Tag Archives: autobiography

the farthest shore

The Farthest Shore by Alex Roddie (Read by Alex Wingfield)

From Audible:

In February 2019, award-winning writer Alex Roddie left his online life behind when he set out to walk 300 miles through the Scottish Highlands, seeking solitude and answers. In leaving the chaos of the internet behind for a month, he hoped to learn how it was truly affecting him – or if he should look elsewhere for the causes of his anxiety.

The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex’s solo trek along the remote Cape Wrath Trail. As he journeyed through a vanishing winter, Alex found answers to his questions, learnt the nature of true silence, and discovered frightening evidence of the threats faced by Scotland’s wild mountain landscape.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

I came across this book from a recommendation on Splodz Blogz a couple of weeks ago. Having just finished Wild and watched YouTuber Haze Outdoors’ videos of  walking the Cape Wrath Trail I thought it would be right up my street.

This author and Haze Outdoors definitely seem to be very different characters but I was still surprised by the differences in how the two people approached the walk and their experiences on it. Haze very much camped for the majority of the trail and also immersed himself in the experience, the land and devoted his story to the experience of completing the trail. Roddie on the other hand used this book to talk more about his motivation for walking the trail and his own very personal experience which was more about a changing outlook on life that happened along the trail. He made extensive use of bothies along the trail rather than relying on camping and took almost 3 times as long. That was probably a consequence of the different times of year as much as the different walkers.

As I was expecting more of a trail story I was a bit disappointed by this book. I was expecting and hoping for something more like the aforementioned Wild or even The Last Englishman but didn’t get it. I thought that the book was written more as a way to justify the author’s expedition and to fund the cost of it. Now, that is his career and I can understand the need for it, but I think this was more of a personal journey that didn’t need to be a book. While I have sympathy for his struggles with anxiety I couldn’t help but feel that much of it was either self-imposed by his view of social media or coming from a totally unrelated source. Maybe if I had a similar struggle I could have related and empathised more.

I also struggled with the overly flowery language he used. It reminded me of Steve Backshall’s book Expedition that I eventually gave up on. This author had the same tendency to over describe the most normal of occurrences. Everything seemed to be the most wonderful or the most terrible rather than just depicting it as it was. His occasional forays into a very mystical view of nature and wildlife left me rolling my eyes and tempted to switch off.

This is the author’s second book based on walking The Cape Wrath Trail. It’s possible he didn’t want to rehash the story of the original but for me this approach simply didn’t land. I think I’d like to try his first book though and see what it’s like and how they differ.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Read by Laurel Lefkow

From Audible:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an 1100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again. At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. After her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State – alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea: vague, outlandish, and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces rattlesnakes and bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and intense loneliness of the trail.

Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is an excellent story! The summary above tells you enough about Cheryl’s life that she self-destructed after her Mother’s death but she writes a very eloquent and honest story about the details and what walking the PCT meant for her. I loved how she mixed in her past life story with the PCT story, it gave so much more depth to it all. This isn’t really a story about the PCT. It does provide a lot of details of the walk itself but it’s more a personal journey set on the PCT.

The narrator is also excellent. I still struggle a little with the convention of imitating voices and accents for characters but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she tells this story with warmth and passion as much as if it was her own story.

Stop reading this review and go listen to the book!

Header image source: fossbytes.com

inspire: life lessons from the wilderness

Inspire: Life Lessons From The Wilderness by Ben Fogle

From Audible:

The latest adventure from best-selling author Ben Fogle explores what we can learn from nature about living well and living wild. 

What can rowing across the Atlantic teach us about boredom and about patience? Can coming down from Everest take more resilience than climbing up in the first place? How can the isolation of the South Pole highlight what’s most important? And how can we tap into the same reflective state in our daily lives? 

Writing during the unprecedented period of the coronavirus pandemic and drawing on a wealth of personal stories, Ben reflects on the significance of nature to all our lives and shows us how we can benefit from living a little more wild. Drawing on his greatest adventures, he shares what his time spent in the wilderness has taught him about life. Ranging across seas, icecaps, jungles and deserts, Ben’s stories are filled with wonder and struggle, with animals, adventure, wilderness, friendships, unexpected acts of kindness and heroism, and are bursting with inspiration directly from nature. Ben’s epic stories reveal a new side to his adventures and show how everyone can find meaning in the wilderness, even if it’s just outside their front door. 

Full of exciting adventures and practical guidance, this primer on positivity is a story about overcoming obstacles, surpassing your expectations and inspiring your journey of adventure. 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I must confess that I knew very little about Ben Fogle before I read this. I knew he rose to prominence because of the BBC series Castaway and that he had done some TV presenting including Countryfile. I was totally unaware of the amount of TV he has done though and had no idea of his achievements by rowing the Atlantic, taking part in the Marathon Des Sables or climbing Mount Everest.

Anytime I’ve seen him on TV I’ve liked his laid back style and lack of arrogance. On TV he comes across as confident and happy so it was interesting that he has fought against imposter syndrome and self esteem issues for most of his life. This is a very honest book and probably wouldn’t have been written only for the Covid19 lockdown.

I particularly enjoyed the second half of the book from when he talked about the Wild Folk. This was also my favourite chapter of the book and I was pleased to see Mark Boyle get a mention too. I didn’t know of the TV series that he made and will be making an effort to get a chance to watch it.

I’m not really sure about the title of the book. I don’t really think it’s written to inspire and it sounds a lot more pretentious than it is. The secondary title “Life Lessons From the Wilderness” is much more accurate and the biggest lesson for me was the impact of taking yourself away from the stresses of modern life, even for shorter periods of time. I’ve found the benefits of this recently myself.

The book is also read by Fogle and unlike Steve Backshall’s audiobook this time it worked really well. The writing styles and personalities of the two are very dissimilar though.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

my outdoor life

My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears, narrated by Simon Shepherd.

From Audible:

Ray Mears is a household name through his television series Tracks, World of Survival, Bushcraft Survival, The Real Heroes of Telemark, and many more.

He is a private individual who shuns publicity whenever possible and would prefer to let his many skills tell their own tale – until now.

In My Outdoor Life, Ray tells of his childhood and the formative years when he first developed a passion for both bushcraft and the martial arts skills that are central to his life. Having travelled the world several times over, he is no stranger to risk and has had more than his fair share of dangerous and life-threatening encounters to share with his listeners. But his life is so much more than a tale of derring-do. Shortly after he returned to England having narrowly survived a serious helicopter crash, his father died. Just a year later, he had to face the death of his first wife, Rachel. The book conveys the many sides of Ray Mears, taking us up to the present day – including the previously untold story of his involvement in the man-hunt for murderer Raoul Moat. My Outdoor Life gives us all a chance to share a life story as rich and as inspirational as a walk in woods with the man himself, Ray Mears.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this! I also believe that I enjoyed it more as an audiobook than I would have if I’d read it as a regular book.

It’s a pretty much no-holds-barred insight into the life of someone that has lived both a public life and a very private life. With this book he gives a very frank, honest and detailed explanation of his life from an early age right up to the present (at the time of writing).

It did take a little bit of getting used to the narrator’s voice. He has a very proper English accent and tone of voice which adds a layer of pomposity at times that I don’t think is intentional from the author. Ray Mears is a supremely confident man, very clear in his morals and beliefs and totally unafraid to voice them and to hold himself and others to his exacting standards. Hearing his views in the narrator’s accent can cause this to be misinterpreted at times.

I particularly liked how he described the most difficult times in his life. The death of his first wife is harrowingly described as is the aftermath. Also the death of his father and the impact it had on him. However, he is also incredibly enthusiastic about the good times, meeting his second wife, surviving the helicopter crash, living with and learning from many different indigenous peoples of the world.

I started listening to audiobooks via Audible using a link from a YouTube channel I watch called TAOutdoors. This link will get you one month free access and two free downloads: audible.com/taoutdoors If you use it I’d highly recommend that you give this one a go even if you have no interest in the outdoors, bushcraft or even know who Ray Mears is!

Header image source: fossbytes.com