she went through and the reasons behind her choices were very enlightening. She’s a great writer and storyteller and not only do you get some special behind the scenes tales from sets like E.T., but you also hear personal stories about her life, struggles, and victories. I was already a fan of hers, but I now straight up respect her as a person. I totally recommend this one!
YAY Yes Please by Amy Poehler – As a performer, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Amy is great at mixing humor and humanity into her storytelling and even had sections of the book giving advice to artists pursuing comedy and improv as a career.
MEH My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – I liked this book, I didn’t love it. I think if I had more knowledge of classic TV, movies, and comedians I would probably have appreciated it more. It was very interesting to hear about how Hollywood was run back in the day and Dick Van Dyke seems like such a down to earth and humble guy.
MEH Bossypants by Tiny Fey – First off, Tina Fey is utterly hilarious in this book. I found myself actually laughing out loud on the trail as I listened to her read this. It read a bit like a really, really long stand up act which got a bit monotonous after a while, unlike Poehler’s which was more of a classic book layout. I didn’t really leave this book with anything adding to my life which was a bummer. But again, like with Dick Van Dyke’s book, if I had more invested in her career (I’ve never seen 30 Rock) I may have enjoyed it more.
YAY Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – I absolutely loved this book. Trevor Noah is a great storyteller and the way he talked about how he grew up was mesmerizing. He took a childhood that could have been seen as tragic and added humor and honesty to it. I loved the stories about his relationship with his mother and how truthful he got about any criminal behavior he may have experienced in his youth. This was one of my favorites on the trail.
BLAH Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – This was the first book I read on the trail and I was so, so excited about it. It was one that I had on my list for a long time because the description seemed so intriguing. “A post-apocalyptic tale from the viewpoint of a group of traveling actors.” Sign me up! Well, I found it to be quite boring, slow and the main character was a total butthead. The timeline was interesting and a few of the characters were salvageable, but in general, I never feel the need to pick this book up again and neither should you, honestly.
YAY The Last Battle by CS Lewis – This was a reread because I had forgotten so much of the plot. It’s still beautiful and emotional and I enjoyed it even more as an adult.
YAY The Silver Chair by CS Lewis – Same as above.
MEH Hunter by Mercedes Lackey – This is a trilogy (along with the two books listed below) which started out pretty strong. It was a weird concept but I liked it enough to continue on. Hen recommended this author to me and although I like the author’s style enough to read more by her, the series as a whole was pretty weak. It was very, very repetitive in the second and third books and I only finished it because I felt like there must be some sort of big twist to make it all worthwhile. Well, I was wrong.
BLAH Elite by Mercedes Lackey – Same as above.
BLAH Apex by Mercedes Lackey – Same as above.
BLAH Alanna by Tamora Pierce – Ugh. Blah. Why did I even finish this mess? I was looking for something easy to read after reading a series of heavy and dark books and I thought this would be fun and frivolous. What I got was one of the worst series of books (the three books below this one) I’ve ever read. Skip.
BLAH In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce – Same as above.
BLAH The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce – Same as above.
BLAH Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce – Same as above.
YAY The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors and the Hitchhiker’s Guide series (including the two books below) skyrocketed to some of my favorite I’ve ever read. They are so imaginative, seriously, where does he come up with some of that stuff? The series has a little bit of everything and would be enjoyable to just about anyone. Highly recommend!
YAY The Restaurant at the End of the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Same as above.
YAY Life, The Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams – Same as above.
MEH/BLAH Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – This one is a bit hard to place for me. Although I did actually prefer the film version over the book, the book was still good. It was very, very scientific which got a bit daunting after a while but the story itself was intriguing and kept me coming back for more. There is more to the series and the jury’s still out to whether I feel the need to go back to this world.
MEH Stardust by Neil Gaiman – I LOVE the movie. LOVE it. The book was just ok. The romance happened much too quick in the book and some of the bits that I adored about the movie weren’t even in the book. I think if my expectations hadn’t been so high I would have enjoyed it more, but in my humble opinion, the movie definitely improved upon the story.
MEH Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell – I’m a huge Disney fan, you may or may not know this about me. Anyway, I read a number of these “reimagined” Disney fairytale books because I needed some light reading after some of the book choices that I had on this trip. For the most part, they were interesting but not riveting. This particular book was based on Sleeping Beauty and, although it had some slow sections, I appreciated how much better you get to know Rose and Philip than in the movie.
BLAH As Old As Time by Liz Braswell – This book had so much promise. Belle is already a pretty great princess and I liked her even more in this book. She was feisty and clever and I rooted for her and Beast all the way until the most horrible, awful, terrible ending. The ending made me want to throw my phone off a cliff. Thankfully, I had restraint. Skip it. Do yourself a favor.
YAY A Whole New World by Liz Braswell – This one was the best of the three. It focused much more on Jasmine than Aladdin and she was just a pleasure to get to know. I honestly think this was almost a better storyline than the Disney film which is saying A LOT. I would start here if you’re interested in reading from this series.
YAY The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – This novel starts off slow. I mean, really slowly. I almost gave up on it and I am so glad I didn’t. after about a third of the way in I was hooked and it became one of my favorites I read on the trail. This book may have the most beautiful chapters I have ever read and I will reread it just so I can experience that chapter all over again.
MEH The Neverending Story by Michael Ende – This book lives up to its name. I’m a big fan of the 80s film and wanted to know more about the story by reading the book. Well, unbeknownst to me, the movie ends right at the halfway mark of the book. The rest of the book was long, dragged out, and ruined all the progress Bastian made in the first half. Honestly, this should have been a sequel or just omitted altogether.
YAY Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – This is a quick and easy read and packed with fun. This is a book I would have just loved as a kid and I’m excited to get to share it with the little people in my life. It’s quirky, unique, and imaginative. The characters are great and it’s a series so you can continue with them for a time. I’m looking forward to reading more.
MEH The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury – This book is weird and beautiful. I liked it but I’m a bit confused by it. It’s certainly one of a kind, that’s for sure. I recommend you read it if you’re a fan of Halloween and then come back and discuss it with me. I want to talk to someone about it!
BLAH The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – BLARG! I hated this book! I wanted to like it so badly! I love being scared and I’ve always wanted to find a book that actually scared me. This one sounded like a horror classic that had been beloved for fifty odd years. Perfect. Nope. Not scary. Not a pinch. All the characters (besides Theo) are boring and I didn’t feel invested in any of them. When I finished the trail and saw that Netflix had made a series by the same name I just couldn’t fathom why. Well, the show is totally different from the book (apart from names and minor winks at the novel) and is much, much, much better than the book.
MEH Cujo by Stephen King – I also read this book hoping to be scared. No dice. This is the first Stephen King novel I’ve finished and it was just ok. Would I read it again? No. Was it passable? Sure. When I got back to Alabama, the area was having a major rabies outbreak so I thought I was an expert thanks to this novel.
MEH The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – I remember my Mum reading this to me as a kid and loving it. I decided to revisit it because I had little memory of the plot. It’s a cute book but not as mysterious as I remember. Maybe that’s because I’m an adult, but it just didn’t live up to other novels I have reread like Narnia. It’s a good book to read to your kids, though.
MEH Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – The movie based on this book is one of my favorites and one that really impacted me as an expat. The book had many similarities but honestly, this was one of those rare times that the book wasn’t as good as the film. I became bored in scenes where I was hooked watching it. I loved the characters so much more on screen and I basically was just waiting for this book to end. It’s a nice companion to the book but that’s about it for me.
YAY The Help by Kathryn Stockett – I’ve wanted to read this since this movie came out. The movie is great and so is the book! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this book and found that the book and film complimented each other beautifully. Where they differ adds to both stories and you should definitely add this to your reading list.
YAY Room by Emma Donoghue – Again, I wanted to read this novel because I love the film so much. The book is read from Jack’s perspective and it is a true gem because of that. It is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it.
MEH Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup – Oh, man. I had such high hopes for this one. Slumdog Millionaire is one of my all-time favorite films but, dude, the movie is way better. The book’s not bad, and if I wasn’t comparing it to the film I probably could have appreciated it more, but I truly see why the movie won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay because it majorly improved upon the book. My main problem was how much I didn’t care about any of the characters and how awful the love story was, two things that make the movie sheer perfection. I can’t say skip it, but try to see the book as it’s own entity.
YAY The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel – This was possibly my favorite book I read on the entire trail. I got at least three other hikers to read it as well and they all loved it as well. This book is the true story of the Maine hermit that was stealing from a community for 27 years and was finally caught recently. It’s incredibly interesting and informative and well written. I 100% recommend it.
YAY Tracks by Robyn Davidson – I’ve had this on my list for years and it didn’t disappoint. This is the story of Davidson’s solo trek across the Australian desert with camels and her dog. It starts off a bit slow, but once she’s on her way it is a fascinating portrait of resilience and a story I could relate to so strongly while on my thru-hike.
YAY A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley – The wonderful film “Lion” is based on this book and if you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love the book. I loved everything about this book and particularly recommend listening to the audiobook if you can, it was excellent.
YAY My First Summer in the Sierras by John Muir – I had to listen to this whilst walking through the Sierra mountains and that ended up being a great choice. Muir is a hero to all thru-hikers and his writing is beautiful. I loved hearing about what the area looked like before thousands of people began to visit it yearly. He described many of the sites I was walking through and if you have a love affair with the California landscape like I do then you should read this book.
YAY Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – This book is gorgeous! It’s quite different from the movie, yet they have enough similarities that it is totally possible to love both. It is super inspiring (especially as a woman) and a beautiful depiction of the human spirit and the strength to overcome expectations.
MEH Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick – I’ve had this book on my “Need to Read” list for a long time. After I visited Cambodia in 2016 and learned all about the horrific genocide that the Cambodian people went through I knew I wanted to learn more. This book was very interesting and did teach me a lot. My only problems with it were that I was unsure whether it was a true story or not. I thought it was based on a real boy, and then I thought it was fiction, and then I found out that it really was a true life story. That all confused me and distracted from becoming really connected to the main character. It’s written in broken English which wasn’t too distracting but it’d be nice to know that going into it.
YAY As You Wish by Cary Elwes – The Princess Bride is not only one of my all-time favorite films but favorite books as well. It was so enjoyable to hear behind the scenes tales of the film and it made me desperately want to watch the movie and look for all the little inside jokes I am now aware of. If you’re a fan, like me, I totally recommend picking this one up. It will truly give you a new found appreciation of the movie so beloved by so many.
YAY Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – I’m an introvert. There, I said it. I really got to know that whilst I was hiking the PCT and this was such an interesting read that had me self-reflecting while walking. It’s a book I would recommend to all introverts (It’ll have you yelling, “That’s me!” out loud like me.) and to any extroverts who might not understand your introverted family and friends. This book gives you permission to be who you are and celebrate it. It’s very empowering and I’m so grateful to have a book like this to visit again in the future when I need encouragement.
YAY Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hunnard – This is one of my mum’s favorite books and she requested that I read it while on the trail. It’s a beautiful allegory and one that I found truly inspiring. Fun fact: it even helped to inspire my post-PCT tattoo.
YAY/MEH Mere Christianity by CS Lewis – This is a heavy book and maybe not the most hiking friendly, but I couldn’t help but learn a lot from it. Whether you are a new, old, or searching Christian, this lays out Christianity in a challenging yet tangible fashion. I only rated it MEH because it wasn’t the most enjoyable to read whilst climbing up and down mountains.
MEH Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lisa TerKeurst – This was a lovely book about dealing with rejection. I didn’t particularly learn too much from this book personally but I also have never dealt with the types of rejection that she was focusing on.
YAY Crazy Love by Francis Chan – I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. It falls under the “changed me forever” category. I haven’t been this inspired by a book in a long time and I implore you to read it and be inspired for yourself.
BLAH Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis – Ohhh, I may get slaughtered for this. I know this book has inspired many people, particularly woman around my age, and I’m not discounting that. I understand fully why people love this book and I can appreciate it, I just didn’t get out of it what I guess I was supposed to. Firstly, much of the beginning of the book focused on how different her world was in Africa from back home in the USA. She spoke so much about the culture shock, but honestly, having lived in Asia for five years and traveling to over a dozen third-world countries, I just wasn’t shell-shocked by what she described like you were supposed to be. Also, the book is very, very, very repetitive. I’m sure it was great to read her blog in real time but it just didn’t work as a book, to me.
YAY/MEH Radical by David Platt – I feel awful for rating this a MEH because it is a wonderful book and very inspiring. I mostly rated it this because, like Kisses from Katie, I felt that I didn’t learn quite as much in this book as others may have. If you are a newer Christian or are struggling by being sucked into the American Dream than this book will shake you up!
YAY Unashamed by Lecrae Moore – I’ve been a Lecrae fan for years and getting to hear his backstory and journey to where he is today was very interesting. Being a hip-hop artist, obviously, he is good with words, but I was amazed at what an incredible writer he is and how invested I became in his story. I read the entire book in one day because I just couldn’t put it down.
Books I Didn’t Finish 🙁
YAY The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – So, I’ve read this book before and I LOVE IT. I started reading it when I had run out of books on my Overdrive account but about two days later a whole bunch of books I had never read downloaded onto my phone and I was in a time crunch, so I decided to put Tollbooth on hold and I just never got back to it. But it’s amazing!
YAY In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – This was the same situation as Tollbooth, I’ve read it before and it’s great, but I decided to move on to books I hadn’t read before instead. It is also a fantastic book, however.
??? The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo – I started this book on my 60 mile challenge day and realized I really needed music to pump me up and I just never really got back into it. It’s based on a true story and I’ve actually seen the author speak at an event before. It’s a fascinating story and one that I want to go back and finish, but it wasn’t super conducive to hiking.
BLAH Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce – Straight up, I hated this. I got about three chapters in and I wanted to throw myself off a mountain.
??? Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – I’d like to finish this one as well, but I didn’t get far enough to develop much of an opinion on it.
YAY Up and Vanished: Season 2 – I got so many other hikers to listen to Season 1 that they should sponsor me. It is SO GOOD, Y’all! Season 2 started while I was on the trail and it’s living up to the original case.
YAY Christy Wright’s Business Boutique – If you’re a woman who wants to start a business then you can’t do much better than this podcast.