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- The Best Reviewed Books of the WeekMay 25, 2018
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Real talk in part two of Cheryl Strayed’s conversation with Paul Holdengraber, as the two discuss self-discover, self-help, and imaginary trips to Europe. (To listen to part one, head over here.)
Cheryl Strayed on books that improve with age…
Some works only deepen over time, how much I love them. I would say my favorite book is Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women, which I first read in my early twenties. And it’s still good. It gets better. You know, I loved it the first time I read it. I felt truly astonished by it. And when I read it now—sometimes, I’ll go to that book because I want to just look at one part of a story, and what I find is I can’t stop reading it. I read it all over again.
Cheryl Strayed on validation…
In my twenties I was trying to learn how to be a writer. I’m still learning how to be a writer. But I do have a firmer sense of who I am, both as a person and a writer. And so I’m not seeking validation by books so much anymore, as I was in my youth. Now I’m seeking a deeper sense of illumination.
Cheryl Strayed on her love of travel guides…
All my Lonely Planet travel guidebooks mean so much to me. I’ve been obsessed with travel guidebooks since I was a teenager. Mostly because all of those years in my twenties I couldn’t really travel much internationally but I always wanted to, so I would read all of the books—I would map out the trip around Europe that I would take if I could take a trip around Europe. And I would get it down to the day—I’d say, Ok, I’m going to go to this city, and then this place. And I would study these guidebooks as if I were going to go on a trip that I never actually got to take. I didn’t make it Europe until I was in my forties and I had the success with Wild.
Cheryl Strayed on self-help…
I think of myself as an accidental self-help writer. When my book Tiny Beautiful Things was published, which is a collection of my Dear Sugar advice column—I saw that it was in the essay section, it was in the self-help section. On the New York Times, it was on that list, it was, you know, miscellaneous, advice—that catch-all list that they have. It wasn’t on the nonfiction list, which I thought was strange and interesting. Because I thought I was writing essays, and yes, I was also giving advice, and I was responding to real letters that people had written to me. So I understand how that’s interpreted as self-help; I mean, I get it. I’m using writing to try to help somebody. And yet, you’re so right that I care again; I’m not quite sure of that line… I think the aspects of them that are most helpful are not the pieces of direct instruction I give people on what I think they should do or not to do, but rather that wider and more searching quality that we find in literary work that has to do with illuminating the questions.
NEXT WEEK: JHUMPA LAHIRI ON LIFE IN ITALY, AND THINKING IN ITALIAN.