Last night I finished Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. It is the book that singlehandedly roused Oprah to relaunch her book club, now named Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. And I can see why. Strayed’s account of her 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail is a riveting memoir, well told using all the tools that a serious writer brings to the task of revealing truth.
I am scheduled to interview Strayed tomorrow afternoon for this week’s Kindle Chronicles show. The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will air Oprah’s two-hour interview with the author on “Super Soul Sunday” Sunday 7/22 at 11 a.m. ET, 10 a.m. Central, with simulcasts on Facebook and at Oprah.com.
Oprah will no doubt dive deeply into the healing and spiritual aspects of Strayed’s grueling trek, undertaken in 1995 in the aftermath of her divorce and the untimely death of her mother. I am impressed that Strayed waited 13 years before attempting to set down an account of the hike. Her first plan was to write an essay, but it turned out there was more than could fit in that short a form. I, too, would like to ask Strayed about the meaning that she mined in her experience, but I will only have 15 minutes. That means my main focus will be on the innovations that Oprah undertook in the eBook version of Wild.
The most intriguing experiment, in my opinion, is that Oprah included her favorite passages and notes in the eBook presentation of Wild. You are reading along on your Kindle, and all of a sudden you come across an underlined section with a little “O” at the end of it. If you click on the “O” you’re taken to Oprah’s brief gloss on that passage. I frankly found this intrusive the first time I experienced one of the notes, but I got used to them. And I wonder how an author feels about this layer of comment added to the book itself. Fascinating.
There is a whole world of commenting and digital community taking place around the book, which makes it a good testing ground for eBook development. Oprah in videos launching Book Club 2.0 describes herself as “a multi-platform reader.” She emphasizes that she loves the “real” book version but also read parts of Wild on her Kindle and her iPad.
Since Strayed’s hike took place well before introduction of the Kindle, she carried “real” books in a pack so heavy she nicknamed it Monster. Would she have taken a Kindle instead, maybe with a solar-powered charging case? Tune in this week to TKC 207 for details. And if you have any ideas for questions, please leave them here as comments. I may not be able to include all of them, but your suggestions will help me frame the conversation.