Whatcom Reads

One book to rule them all

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cheryl Strayed won’t be visiting Whatcom County until late February, but that shouldn’t stop those who haven’t yet read her bestselling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, from finding a copy and doing so as soon as possible.

The reason for the push for alacrity is because of the annual community-wide reading and discussion program known as Whatcom Reads, which kicks off this week and continues until Strayed makes her way back to the area for public readings Feb. 24-25 in Bellingham.

Because Strayed’s book—the one chosen for Whatcom Reads for 2014—deals primarily with the time she spent hiking more than 1,100 miles on the grueling Pacific Coast Trail in her early 20s, many of the events that will take place during the next eight weeks will focus on topics having to do with the great outdoors, and also what happens when you bring those experiences inside.

To kick things off, local author and mystery writer Pam Beason will offer a “Writing Wilderness: A Winning Setting for Great Fiction” workshop Jan. 11 at the Blaine Library. Beason will discuss how to make a compelling setting out of what can be found in nature, and talk about how her passion for wild places (and wild animals) influences her writing.

For those who’d like a closer look at the expansive Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) system Strayed focused on—and trekked through—Whatcom Museum’s Jeff Jewell has put together a tabletop display of the history of the PCT that focuses on its founder, Catherine Montgomery, who hailed from Bellingham. The display is at the Deming Library through Jan. 15, and will then be at North Fork Library until Jan. 30, and at the Bellingham Public Library until Feb. 4.

Other gatherings in coming weeks will include discussions with PCT record setter Heather Anderson (another notable local), book talks everywhere from Village Books to the Bellingham Public Library and beyond, meetings about “Grief as Transformer,”  gatherings focused on ways to write your own memoir, a traveling quilt show with Wild at its core, and more.

If, like me, you devoured the book when it was published in 2012, now might be the time to go back and give it a second read. It’s an inspiring tale, and one that deals with much more than the physically exhausting aspects of pushing your body to its limits.

At its core, Wild is about coming to terms with the future when the past hasn’t always been kind. It’s the kind of writing that demands the reader pay attention. If you follow that directive, it’s likely you’ll learn something, too. And then, thanks to Whatcom Reads, you can learn even more.

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