Cheryl Strayed's favorite reads of 2020

Al Woodworth on December 24, 2020
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Cheryl Srayed's favorite reads of 2020

Most readers know Cheryl Strayed as the author of the mega-bestseller Wild, her memoir of hiking more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Coast Trail alone, which was later made into a movie featuring Reese Witherspoon. Strayed is also the kind and compassionate voice behind "Dear Sugar," an advice column that addresses life's big questions. Lately, she's also been writing fiction.

In her Amazon Original Story, The Telling, Strayed tells the story of a woman coming to terms with the baby she gave up for adoption. The story is part of a larger series called Out of Line that Amazon Original Stories describes as "an incisive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape." 

We asked the bestselling Cheryl Strayed what she's read and loved this year:


The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio 

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio writes about being undocumented in America with so much intelligence, heart, love, and rage, I felt as if this book was burning in my hands as I read it. One part memoir, one part reportage, one part searing indictment of our cruel and inhumane immigration system, it’s an extraordinary, important book.


World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

This beautiful collection of essays by the poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil is so many glorious things: a tender coming-of-age memoir, a fascinatingly intimate portrait of the natural world, and an illuminating exploration of race, motherhood, and identity. It’s gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura.


The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen

Anu Partanen is a Finnish journalist who moved to the United States in 2008 and got a first-hand view of the how the US differs from her native country. This wonderfully conversational and compelling book explores why people who live in the Nordic region are healthier, happier, freer, and more economically secure than those who live in America. It also offers a narrative road map of how we might transform our policies to change.


Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman

Elissa Altman’s memoir about her turbulent relationship with her very complicated mother is so honest, big-hearted, irreverent and beautiful, I found myself thinking about it long after I finished reading the book. It’s a bracing, moving, and ultimately inspiring memoir about how to save ourselves.


Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

I want everyone in America to read this powerfully illuminating book about the caste system that has shaped each of us. Isabel Wilkerson writes with profound insight and clarity about the complicated reckoning we—as individuals and a society—must have about race in this nation.

Photo credit: Joni Kabana.


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