The Last American Man - Elizabeth Gilbert

At the age of seventeen, Eustace Conway ditched the comforts of his suburban existence to escape to the wild. Away from the crushing disapproval of his father, he lived alone in a teepee in the mountains. Everything he needed he built, grew or killed. He made his clothes from deer he killed and skinned before using their sinew as sewing thread. But he didn't stop there. In the years that followed, he stopped at nothing in pursuit of bigger, bolder challenges. He travelled the Mississippi in a handmade wooden canoe; he walked the two-thousand-mile Appalachian Trail; he hiked across the German Alps in trainers; he scaled cliffs in New Zealand. One Christmas, he finished dinner with his family and promptly upped and left - to ride his horse across America. From South Carolina to the Pacific, with his little brother in tow, they dodged cars on the highways, ate road kill and slept on the hard ground. Now, more than twenty years on, Eustace is still in the mountains, residing in a thousand-acre forest where he teaches survival skills and attempts to instil in people a deeper appreciation of nature. But over time he has had to reconcile his ambitious dreams with the sobering realities of modernity. Told with Elizabeth Gilbert's trademark wit and spirit, this is a fascinating, intimate portrait of an endlessly complicated man: a visionary, a narcissist, a brilliant but flawed modern hero. The Last American Man is an unforgettable adventure story of an irrepressible life lived to the extreme. The Last American Man is a New York Times Notable Book and National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.

This was really awesome. Conway is a very intense person. He makes Bear Griffiths (who is a fake anyway) and Survivorman (apparently more legit) look like amateurs. After reading Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods on the Appalachian Trail and the dangers of the trail it makes Eustace Conway's achievements that much more real. Despite all his flaws (and there are many) he's still a very inspirational guy who makes me want to get outside and do stuff even more. I found it frustrating how controlling he is and persistent he is with his ideas even when they have been shown to fail multiple times. Like the fact that no one has finished his two year course, even the most promising students due almost entirely to his overbearing nature. I think it's sad he doesn't seem to have the ability to step back from what he's created and realise what doesn't work. Highly recommended for anyone into outdoors stuff. The author Elizabeth Gilbert sounds like a pretty amazing person herself, really keen to read Eat, Pray, Love now which chronicles her own life. 5/5

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Comment by Scott Thomas Dugdale on December 24, 2010 at 17:43
I have just purchased this book and am only up to chapter four but already it's one of my favorite wilderness bio's. Can't put this one down and am really looking forward to getting to know Eustace even better.

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