1. “The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Reading is one of my favorite things to do. After my kids go to bed, I spend most evenings planted firmly on the sofa, book in one hand, cup of tea in the other. Lately my reading has taken on an ‘outdoor adventure’ theme, which is coincidental – or perhaps it reflects a subconscious longing for a future time when I’ll have more freedom to get out into the wilderness myself! Regardless, these are great books that I recommend if you’re craving a literary wilderness escape.
Gilbert, who is best known for her wildly popular “Eat, Pray, Love,” wrote this biography of a modern Appalachian mountain man in 2002. She tells the story of Eustace Conway, who left his comfortable suburban life and moved into the wilderness to be completely self-sufficient at age seventeen. He hunted for his food, lived in a teepee, and sewed his own buckskin clothes. Conway still lives in the North Carolina forest, driven by a personal mission to educate Americans about how they can return to the land, reconnect with their roots, and live a less destructive lifestyle.
What I found interesting was Gilbert’s exploration into the historic concept of ritualized initiation into adulthood, and how having eliminated this has left several generations of American youth foundering, particularly young men who crave the traditionally masculine outdoor skills that Conway requires to survive on a daily basis.