3 of 25
By Cheryl Strayed
336 pages; Knopf

Because this might be the most cathartic 1,100-mile road trip you'll vicariously take.

At age 26, Cheryl Strayed was, by her own admission, a total mess. Her beloved mother had just died; she'd broken up her young marriage; she was dating a junkie and was well on her way to becoming one herself. But Strayed—who adopted that name because it fit her behavior so well—righted herself by setting out to hike up the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert to northernmost Oregon. How she did it, and what she learned about life, love and survival of the emotional and physical sort, is the subject of her moving memoir. — Sara Nelson