It’s summer and all we want to do is be outdoors as much as possible. But how can we bring our literary love to the great outdoors? By reading about hiking trails and assigning difficulty ratings to each book’s emotional journey — as we embark on our own trails! — of course. So put on some sunscreen, lace up your boots, and get those summer hiking plans going.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Difficulty rating: Challenging
Why it’s worth the trek: In Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown challenges readers’ views of true belonging and the aspects of our lives that bring us true meaning. We’re marking this manifesto with the difficulty rating of “challenging,” not because Brown’s emotional journey is just a few clicks away from “easy,” but because she invites her readers to come along on the journey with her. She encourages everyone to show up as their true selves. And while that’s certainly a challenge, it’s not impossible. So go ahead. Join Brene Brown in the metaphorical wilderness as you plot out what hiking trail to tackle this weekend.
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu
Difficulty rating: Very Difficult
Why it’s worth the trek: In The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, five young girls (Nita, Kayla, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan) are faced with the ultimate sleepaway camp nightmare: they’re lost on a wooded island with no map, no food, and no adult guidance. And while the hike from the shore to town is very difficult — they’re eleven and twelve years old! — the ripple effect this experience has on the rest of their lives is incredible to witness. You’ll find yourself challenging your own definition of impossible as you scramble over rocky terrain.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Difficulty rating: Extreme
Why it’s worth the trek: In Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s titular character embarks on a journey so vast that he loses track of it himself. While readers have delighted in this novel’s experimental form and fascinating protagonist for years, they’ve agreed on one thing: Don Quixote’s journey is extremely difficult. Windmills are giants in this dense literary world, one best consumed on a long trek — chapter by beautiful chapter.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Difficulty rating: Moderate
Why it’s worth the trek: In Wonder, R.J. Palacio sends her protagonist Auggie on the most difficult trail there is: 5th grade. Auggie was born with Treacher Collins syndrome and is having a hard time adjusting to his new school. And we empathize with that! Until this moment, Auggie was homeschooled — loving the fact that his mother was his teacher, totally oblivious to the fact that mainstream education was in his future. And while mean kids and unprepared teachers present themselves as bumps along the way, Auggie does find solace in his new friends Jack and Summer — and in the end of the school year trip to the nature reserve. Wonder is the perfect companion on that outing with your middle school-aged chile or nibling. Just be sure to pack tissues.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Difficulty rating: Difficult
Why it’s worth the trek: In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls takes readers on a journey through her childhood, moving from house to house as they squatted across the country. Sometimes, their newfound homes would be surrounded by huge expanses of land, giving the Walls family room to roam. And when her father was sober, he’d teach Jeannette and her siblings about astronomy, geology, and how to embrace life without fear. But when he drank, well, all bets were off. The Glass Castle is the perfect companion for revisiting the hiking trails of your youth. But be sure to arm yourself for the difficult times.