on Feb. 8, 2016 :
I just finished the series of 3 books. Sometimes it reads like a grocery list of GPS points, trail names and the times of waking and going to sleep. Its best moments are when he remembers to describe the people he meets, the thoughts, emotions and realizations about his life choices he has on the way, his expectations and the reality. He sees there are changes he can make in his relations with his parents and even his fellow hikers. He struggles against his negativity that is pointed out to him by other hikers. The books demonstrate the inward challenges of the trail as he encounters discomforts like the weather, boredom and hygiene. I think this could be made into a good memoir by using the notebooks as a starting point, fleshing it out with details, interviewing other hikers, a bit of natural history ( identifying the plants and animals a bit more), a bit of history of the areas you pass through. Everybody is always interested in an individual's process- choices, emotions, reactions. What you found to be true or useful when reading about the trail, how you changed, how it affects your life off-trail. It might be helpful to have a person interview you and record it all-- He or she could have you look at the photos and talk about those moments, ask deeper questions about your life then and now and see what comes out. Another thing that would help is if you can put the photos within the text instead of at the end. I started by reading Book Two and was surprised by lists of photos with a sketch of a description-- "Second camera, third photo, tree next to rock." I was wondering who carries four cameras and why are they numbered?
I just finished The Cactus Eaters which was about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail-- he didn't finish in one go but the things that came up on the trail and in the time between hikes and after it was over--- those things are what make the book. Painfully honest and he doesn't make himself look too good really. I wouldn't hike with him!
I give stars for honesty and I think this is worth reading if you are considering a long distance trail. My take-away is that the choice of hiking companion- or no companion- has a huge effect on the trip, resilience can be learned, and it is silly to rush the journey to have some sort of bragging rights.
I think the author can turn this into a book that is worth being bought. I'm glad I was able to read it for free.
(review of free book)